Denver Center Offers Tips For Dueling Online Bots For 'Hamilton' Tickets

Jan 19, 2018

When general admission seats for “Hamilton” go on sale Jan. 22 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, a lot of fans will be online taking their shot at tickets. Unfortunately, they won’t be the only ones.

With such a high-demand show, third-party ticket brokers will also eagerly be looking for ways to get their hands on tickets. Lots of tickets. The brokers use online bots to purchase large blocks of tickets and then resell them, often on websites designed to look like they are affiliated with the venue, said John Ekeberg, executive director of DCPA’s Broadway division.

The first tip-off: an exorbitant price tag.

“If it seems too expensive, there’s a good chance that it is,” Ekeberg said.

Tickets for Denver’s “Hamilton” tour are already popping up on secondary market sites for anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 -- apiece. They will be for sale on the DCPA’s website beginning at 10 a.m. Jan. 22 for between $75 and $165, with a few special VIP tickets going for $545.

If fans want to make sure the tickets they’re buying online are real - and reasonably priced - there’s only one place to do it, said Yovani Pina, DCPA vice president of information technology.

“If they’re anywhere else other than DenverCenter.org -- they’re on the wrong site,” Pina said.

Credit Joan Marcus/Courtesy of DCPA

For their best shot at tickets, Pina also recommended fans set up their DCPA account before Monday. If they already have one, log in to make sure their information is up to date and that they can access their account.

“There’s nothing worse than having the opportunity to buy tickets and then figuring out, ‘Oops! I forgot my password,’” he said.

DCPA has a host of methods they incorporate to weed out bots from the actual fans, Pina said.

That includes limiting ticket purchases to four tickets, as well as implementing DCPA’s rarely used ‘hard-ticket only’ rule. Taking away the ‘print at home’ ticket option, makes it harder for brokers to resell tickets.

DCPA will also use its online waiting room service, Queue It, to handle the anticipated higher-than-normal traffic. Those who log onto the DCPA web site between 9 and 10 a.m. Jan. 22, will be placed in random order to begin purchasing tickets at 10 a.m.

Pina and his team will be looking for certain giveaways that indicate a bot is attempting to purchase tickets. Not wanting to tip off those using bots, Pina declined to give specifics, adding, “usually, what happens in bots is they look for the triggers that we use, and then they find ways around those triggers.”

But the DCPA’s online ticketing system is just the first level of defense.

“We also have some internal processes that look at the sales that have happened,” Pina said. “As we identify any suspicious behavior or purchases that are beyond what we see as the norm […] we interrogate them, we question them and make sure that it’s an actual patron on that side of the purchase.”

Transactions deemed to be from bots will be canceled and those tickets will be put back into circulation.

While Ekeberg said he knows not everyone who wants Hamilton tickets will get them, the goal is to make sure that patrons have the best shot possible. To that end, DCPA will have a lottery for 40 $10 orchestra seats before every performance. Further details are TBA.

The issue of bots is one the concert industry has been battling for a while now. With the emergence of blockbuster theater shows, like “Hamilton,” Broadway and performing arts venues are now seeing it more, Ekeberg said

In 2016, one of President Obama’s last acts was signing the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, which made it illegal to use bots to buy up large quantities of tickets and resell them on the secondary market.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see an end to it,” Ekeberg said of bots. “But I think the more the patron knows [...] that’s a huge part of it.”

The national tour of Hamilton will be performed at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts from February 27 through April 1. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 22 at DenverCenter.org.