Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: Skillz, owner of popular 21 Blitz card game app, is being sued by a hot 19-year-old chick in Vegas, and Mac Verstandig is her attorney

  1. #1
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2

    Skillz, owner of popular 21 Blitz card game app, is being sued by a hot 19-year-old chick in Vegas, and Mac Verstandig is her attorney

    Really interesting case and I have a bit of a peripheral personal connection to it.

    In 2018, I discovered "21 Blitz" because the aggressive advertising campaign they were running. Basically when ads would pop up on other iOS games, you'd be likely to see several 21 Blitz ads over time. After being inundated with these annoying ads, they got what they wanted, and I tried it.

    I actually found the game interesting, and wondered if I had stumbled upon a possible under-the-radar moneymaking opportunity. When I asked around poker and the advantage play communities, nobody really knew much about it. It was clear that the great card players were all in the dark about this thing. Could I use this to my advantage?

    I practiced at the free money games and tried to learn the best strategy.

    While on the site, I noticed that a few people were constantly dominating the leaderboard. Among them were a guy named "prignum", who usually was consistently on top. A young, pretty girl named "lysnico" was also almost always in the top 5, and often in the top 3.

    It was clear that lysnico, prignum, and the other leaders were playing a lot of high stakes ($180 per entry) matches there. I say "high stakes" because each match takes only about 2 minutes, and these people were playing a shitload, plus Skillz was taking 16.67% ($60) rake each time!

    Could they really be winning? Or were they just on the leaderboard simply due to high volume? I was dying to talk to one of them about it, but I had no way to reach any of them. As far as I could tell, prignum didn't seem he was involved in poker, nor could I deduce his name. One of my friends told me he played against lysnico on Global Poker, but that she wasn't a regular there.

    One day lysnico wandered into the chat room there. I talked to her, and claimed I was the one who had played with her on Global, in order to get her attention. We got into a discussion about poker and other stuff. She claimed to be 19, and the daughter of "two professional poker players", though she wouldn't name them. She swore that her model-like pics were real. Turns out that they were.

    A post shared by on

     

    https://instagram.com/p/BjLm18Sjmm4/



    A post shared by on

     

    https://instagram.com/p/BoDSmiflUvv/




    More pics: https://www.instagram.com/lyssaball/

    I traded some PMs back and forth with her, really hoping she would open up to me about the world of high stakes Skillz 21. Unfortunately, being a pretty young girl on an app like that, she was inundated with PMs, and mine got buried within the countless unsolicited messages she received. We lost contact, and then she vanished from the site shortly thereafter.

    Around the same time, I also noticed prignum disappeared, as did many of the other top-placed regulars. Where did everyone go? At the time I blamed it on a combination of rake and the shady, secretive "player matching" algorithm.

    See, on 21 Blitz, each person plays a solitaire-like game with a specific shuffled deck, and their opponents also play with that identical deck. That supposedly takes the "chance" element out of it, and makes it legal in certain states. The player with the higher score wins. However, since the players don't always play at the same time, how are they matched? It turns out Skillz only promises that they "won't match two already completed games". Well, that's not much of a promise. They can do plenty of rigging if they want by matching players to others who already completed, depending upon whether Skillz wants the player to win or lose.

    In fact, Skillz admits they match people together "based upon skill", but they claim they do this for "fairness", which is of course BS. In reality, they want to rake the maximum.

    But back to lysnico. What happened to her? Why did she vanish? Why did prignum vanish? I'll continue in my next post...


  2. #2
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    lysnico's real name is Alyssa Ball. She is from Vegas.

    prignum's real name is John Prignano. He is from Texas.

    It appears that the two didn't know each other prior to both independently becoming top players on 21 Blitz. Now they're both banned from the app, are together suing the company for $6 million, and notable poker attorney Mac Verstandig is representing them.

    At the same time, Skillz is now valued at $3.6 billion, and is about to go public.

    Could this case put a wrinkle in that? Perhaps, and it's one of the fascinating angles of this whole thing.

    Ball and Prignano claim that they started losing really badly to a certain player on the site. Ball claims she lost $650,000 to this guy, and Prignano claims he lost $1 million to him. They both allege the player was cheating, and they both further allege the Skillz knew about this, but simply warned him and didn't kick him off.

    The "cheat" tactic in question was actually rather simple. In fact, I discovered it myself last year, but chose not to use it, because I felt doing so would be dishonest.

    21 Blitz is a timed game. You have 3 minutes, and you get bonus points for finishing with time left on the clock. Since you're playing with a single 52-card deck, and are using every single card, a player who knows the remaining cards at the end has a nice advantage. However, it is difficult for human beings -- even talented card counters -- to remember every card that has come out, especially when playing quickly and using their mind to strategize.

    However, the solution to this is obvious. The game features a "pause" button, which can be used unlimited times. What if you simply paused the game every time a card was dealt, and noted it down -- either by hand or electronically? Then you would have exact knowledge of the remaining cards, and could play the end optimally.

    Ball and Prignano allege that this unnamed cheater did exactly that, and crushed both of them. Ball claims she complained to Skillz, they warned the guy, but didn't ban him, and he kept on cheating. She claims to be in possession of the e-mail they sent the guy, though it's not clear how she got this.

    After losing $650,000 to this cheater, Ball complained again, and found her account suspended for "verification". She then tracked down the Instagram account of the Skillz CEO, a 37-year-old named Andrew Paradise.



    Paradise, who claims to have learned to code at age 7, was said to be very happy to be contacted by Ball. Paradise allegedly attempted to put the e-moves on her, writing, "Have we met somewhere? I feel like I’d remember as you’re too beautiful to be forgettable. Haha and if we haven’t met, we should, I’m in Vegas all the time."

    Then, according to the lawsuit, this happened:

    Name:  lysnico.png
Views: 460
Size:  57.0 KB

    Shorty after that, Ball's account was banned, and her $28k in there was confiscated.

    Keep in mind that Ball claimed in the lawsuit that she initially lost $50,000 on the app before becoming a winning player, and then subsequently getting crushed by the aleged cheater.

    Prignano had an additional complaint. He was saving up his points (known as "Ticketz") to get a Porsche Boxter which was prominently offered as a prize. I guess he was channeling his inner Dario Minieri, who did something similar on Pokerstars in 2007. However, unlike Minieri, Prignano never got his car. He claims that when he got close, they abruptly raised the points requirement by 66%. Then, after he complained, they tried to negotiate with him by offering him a used Porsche Boxter instead (lol).

    Finally, he suffered the same fate lysnico did -- he reported the same opponent for cheating, and found himself banned.

    It's not clear how they found Mac Verstandig, but he is their attorney. This lawsuit was filed on May 17, 2020 in the US District Court of Nevada. This was lightly reported on within poker media in June, but somehow I missed it. I finally learned about it today when Mac tweeted about it. I have since obtained a copy of the lawsuit complaint filed by Mac.

    How did Skillz respond? Read on...

  3. #3
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    Skillz did not explain exactly why they didn't throw this cheater off their platform. However, they came back with their own accusations about Ball and Prignano.

    In short, they claim that Prignano and Ball were colluders.

    How can one collude in a heads-up card game?

    Recall that Skillz controls who gets matched up to play, and they rake 16.66% from the highest buyin games (and an even higher percentage from the lower ones).

    Skillz claims that Prignano and Ball manipulated the system by agreeing to mutually disconnect every time they were matched up, thus resulting in a refund for the match for both players.

    They claim that doing this allowed the two of them to circumvent their "fair play" system, and thereby matched themselves with weaker players without having to play each other. They claim this is the actual reason Prignano and Ball were banned.

    However, even if true, this claim doesn't really answer the charges in the lawsuit, nor does it give Prignano and Ball an advantage against other players. It only cheats Skillz out of $60 rake each time they do this, but doesn't affect anyone else. They could have accomplished the same thing, minus the rake, by simply agreeing to reimburse each other offline. These aborted matches did not help their position on the leaderboard (which awards cash prizes), since the leaderboard simply is based upon wins, and not a won-loss record. In fact, these aborted matches actually hurt their place on the leaderboard, because neither would get any points for completing them.

    It also doesn't answer to Skillz's shady behavior regarding the Porsche Boxster, involving Prignano. This looks like a separate allegation Skillz is making back at the pair, but otherwise isn't very relevant.

    Here's Skillz's statement:

    Quote Originally Posted by Skillz
    This suit was filed by two people who colluded to cheat the Skillz community. They were caught by our trust & safety team and kicked off of our platform in accordance with our terms of service and commitment to honesty, integrity and fairness. Their case has no merit and is an attempt to intimidate our company and obtain illegitimate gains. We will defend ourselves vigorously and are evaluating all legal remedies to protect our community
    This isn't a fair statement, because their "collusion" didn't cheat the community at all, even if the allegation is true.

    But there's a lot farther reaching consequences to this than just figuring out whether Prignano and Ball should get paid.

    Read on to find out what I mean...

  4. #4
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    Skillz runs several real money games via apps, all of which use the "no element of chance" loophole to claim legality in most states.

    Unfortunately, their ads, which I still frequently see, are highly misleading. Mostly aimed at married women, the ads imply that you can easily win $300/month with a short time invested each day. This is not the reality.

    Without any numbers to back it up, it's my belief that their so-called "fair play" algorithm ensures that almost everyone loses. Not only do they ensure that you're never regularly playing significantly weaker opponents, by supposedly "matching skill levels", but they also have the ability to force winning and losing streaks by matching you to already-completed scores which are either bad or good.

    For example, when you first get the app, no matter how well you played at free money, they will first match you at real money with really low scoring opponents, to where you're almost guaranteed to win. Then, after dominating these chumps for about 7 matches or so, they will start matching you with better scores. If you continue to play well, you will find yourself up against people with very high scores for that particular deck, many of which were already completed before you started. Then, of course, you'll remember winning just a short time ago, and you'll redposit. Rinse and repeat.

    This isn't to say you can't win. Both Prignano and Ball were apparently long term winners on 21 Blitz. However, I believe they were among the very few. I believe almost everyone else loses -- even the very good players -- due to the way the matching algorithm is set up.

    If you don't quite know what I mean, and why their matching algorithm is so awful, let me give you an analogy to a bowling competition.

    Let's say you're a 200-average bowler. A fair match would be you versus another 200-average bowler. However, let's say the bowling alley could choose to match you with ANY 200-average bowler, AFTER they've bowled.

    So let's say there were five 200-average bowlers, and their scores were as follows:

    John 205
    Mike 179
    Bill 264
    Mary 219
    Carla 190

    The bowling alley wants you to lose, so they choose to match you with Bill. Now you have to beat 264 -- something very tough to do if you're a 200-average bowler. Clearly this would be unfair. Even though Bill has equivalent skill to you, the match only occurred AFTER he had an outlier-good game!

    I believe Skillz is pulling the same crap with their 21 Blitz game. I don't think they're only matching players of similar skill. I think they are also sometimes purposely matching people with already-completed scores, making them almost completely in control if players win or lose. I believe that only a tiny percentage of players there walk away long-term winners.

    This makes their entire ad campaign -- that housewives could earn $300/month extra cash by just playing card game apps for a short time each day -- highly misleading.

    I have always felt that these so-called "games of skill" for money need to be regulated. The way Skillz handles the in-game matching is atrocious, and if Ball and Prignano's stories are true, there's lot of other really shady shit going on there, as well.

    These apps should be treated the same way as online gambling, and need to be subject to the same laws and consumer protections. Some states have outlawed them. Many have not.

    It will be interesting to see if this lawsuit throws a wrench into this plan to go pubic.

  5. #5
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    Here are the questions I still have at this point:

    1) How did 19-year-old lysnico have $50,000 to lose on the app at first?

    2) How did lysnico get a copy of what Skillz sent to the alleged cheater?

    3) What did Skillz have to gain by protecting this alleged cheater? Is it possible he works there, or is friends with someone there?

    4) Given the $3.6 billion valuation of Skillz's attempt to go public, why were they acting so frugal regarding the Porsche that prignum won? It's would have been trivial money to them, and they could have marketed it big time the way Pokerstars did with Dario Minieri.

    5) Is lysnico claiming that she would have won $650,000 more if she hadn't played the alleged cheater? That's a pretty eye-popping figure for an app where you can only play $180 matches maximum.

    6) Who are lysnico's parents in the poker community? Anyone have any ideas? She told me they were around my age.


    By the way, the Las Vegas Review Journal just did a story on this: https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/...g-app-2114105/

    The article briefly talks about another woman, not involved in this suit. She told the Review-Journal that she lost $60,000 on the app, and was lured in by the "ads aimed at women".

  6. #6
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    Here's one of the ads I'm talking about. It's for a similar game they advertise called "Solitaire Cube", but I've seen the imagery of this ad used or 21 Blitz, as well.

    Notice the variety of women depicted here, including the overweight everywoman. Clearly these ads are aimed at bored housewives.


  7. #7
    She actually is smoking hot. How did Sillz get billions valuations?

  8. #8
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    I read some other filings.

    Some more info:

    1) A woman they called "Jane Roe" (for some reason her name was suppressed) has been added to the lawsuit. Unlike prignum and lysnico, Jane Roe was a fish on the site, and was a loser from the start. She lost $60k on the platform, and that part of the suit indicates that 21 Biltz is a gambling app, and is being marketed as an app to effortlessly make money.

    2) "Jane Roe" played on there as Breadnbutter37. I was not familiar with her, because presumably she didn't make the leaderboard (or if she did, it wasn't often).

    3) lysnico didn't join the app until April 25, 2019, so she learned to get good fairly quickly.

    4) Skillz claims that, in addition to using the "mutual abort" trick to avoid playing each other, prignum and lysnico threw matches versus each other in order to advance on the leaderboard. However, this would contradict the entire reason they were aborting matches, which was to avoid playing one another, even though such matches against each other WOULD help their spots on the leaderboard. It is possible that Skillz means that prignum would lose to lysnico if he already had a lead which couldn't be caught, and she was neck-and-neck with another player. However, this is not specified in their response. Otherwise, it seems their two accusations contradict one another.

    5) Skillz also claims that prignum would purposely lose games (presumably at lower limits) in order to lower his overall rating, and get matched with worse players. However, I'm not sure why he would have done that, since the high limit pool is very small anyway, and I'd assume he'd be matched with nearly everyone at that level. But perhaps not.

    6) Skillz claims that they banned Jane Roe after she chunked off almost $14k, because they determined she was irresponsibly spending (aka gambling). They claim she kept sneaking back on, in order to continue playing.

    7) The lead attorney in this matter for Skillz is E. Leif Reid. Recognize that last name? It's Harry Reid's son. He's based out of Reno.

    8) A big matter here involves the attempt to compel all three plaintiffs to do all of this through arbitration, instead of the court system. All players are forced to agree to binding arbitration when they sign up for real money play. While this is true, Mac raises the point that the arbitration term is buried in a TOS agreement which rarely anyone notices or reads, and that the terms also cap Skillz's liability to $50. Thus, Mac argues that the Skillz TOS simply seeks to allow themselves to do whatever they want, without any legal liability. Mac also shows that the TOS link is almost hidden under the NEXT button (which accepts all terms), to where many people will miss it. I agree with Mac morally, but I am not sure where this stands legally.

    This is a very active case, with the last filing by Skillz being on September 11, 2020.

  9. #9
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    Here was lysnico's attempt to verify herself with Skilz in January, after her account had been suspended (but before being outright banned).

    At around the 3 minute mark, you can quickly see on her phone that she has about $28.7k in the account (upper right in green on her phone).

    At 3:10 or so, she starts playing 21 Blitz. For some reason she plays another game before it. There is some male filming her, who isn't seen on camera.


  10. #10
    This Skillz/Andrew guy seems like a Swarmy Creep. He doesn't sit right with me. He gives me the Creeps and the heebie jeebies. His picture looks like a human snake. He also didn't ban someone who was CHEATING which should have been an automatic ban. He merely "Warned" the cheater and soon banned the VICTIMS/Reporters and confiscated a lot of the VICTIMS'S/Reporters money! What a piece of shit this Andrew guy is. I hope Alyssa and Prignano win their lawsuit against him. Also, he is a REAL catch and a keeper hitting on some 19 year old girl who JUST turned legal when she contacted him for a BUSINESS Consultation. Gross. Just two years ago she was still legally a CHILD!

  11. #11
    Gold Kuntmissioner's Avatar
    Reputation
    339
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Savin Hill
    Posts
    1,159

    Arrow

    Quote Originally Posted by Karen Nathan View Post
    This Skillz/Andrew guy seems like a Swarmy Creep. He doesn't sit right with me. He gives me the Creeps and the heebie jeebies. His picture looks like a human snake. He also didn't ban someone who was CHEATING which should have been an automatic ban. He merely "Warned" the cheater and soon banned the VICTIMS/Reporters and confiscated a lot of the VICTIMS'S/Reporters money! What a piece of shit this Andrew guy is. I hope Alyssa and Prignano win their lawsuit against him. Also, he is a REAL catch and a keeper hitting on some 19 year old girl who JUST turned legal when she contacted him for a BUSINESS Consultation. Gross. Just two years ago she was still legally a CHILD!
    Name:  20200916_001538-ANIMATION.gif
Views: 98
Size:  4.12 MB

  12. #12
    I have no idea what this company is doing. They have two Americans who are great at the game, one of which is an attractive young female player. They should be marketing the heck out of these 2 not continue to use those cheap fake lying ads, lower the rake and fix the pause glitch. This is a fun game and it could be a legit successful game.

  13. #13
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
    Reputation
    5369
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    37,405
    Blog Entries
    2
    Quote Originally Posted by StoicJester View Post
    I have no idea what this company is doing. They have two Americans who are great at the game, one of which is an attractive young female player. They should be marketing the heck out of these 2 not continue to use those cheap fake lying ads, lower the rake and fix the pause glitch. This is a fun game and it could be a legit successful game.
    Great point.

    Huge marketing fail involving both.

    With prignum, they should have thrown him a few extra bucks to pose for photos and videos with the Porsche, and hammered these images everywhere. From what I remember of prignum when I saw him on the leaderboard, he was your typical 30s-looking everyman. Guys would see that and think, "That guy reminds me of myself, and he won a Porsche just through tickets he earned from playing? Where do I sign up?" (It's kind of like how Pokerstars smartly marketed Chris Moneymaker's WSOP win in 2003.)

    lysnico could have been perfect for marketing to both genders. Dudes would see her and join the app hoping to interact with girls like her, and women would think "If a 19-year-old girl like this can do it, so can I."

    This really was a case of marketing malpractice. Though to be fair, the marketers probably never got wind of their story until it was too late.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 30
    Last Post: 11-13-2018, 06:39 AM
  2. China Mac Reflects on 10-Year Bid Over Shooting Jin's Associate
    By GambleBotsSatire in forum Flying Stupidity
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 03-21-2018, 06:28 PM
  3. What does it say about a hot chick, who has no hot friends?
    By NaturalBornHustler in forum Flying Stupidity
    Replies: 23
    Last Post: 01-02-2017, 12:46 PM
  4. It might get fucking hot here this year
    By cleatus in forum Flying Stupidity
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 02-04-2015, 02:33 AM
  5. Who is the smoking hot chick in the Fiat commercials?
    By JimmyG_415 in forum Flying Stupidity
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-15-2012, 08:26 PM