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Biggest Online Poker Scandals

The world of gambling is a field where a lot of action takes place and people’s faiths can change in a split second. Online poker, in particular, gives people the opportunity to change the course of their lives and make the best of the situation they are in. This is true because of the relatively easy access players have to it and the fact that they can participate in an online poker game from the comfort of their own home or while they are on the go with their mobile phones.

The intense interest towards this particular type of gambling is bound to lead to a wide variety of misunderstandings as well as potentially problematic situations, sometimes even scandals which attract the attention of hundreds of people around the world. Here we are listing the five biggest scandals in the online poker world for the last ten years which fundamentally changed the industry. They have shaped it in a way that can avoid all issues which have occurred and turned online poker into the industry it is nowadays.

AbsoluteBet and UltimateBet Superaccounts

Probably the most well-known case in the online poker history is the one which took place back in September 2007. Absolute Poker was publicly accused of supporting superuser accounts which had more permissions in comparison to the rest of the user accounts. According to the accusations, the online platform had been giving permission to some users to see all of the cards of the rest of the players on the table.

The infamous POTRIPPER account had hand histories logged in the system which was proving the existence of the said account and this was later admitted by Absolute Poker itself. Because of all the losses the fraudulent superuser account’s existence caused, the online poker webpage agreed to pay more than $1.6 million to the affected players, as well as a huge fine to the authorities.

A similar situation caught the attention of the authorities just a year later when in 2008 suspicious activities were noticed on UltimateBet’s platform. Apparently, one of the accounts with the nickname “NioNio” was noticed to show an unusual level of proficiency while playing against other players and this led to the in-depth investigation of the case. It was indeed confirmed that the account was part of a bigger cheating scheme which involved the name of a well-known professional poker player.

According to the research performed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, there was a skillful kingpin behind the scheme and it was 1994 WSOP Main Event Champion Russ Hamilton. The cheating process had been going on from January 2005 through December 2007. This criminal scheme cost more than $22 million to online poker operator UltimateBet, and to this day Hamilton has not repaid any funds stolen from poker players. Because of his actions he has been banned from participating in any poker events worldwide.

Black Friday Indictment

A truly black Friday for many people around the world occurred back in 2011 when some of the leading companies in the online poker world were indicted. Many people remember what they were doing on 11th April, when the United States Department of Justice indicted PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker on the grounds that they were violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and they were operating illegal gambling businesses. A total of eleven defendants were named as part of that indictment. As a result, the online poker field changed since many players lost their livelihoods, as well as their money, many had to think of a brand new career path and fast.

Due to Black Friday Absolute Poker and Full Tilt has to close for business for good, since they could not recover from the hit. The parent company of the former filed for bankruptcy and has been MIA ever since, while the latter lost almost $400 million in deposits around the world and had to shut down as well. PokerStars was the only online gambling operator which managed to pay its users and they did not lose a cent. The operator reached an agreement with the Department of Justice for as much as $731 million. Later they repaid Full Tilt’s ROW players as well.

Pitbull Poker

This platform for online poker was one of the older operating ones and it was well-functioning from 2004 to 2009. However, during this period of time, there were a lot of controversies surrounding its name which were eventually proven to be true. The original purpose of the site was to be a “no download” one. It was a public secret that there were a lot of bonus abusers which were conducting their illicit actions for quite some time without measures taken against them. What really stirred the pot was the discovery of superusers registered in the site.

There were at least three active superuser accounts which were detected, as well as a number of logged cases of pot shaving. In its essence, pot shaving is used to describe the instance when in addition to the usual rake which is collected by a site, a certain amount of a pot disappears. This led to the official shutting down of the site on 29th September 2009 which happened rather secretive, since the employees of the headquarters in Costa Rica were told to take the night off since there was a building maintenance check scheduled. In reality, the owners of the site spent the night loading the expensive equipment into a moving truck. The outcome of this case was that people affected by the illicit actions of the online poker site still haven’t received their money back, even after the authorities were involved.

Multi-Accounting Scandals

Even though many people think that the frauds with accounts are a fairly recent occurrence, the truth is that the first such case happened way back in 2006 and ever since criminals from all around the world have been working on their scamming strategies. Such crimes in most of the cases involve multiple accounts which belong to the same individual and they all participate in the same poker table. The first instance is the fraud performed by Josh Field, who took part in the $500,000 Sunday Tournament on partypoker playing with two accounts. This happened in February 2006 when Field had decided to play a trick on the system and go for the big money in a deceptive manner.

The two accounts were named Jjprodigy and Ablackcar and he played simultaneously with them, which later led to him winning the tournament with the latter one. The poker player was able to create two accounts in the first place, because of a flaw in the platform, which allowed him to open multiple windows and log in with as many accounts as he wished. And he probably would have left the game unnoticed as a winner, if it was not for him bragging about the multiple accounts he was playing with. This led to an investigation of the subject and partypoker ultimately froze the second account. The site also confiscated more than $180,000, which was amassed by the poker player.

Another instance of such multi-accounting fraud involves the major poker pro Justin Bonomo, who was operating multiple accounts on both partypoker and PokerStars. On the latter, he had six accounts and he used all six of them to enter a single poker tournament. Following the mayhem around Josh Field, many platforms tightened their measures and PokerStars were able to quickly confiscate more than $100,000 from his account. This amount of money was later used to refund all players which have been affected by the fraudulent activity.

Cheating Portugal Prodigy

The year of 2010 brought tons of attention to the poker prodigy Jose “Girah” Macedo, who was only 18 back then, but already a poker player with great skills and proficiency. The Portuguese Poker Prodigy, as Macedo was known in the industry was trying to scam certain players in a very well-thought manner. He would convince them to register on the iPoker platform and play against a player called “sauron1989”. While they were playing against the allegedly unknown player, he was monitoring their play via Skype, so he was aware of their strategy.

This allowed him to adjust his own strategy and win every time. Upon some further investigation it was discovered that Macedo was the person behind the proficient account and after he admitted, he expressed his apologies and agreed to pay all players affected back. Only a year after he was praised for being a young poker genius he decided to leave the poker industry behind him for good.

 Author: Benjamin Barry

Benjamin Barry‘s career is worth observing, since he is not only a competent writer, but he has also practical experience at poker tables.