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The 5 biggest scandals in online poker

Earlier we talked about cheating with online poker, now we have arrived at the 5 biggest scandals in the world of online poker. Over the years, there have been a lot of scandals related to online poker. We have tried to make a top 5 of the biggest scandals that have occurred over the past 20 years.

1. Poker with a super account on Ultimate Bet

One of the biggest scandals that occurred in online poker happened in 2007 at Ultimate Bet, which at the time was a major player what as an online poker games provider. At the time, Ultimate Bet was among the big names in online poker along with Partypoker, Absolute Poker, Fulltilt Poker and Pokerstars.

In 2008, it was revealed that there was a player called "POTRIPPER", who gave fellow players the impression that he could see the cards of everyone at the table. This because the player made weird calls and other decisions that did not make sense unless you could see the opponent's cards. The player also always knew how to bluff at the right time and always bet big when the opponent just had a worse hand than the POTRIPPER himself.

Eventually, Absolute Poker revealed that there was indeed a super account that had the power to see other players' cards. The online casino eventually refunded $1.6 million dollars to the players who had been wronged.

Not much later, a similar account surfaced on Ultimate Bet with the name "NioNio". This account also showed noticeable behaviour which was similar to the aforementioned account "POTRIPPER". As a result, Kahnawake Gaming Commission decided to investigate. After this investigation, it was found that the account had been operating on a super account since 2005. The owner of the account was Russ Hamilton, which at the time was a well-known poker player who managed to win the Main Event of the World Series of Poker in 1994 with prize money of $1 million and his weight in silver. With his super account on Ultimate bet, Hamilton eventually managed to win $21 million dollars through this type of scam.

In the end, the player never paid the money back, Hamilton retired from poker and never played a poker tournament in public again.

2. Black Friday

Black Friday has a good name in Retail, but in poker, black Friday refers to a black day for poker. Indeed, on 11 April 2011, the biggest poker sites; Pokerstars, Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet and Full tilt poker went black. The website domains had been seized by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) due to abuses at these companies.

The whole poker world was in shock as there was a lot of uncertainty. Indeed, a lot of poker players had large sums of money on this website, some were also living off this and got into money problems because they no longer had access to the money.

The DoJ found out after investigation that the 4 aforementioned website had some kind of pyramid scheme. More and more money was deposited by players, and that was used to pay out other players. However, there was not enough present to pay out all players. Poker players Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer and (not unexpectedly) Russ Hamilton were the face of Full tilt poker and were involved in this scam. These players were people of repute in the poker world and therefore commanded players' trust to deposit money at full tilt. As a result, a lot of players lost their trust.

The future of online poker was also heavily in question at the time and confidence had sunk to the 0 point. In the end, Pokerstars was the only one to survive this Black Friday and was able to neatly refund all its members. The company also eventually took over Full tilt poker, allowing players there to get their money back.

For players with money in their accounts at Absolute Poker / Ultimate Bet, things went much less well. Many of them never got their money back.

Since then, the poker landscape has changed forever. Especially for American players. Indeed, players from the United States are only allowed to play at websites from America itself, and cannot enter tournaments online that include players from other countries.

Ultimately, there has also never again been an online casino poker provider on the US market with the size that Pokerstars or Full Tilt Poker had

3. Jamie gold must pay half of 12 million

Backing a poker player is quite normal in the poker world. This means that someone, or several people pay (part of) the buy-in of a poker tournament for another player. This player must then hand over part of the winnings to the person(s) who backed him.

This is how this often happens for more expensive tournaments, poker players sell part of their buy-in in order to run less risk. For example, Jamie Gold started the 2006 WSOP Main Event with a $10,000 buy-in. To spread the risk, he sold 50% of his action to Crispin Leyser, in return Leyser would get half the money he won. After days of poker, Gold finally managed to win the tournament, but then came the haggling over the money. After all, Gold had won $12,000,000 and was not keen on handing over half to Leyser.

Gold was not one of the most popular players anyway due to his brash and loud way of playing. This got worse when he would not pay out his backer. Leyser therefore filed a lawsuit against the main event winner, as a result the $6 million Gold had yet to receive from the tournament organisers was seized. One of the reasons Leyser managed to win the lawsuit from Jamie Gold was a voicemail from Gold on the day of the final in which he stated that Leyser would get half the money he won. Eventually the 2 came to a private agreement, of this it is unknown how much money Leyser eventually got.

However, this was not the first, but certainly not the last time there will be an argument over paying out money to a backer. However, this case symbolises all poker players who do not want to share their won money with the investors in their tournament. This incident is therefore in the top five scandals in poker.

4. Girah the poker scammer

Once in a while, a new poker player comes along who manages to make a name for himself in a short time. For instance, Isildur1 came out of nowhere on Pokerstars' high-stakes poker, and managed to beat all the big names in the scene. Earlier, Tom Dwan did the same, and in 2010 there was another new talent who would take the poker world by storm with his talent.

This talent was Jose Macedo, who played poker online under the name Girah. This talent, before he revealed his identity, was already active as a player when he was a minor. Poker pro Dan Cates took Girah under his wing as a protégé. This Cates was convinced that Girah would become the next best thing making Girah one of his students. Consequently, Girah and Dan Cates would build a strong relationship. With Cates being a household name in poker, Girah quickly inspired confidence from other high-stakes players.

Girah quickly made a name for himself in the poker world and managed to quickly work his way up the various limits. When Macedo turned 18, he was able to reveal his identity and then also told his story. However, stories soon emerged about the player.

Namely, the player was active in various strategy groups. Something normal in poker, players meet online to exchange knowledge and thoughts. Nothing crazy, until Girah recommended players from this strategy group to take on a poker player named sauron1989.

Girah then wanted to watch his friends from the strategy group via skype, this allowed him to see the cards. This happens more often in online poker, because of this there were no suspicions at the time. What the players did not know was that Girah was actually behind the account Sauron1989. Because of this, the account Sauron1989 managed to win every time from the players Girah sent him to play against. Because this Girah could always see on skype what cards the players in his strategy group had.

Eventually, this started to get noticed and members of the group managed to link Girah to the account Sauron1989. However, the entire poker world was in great shock as the player put his reputation and career on the line with this scam. This while Macedo was doing so well and had a lot of talent to win in an honest way.

When confronted by the player, the Portuguese stated that he was doing this to help a friend. He had introduced this friend to online poker, however, he was only making losses. Because of this, Girah said he felt guilty. Which is why he came up with this form of scam. In the end, the account Sauron1989 managed to win about $30,000 dollars, something which is a pittance with the potential Girah had.

In the end, Jose Macedo disappeared from the poker world, making it seem as if the player threw away a much-promising poker career for just thirty thousand dollars.

5. Chris Ferguson pretends his nose is bleeding

There is nothing worse than getting money left from a person while watching that person spend money and pretending that nothing is wrong. Something like this occurred in 2016 when Chris Ferguson, one of Full tilt's lead players at Blackfriday, reported to the WSOP. Chris Ferguson appeared out of nowhere at the WSOP, one of the biggest poker tournaments on earth. Without offering any explanation or apology for what had happened to Black Friday, he started playing his tournaments here. This he did, by the way, not without merit. However, poker players who had yet to receive any money from Full Tilt were furious and wanted the WSOP organisers to intervene, however, this did not happen.

This much to the anger of the players. Ferguson, however, carried on as usual, avoiding interviews and not speaking in public. He even managed to finish 4th in the $10,000 6-handed no limit tournament, which was good for a prize of $183,989.

A year later, he showed up again, this time without giving any explanation in between about the whole situation that had occurred in 2011. In 2017, he did even better at the WSOP than the year before. He managed to buy far in several tournament, including a 4th place which was good for $150,000 and a 2nd place which earned him $151,000 dollars. In total, Ferguson, nicknamed Jesus, won just under $400,000. This earned him the same Player of the Year title, much to the disgust of the poker community that still knew a lot of old-soul from the Black Friday situation.

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