The first major online poker scandal occurred during the online poker industry’s formative days when Dutch Boyd’s PokerSpot.com (the first online poker room that offered tournaments by the way) went belly up in 2001, still owing an estimated $400,000 to its patrons.
Affected players waiting to be compensated were given multiple reasons [read as: excuses] and waited weeks, which stretched into months and years for their money—the check is apparently still in the mail.
If you weren’t enmeshed into the poker scene back in 2001 you can get an idea of what was going on by going back just a couple years to Full Tilt Poker circa late 2011.
Boyd has addressed the PokerSpot controversy many times over the years , and has made assurances that players would be paid when he had the means, but he has never made a serious attempt at making PokerSpot players whole.
Fortunately for Boyd, and unfortunately for the poker community, the scandal occurred before the Poker Boom hit, and went relatively unreported when Boyd gained semi-celebrity status in the poker world during the 2003 WSOP.
Making PokerSpot info even harder to come by was the fact the outlet that gave it the most attention was the now defunct rec.gambling.poker forums.
Even though it’s “small potatoes” by today’s standards, PokerSpot.com makes this list for three reasons:
Let me clarify something right off the bat; the multi-accounting I’m speaking of is not a player registering a new account to gain some level of anonymity.
The multi-accounting scandal of 2006 was far more serious, as players at the time were exploiting a flaw in poker software and were creating several active online accounts and registering all of these accounts in the same tournament.
The multi-accounting scandal of 2006, centered on two players,Josh “JJProdigy” Field and Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo, and as an aside, the level of accountability and the future career paths of these two would be markedly different.
Without rehashing the entire incident, basically both players were busted after making a big score with a secondary account and overtly bragging about the win. Several astute people noticed that these players real accounts busted earlier in the tournament and questions started to be asked.
The multi-accounting scandal brought with it not one but two huge problems.
The first problem was the inexplicable attitude by young poker players toward behavior bordering on cheating (looking for edges) was okay if everyone else was doing it, and that finding gray areas was perfectly fine; an attitude that is regrettably still pervasive in the poker community to this day.
The second problem was the glaring security holes at online poker sites; I mean if this got by them, what else weren’t they catching? We would soon see just how apathetic and negligent some online poker sites could be about game integrity and security…
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (better known as UIGEA) was the first major blow to the online poker industry, and one that would progressively bring the online poker industry in the US to its knees.
Here is a look at UIGEA’s impact on the poker world over the years:
The first Super User scandal was just a warm-up for Ultimate Bet’s, but at the time it broke Absolute Poker and “PotRipper” were the biggest thing to ever happen to online poker.
The idea that the sites were cheating the players and “Super-Using” players was always considered to be the realm of conspiracy theorists and a bit of a fringe idea, so it was never taken very seriously…until we found out it happened.
Beyond the cheating and the affected players, when proof of insider cheating at Absolute Poker was first confirmed it was like the online poker world lost its innocence. The game and its practitioners would never again be the same, and the poker world became a hotbed of skepticism and cynical attitudes—which is both good and bad.
For hours of quality reading on the AP and UB scandals I suggest you head here: Haley’s BlogSpot
As bad as the Absolute Poker Super User scandal was, it paled in comparison to what occurred on Ultimate Bet Poker, for God knows how many years, where the full scope of the cheating and the amount of money actually stolen is still unknown, and new evidence is still turning up.
By the time the cheating at UB was discovered the poker world was already jaded thanks to AP, but when the particulars were revealed (some $22 million stolen and the ringleader apparently being a former WSOP champion with ties to tons of well-known poker players) it made even the most ardent “online poker is rigged” advocate step back in disbelief.
The UB scandal has gripped the poker world ever since as more and more evidence keeps trickling out.
April 15, 2011, usually referred to as Black Friday by poker players, was the biggest singular freakout by the poker community ever, and if you’re not a regular follower of the poker community, that is really saying something!
The fate of hundreds of millions of dollars of player funds was in utter limbo and the US was basically an online-poker-free zone.
As bad as Black Friday was at the time, and as impactful as it was and continues to be to so many poker players, quite a bit of good eventually came out of it.
First, the shell games being played by Absolute Poker and UB Poker (both now wiped off the face of the Internet) as well as Full Tilt Poker came to an end, and the poker community now expects certain things from operators.
Black Friday also paved the way for the return of online poker to the US, this time through the front door. So even though it’s on my Worst Moments list, Black Friday could wind up being a turning point in poker history for the betterment of the game.
Every online poker scandal PokerSpot, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet and so on pales in comparison to what happened at Full Tilt Poker post Black Friday.
Yes, in the end, it all seems to be working out “okay,” and we are apparently getting our money returned, but during the crisis Full Tilt Poker was a $300+ million debacle. Had PokerStars not bailed the company out, the poker world would be a markedly different place right now.
In addition to what occurred at FTP, there was also the trickledown effect where so manywell-known poker players suddenly ran into money troubles, and the seedy underbelly of the poker community was suddenly exposed for all to see.