Poker news | Apr 22, 2022
The Biggest Poker Cheats Ever
By RTR Alex
Although poker is often a game of deception - with bluffs expected in almost every hand - it is also a game of great respect and honesty. As a result, any player found cheating is quickly outcast by the community, and rightfully so with millions of dollars on the line in the pro arena.
Cheaters can be found at the smallest local casinos, attempting to peak at hole cards around the table, and at world famous pro tournaments with phony chips keeping small stacks alive. But the most profitable scams have occurred in online cash games, where gaps in the software are exploited by cheats to turn the odds in their favour.
In this list we'll be taking a look at some of the biggest poker cheating scandals in history, both online and in real life.
In one of the biggest UK poker scandals ever, British World Series of Poker bracelet winner Darren Woods made £911,217 from his online scam. Woods initially denied 13 charges of fraud committed between January 2007 and January 2012, but later changed his plea to guilty on nine of those charges and received a 15 months prison sentence.
Woods used an exploit for online poker rooms that allowed him to create several accounts. He would then use these accounts to play multiple seats at the same table, greatly increasing his chances of success. Allegedly Woods would sometimes play seven seats at a table of eight, giving him a 87.5% of winning each hand.
Even Wood's father, Morteza Gharoon, was in on the scam, as he allowed his son to make two bank transfers totalling £230,000. Gharoon was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and an £18,910 fine. Wood's was also ordered to pay £283,673 to a Gibraltar-based gaming company, thought to be 888poker, to pay back players that lost money due to the defrauding.
In another multi-accounting scandal, Josh Fields managed to win an entire tournament using this online exploit to play poker with multiple accounts at once, giving himself a hugely unfair advantage.
Back in 2006, a poker account named 'ABlackCar' took down the partypoker 500k GTD online tournament for $140,000. Fields took ownership of the scam, admitting his guilt just before his 21st birthday and was awarded with lifetime bans from online poker sites, such as PokerStars and partypoker.
Although he was unable to continue these exploits online, he took to live tournaments to prove he had the skills of an honest player. He may not be able to multi-account on the felt, but it must be a little unnerving to play against a known cheat.
Running low on chips at a tournament? No problem, just bring your own.
That's exactly what Christian Lusardi did in 2014 at the Borgata Winter Poker Open. All was going smoothly, until an additional 2.7 million in counterfeit chips was discovered at the tables.
Lusardi immediately drew attention as the main suspect, which was later confirmed when police raided his hotel room and discovered him flushing the rogue chips down his toilet. CBS news reported that “Investigators said he purchased the chips online from a Chinese manufacturer and then put a counterfeit Borgata logo on them”.
The tournament was down to just 27 players when the counterfeits were discovered. Given the circulation the chips had made, the entire tournament was ruined.
Lusardi was given an 8 year jail sentence for his crimes, but ended up only serving 6 months which led to an outcry in the poker community.
Any mention of poker cheats would be incomplete without Russ Hamilton and his 'Ultimate Bet scandal'.
The 1994 WSOP Main Event winner was hugely popular in the poker scene long before the con. He appeared at two other final tables that year, but proved his worth as a poker pro by beating out the field of 268 players who entered the Main Event and took home $1,000,000 in prize money.
Despite his clear ability at the tables, Hamilton went on to cheat the online poker community for a total of $22 million. This makes Darren Woods' £900,000 scam look like pennies in comparison.
But how did he get away with such a huge amount?
Following his Main Event win, Hamilton worked as a gaming industry expert and as a consultant for Ultimate Bet. He used this position to gain access to a 'SuperUser Account' which allowed him to see the hole cards for every player at the table during live games.
Here's a video showing Hamilton's view from the account:
The scam surfaced in 2008 when Ultimate Bet proprietors Tokwiro Enterprises noticed that several accounts were reporting data "far beyond statistical norms" as a result of using software code that enabled them to see their opponents hole-cards.This was followed up with an investigation by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission which found "clear and convincing evidence" that Hamilton was responsible for these incidents. Some five years after the initial furore, a secret recording was leaked from a meeting in which Russ Hamilton can be heard admitting to his huge part in the scheme.
In Hamilton's admission of guilt, he stated:
"I did take this money and I’m not trying to make it right, so let’s get that out of the way."
In the end, Hamilton would serve no jail time, receive no fine, and has refused to address the allegations publicly.