The 5 worst scandals in poker history

In the course of poker history there have been many allegations and instances of cheating, but none have grown to such mythical standards as the poker scandals that have rocked the poker world over the past decade. In this column I’ll summarize the five worst scandals in online poker history, and hopefully shed some light on how these situations can be avoided in the future.

  • Ali Tekintamgac and his spotters

This is the only Live Poker scandal to make the list.

In 2010 the Partouche Poker Tour uncovered a complex cheating scandal that had apparently been perpetrated all over Europe in recent years. Allegedly (he is fighting the charges and suing the Partouche Poker Tour so I say allegedly) former WPT winner Ali Tekintamgac was using fake bloggers and biographers to signal his opponents’ holdings to Tekintamgac (you can even see an instance of this in the following YouTube video).

Basically Tekintamgac’s team of spotters would gain close access to the table under the guise of filming a documentary and then use prearranged hand signals to tip off Tekintamgac. Tekintamgac was disqualified from the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event after making the final table, and was called out by poker pros Scott Seiver and Daniel Negreanu at the WPT Championship (he won an entry into the tournament due to his WPT win earlier in the year).

It’s still unclear how far this scandal went, with Shaun Deeb saying it was “widespread” on the 2+2 poker forum BEFORE the allegations came to light.

  • Dutch Boyd and

While very few poker players will even know what I’m talking about when I mention the online poker site, the site’s founder Dutch Boyd is a fairly well-known name in the world of poker; which makes the lack of coverage on PokerSpot a bit of a head-scratcher. The PokerSpot scandal was the first exposed chink in the armor of the online poker industry, and proved that players should always be weary when it comes to trusting an online poker site with their money.

The PokerSpot scandal also gave us online poker’s first goat in Dutch Boyd, the founder and owner of PokerSpot; Boyd would go on to be featured during the 2003 WSOP coverage on ESPN, and become a mainstay on the poker scene –to the chagrin of the customers who lost money when PokerSpot abruptly closed. However, long before Boyd was being sued by Mason Malmuth for “cyber-squatting” he was among the early entrepreneurs who saw dollar signs in the online poker industry.

Unfortunately for Boyd, and even more unfortunately for the players who were never compensated for the hundreds of thousands of dollars PokerSpot absconded with, the honeymoon was short-lived. At the time of Boyd’s WSOP run in 2003 poker was still in its infancy, and while there was outrage on biggest poker forum of the time, the general poker population never learned of Boyd’s prior transgressions, and even to this day few people know anything about it.

There are plenty of differing opinions of Dutch Boyd in the poker world, and how he handled the PokerSpot situation, but even to this day the PokerSpot fiasco has not been put to bed.

  • UB Super-User and Absolute Poker Super-User

During the peak of the poker boom the poker world was sensing that something was not right at Absolute poker, but it took a wrongly sent (some argue purposely sent) hand history log to finally put to rest the notion that it was unimaginable for there to be insider cheating at an online poker room.

Before the AP Super-User scandal was uncovered any mention of online poker being rigged was quickly dismissed as the grumblings of a bad poker player and/or conspiracy theorists. As it turns out these fears should have been taken seriously all along, and as we have learned since it could very well have been the sites themselves employing people to ridicule these posters in forums.

Soon after the Super-User scandal blew up at Absolute poker a second scandal rocked their sister site Ultimate Bet Poker. By far this is the most well-known poker scandal that has ever occurred,  considering the Ultimate bet Super-User scandal  included a former WSOP Champion’s involvement, not to mention the overall breadth of the cheating (with Ultimate Bet players losing at least $20 million to the scam) and the cloak and dagger way the scandal came to light.

The two Super-User scandals changed the way people looked at the online poker industry, and despite a more discerning eye, and more skepticism, the poker world was simply not prepared for what happened in April of 2011…

  • Full Tilt Poker’s shortage

Even though it looks like this might be resolved if Groupe Bernard Tapie is able to finalize a deal to purchase Full Tilt Poker, this will still go down as one of the biggest punches in the gut to the poker community of all-time.

After Black Friday (with online poker sites facing even more problems processing payments) a number of accusations were leveled at the previously highly-respected Full Tilt Poker. As more and more information came to light it turned out that Full Tilt Poker was not the well-oiled machine that most of us had been led to believe, instead the site was barely surviving on a day-to-day basis, with shortfalls of over $150 million and on –hand cash barely able to cover outgoing withdrawals.

As if the shortfalls were not bad enough, it also came to light that certain owners of Full Tilt poker had pocketed tens-of-millions of dollars over the past few years, and that the site was allowing players to deposit without ever collecting the money from their bank accounts!

  • The original Multi-Accounting scandal

The names JJProdigy and ZeeJustin will go down in poker history as the first players to get caught exploiting a flaw in online poker software. Remarkably, the two players have gone on to have very different careers in poker, with one player Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo rehabilitating his image to the point of being sponsored by online poker sites, while Josh “JJProdigy” Field has continued to cheat at online poker and is now banned from virtually every major online poker site and even a few brick & mortar card-rooms.

The scandal was even more eye-opening based on the incredible number of poker players who didn’t see all that much wrong with the practice. Honorable poker players were shocked and dismayed at the relative ease that some players defended multi-accounting with a “everyone else is doing it attitude”  –you can still see this when players are caught bending and breaking online poker rules like Ghosting, account sharing, and so on.

Other Scandals

There have been plenty of other scandals involving poker bots, cheating packs, colluders, scammers, and so on, but the above five scandals are the ones that really stick out for me. For anyone looking for more information on poker and cheating I suggest Googling the following terms:

  • Nick StoxTrader Grudzien
  • Chinese Collusion Pack + Double or Nothing Sit and Go’s
  • Jose Girah Macedo
  • Poker Bots on (insert any poker site or network)

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