Valve’s handling of esports tends to be all or nothing, and that is doubly so when it comes to player discipline. The Dota 2 publisher basically only has one tool when it comes to player behavior and competitive integrity, that being the threat of a permanent ban from Valve-sanctioned tournaments.
Though players in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can still carve out a career thanks to the abundance of events outside of Valve’s direct oversight, a Valve ban is a deathstroke to a Dota 2 player’s career. Here is a list of the players banned by Valve and why they earned the company’s wrath.
As of this writing, Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho is the most recent player to be seemingly banned by Valve. Though it’s not entirely clear whether DeMoN’s officially barred from Dota Pro Circuit events, all signs point to him being banned by the company.
The news of DeMoN’s ban came during the qualifiers to the 2021 North American DPC League winter qualifiers. After reaching the final round of the qualifiers, Beyond the Summit announced that DeMoN had been banned with approval from Valve. This follows a previous ban from Beyond the Summit events related to allegations of sexual misconduct.
Alongside a number of other prominent personalities in the Dota 2 professional scene, DeMoN was accused of sexually harassing at least two women. One of these incidents involved Twitch staff member Eleine Sun, who stated that DeMoN had trapped her in a room and tried to force her to kiss him.
I have to disagree Peter. We received information that was substantiated when we banned DeMoN from BTS events last year.
I understand not everyone has the same access to this information (to protect the anonymity of the victim) but I personally support the ban from Valve events.
— David Parker | Godz (@BTSGoDz) January 9, 2021
Another unnamed individual alleged DeMoN lured them into a room during a Dota 2 tournament and groped them. These allegations were made through Beyond the Summit’s Ken “Hot_Bid” Chen and were partly corroborated by other individuals, which led to DeMoN’s banishment from BTS events.
While this one does fall into a gray area due to poor communication on the part of Valve, it seems as though DeMoN is officially banned from Valve-sanctioned tournaments.
Newbee’s permanent banishment from Valve-sponsored tournaments is arguably the biggest competitive integrity scandal in esports since match fixing rocked competitive StarCraft. The organization has a championship pedigree, winning The International 2014 with one of the most star-studded rosters in Dota 2 history. The accused lineup wasn’t quite as glamorous, but still included a TI2 champion, and a TI7 runner-up:
Despite those bona fides, Newbee had one of the ugliest falls from grace ever seen in esports. The organization was accused of fixing a match against the little-known Avengerls during the qualifiers to the StarLadder Minor Season 3 in 2020. The game was regarded as shady by a number of individuals, including former Newbee captain Zhang “xiao8” Ning, but formal action didn’t come until months later.
the Newbee news now being official is just heartbreaking. the people in the org we worked with took such great care of us in shanghai. but like almost every club in dota they faced great financial challenges in an ecosystem that could sometimes have very warped incentives
— Jack Chen (@KBBQDotA) January 3, 2021
In May 2020, Newbee was banned from Chinese Dota 2 Professional Association and ImbaTV events. Perfect World, which operates in Valve’s stead in China, did not take similar action until the qualifiers of the 2021 DPC winter leagues. This was led to the announcement that the Newbee organization, its entire roster, and the roster of Avengerls had all been given permanent bans from Valve-sponsored tournaments.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t much of a surprise. Alongside the accusations of collusion, Newbee had an ugly blowout involving its Fortnite division. The team is accused of having pocketed the winnings of the players it sent to the Fortnite World Cup and had contractually tied them up in a way that barred them from challenging the organization legally.
Catch up Newbee’s controversies:
In 2016, Infamous pulled off a surprising upset victory over Elite Wolves in a third-place decider match in ProDotA Cup Americas 3. Though this wasn’t necessarily strange, things got murky when the match came under investigation for suspicious betting activity surrounding it.
Though things initially looked to have blown over, three weeks later Valve told four members of Elite Wolves and one member of Infamous that their careers were over in a one-sentence email. The list of banned players from this incident includes:
SmAsH is the most notable name on the list as he was one of South America’s most notable players to that point. Ztok was also highly regarded due to his time on Team Unknown, the squad that became the first South American team to compete in a Valve-sanctioned event.
SmAsH went on to discuss the matter in a candid post on Reddit, where he discussed exploitative organizations and living in poverty despite being a popular pro player. He admitted that his team had fixed the match, but stated it was done out of desperation rather than greed. Valve never budged on the matter, and the players hit with the bans have played sparingly since.
Months before the ban of Elite Wolves, the Southeast Asian Dota 2 scene endured a similar reckoning as players from Aces Gaming, Mineski, and MSI-Evolution Gaming Team were handed permanent bans by Valve. All three teams were involved in match-fixing incidents between 2014 and 2015, but were not banned until 2016. This came during the qualifiers to the Shanghai Major, which some of the players were competing in.
The list of banned players from this crackdown includes:
Aces Gaming was a Vietnamese team that allegedly threw matches, which was brought to light by Aces player Thien Tai “Taipolime” Vuong. He accused three of his teammates, Misa, Sph, and Kua, of throwing matches. Taipolime states the final member of the team, Quoc Vuong “Fox” Vo, was aware of the scheme but did not take part in it.
Jacko, Paseo, and jvn of Mineski, and all five members of MSI-Evolution Gaming Team were also banned for match-fixing. The teams were competing in the qualifiers to StarLadder StarSeries Season 10, but the event used a round-robin format which saw them mathematically eliminated earlier on. The two sides were alleged to have colluded on the outcome of the game.
The Mineski organization uncovered the match-fixing and launched an investigation into the matter, which eventually led to confessions and public apologies from some players.
The first permanent bans in Dota 2 were handed out to the players of Arrow Gaming, an organization that was involved in possibly the most dramatic match fixing incident in Dota 2 of all. The incident was followed by a cover-up, involved players’ girlfriends, scuttled what was shaping up to be a prominent organization in Dota 2, and tanked the reputation of other prominent figures in the scene.
Arrow Gaming allegedly threw a game during the SEA qualifiers to Synergy League, which was discovered through suspicious betting activity. This prompted Arrow’s ejection from the event, and started a series of events that gripped the Dota 2 scene.
Former Titan Gaming manager Tiffani “Oling” Lim investigated the matter and was given a series of text and chat logs that unearthed extensive discussion between the Arrow Gaming players and some of their girlfriends. In those messages a cover-up scheme was seemingly uncovered involving a number of individuals then involved in the SEA Dota 2 scene.
The banned lineup includes the following players:
Because of the sheer number of people involved and the range of their influence across the scene, this wound up being a hugely important story. But while it was one of the wildest stories in the history of the game and has the distinction of being the first time that Valve banned players from official tournaments, it wasn’t actually the first case of match-fixing in Dota 2.
When Dota 2 fans discuss match fixing, they’ll often throw around the number 322 in some way. That’s because it’s a reference to the first major case of match-fixing, which involved future Virtus.pro captain Alexey “Solo” Berezin.
If you have a hard time imagining the effects of (relative) poverty on the Dota 2 scene, think of it like this: how would season 1 of the DPC have looked if Solo had been banned?
— Muriëlle ‘Kips’ Huisman (@Kipspul) August 1, 2018
During his time with RoX, Solo was caught betting against his team during StarSeries Season 6 and winning $322 by throwing the game. He admitted to it after being caught. Solo received a lifetime ban from StarLadder events, though this ban was later reduced. Despite his admiting to throwing a match, Solo has never received any form of punishment from Valve.
While Smash, Ztok, ddz, and the other players on this list had their chances of moving on completely shut down, Valve decided to let Solo continue on and carve out a wildly successful career. Across four years with Virtus.pro, Solo won five majors and racked up over $1.7 million in total prize pool earnings. It remains unclear what made Valve brush his case off while cracking down so much harder on other players accused of the same thing from South America and Southeast Asia.