Top 5 Most Despised Names in Poker History4 years ago
Last week saw Phil Galfond, publicly out one of his fellow high stakes pros as a no good scammer. Sammy Touilfound himself on the end of quite a detailed tirade, explaining how he had taken a loan of $250,000 with no real intention to pay it all back.
This prompted quite a bit of internet chatter about how the poker world has always been full of unsavoury characters, and that this will never change. But just who are the shadiest personalities we've seen in poker?
Who has really gone too far in the eyes of their peers?
#5 Dutch Boyd
Prior to his run to twelfth place in the World Series of Poker Main Event 2003, Boyd had made the headlines with his ill fated PokerSpot venture. Although the cardroom was only open for around eighteen months, when it finally went belly up, there was a lot of controversy.
Starting as he meant to go on, Boyd set up PokerSpot to be hosted out of the Caribbean island of Antigua without any kind of licensing. About eight months after opening the doors for the first time the problems started.
Blaming the credit card processing company for being late with transferring player's funds to the cardroom, Boyd claimed that they reached a situation where six weeks worth of deposits had not been forthcoming. This lead to PokerSpot not having enough capital to honour all the cash outs that had been requested. This dragged on over the rest of the year until the inevitable happened, and they ceased trading, still owing $400.
While anybody can make mistakes in business, what riled everybody was the range of lies being told when people contacted customer support. Though it would seem that at least he had the decency to use everybody's favourite lie the most often:
Your cheque is in the post!”
As far as I am aware, no further payments have been made on this debt.
Fast forward to 2009, and Two Plus Two founder, Mason Malmuth was dragging him through the courts over an attempt to divert web users by using the phrase Two Plus Two in a newly registered domain name.
Shady indeed, but certainly not the worst of the bunch.
#4 Jose “Girah” Macedo
Back in 2011, well known poker prodigy, Jose Macedo, was involved in a typical Skype discussion group for head-up players. After working out who were the best of the bunch, he invited them into a second group for a much closer analysis of each other's games.
As time went by and Macedo forged a closer relationship with the members of the second group, he started to encourage them to play another couple of players with the screen names 'sauron1989', and 'dollarman223'. But he didn't do this overtly, he carefully contacted members individually, and assured them that these players were known 'aggro fish'.
Macedo then persuaded his friends to allow him to 'sweat' during live play, and very quickly $30,000 was lost to 'sauron1989'. Of course, we are talking about highly competent players here, and they soon became suspicious. Some of the victims realised that there was a pattern connecting the log on times of Macedo's Skype account, and the two players logging onto the relevant poker room client.
Of course, this led to the discussion group members talking amongst themselves and realising what had happened. Macedo flat out denied any involvement for as long as there was doubt, but after a pile of evidence mounted up, he made a full confession on the Two Plus Two forum.
It's difficult to feel totally sorry for the players who lost out. Poker is supposed to be all about 'one man, one hand.' By agreeing to have Jose Macedo help them play against a player he claimed to have knowledge about, they also were breaking the rules. Either way, it's still a distasteful story.
#3 Jennifer Larson
Not one of the most well known figures in the game, Larson was the founder of Lock Poker. Back in April of last year, after somehow managing to continue operating without honouring any withdrawals for a year, Lock Poker was no more. Slated as a Ponzi scheme, the Curacao licensed poker room was left with around $15 million in unpaid cash-out requests.
Looking further into this chaos, it was reported that as far back as 2010, noises were being made about the state of Lock Poker's finances. How they managed to carry on for another five years is beyond me.
Larson, was reportedly a social media manager for an online gaming company when she saw the dollar signs flashing before her eyes. Lock Poker was soon born, with Larson as the sole owner and sole employee. This kind of under-financing alongside what appears to be little organisation was a recipe for disaster.
When Black Friday hit back in 2011, and the main players, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were out of the picture, Larson promoted her site as a serious option for US based players. No doubt these promotion campaigns were being paid for by customers funds, hence the reference to being a Ponzi scheme.
Once the problems started with slow cash-outs, it was only a matter of time. The occasional payment was met, in the hope that everything would appear normal, and more deposits would roll in, but the internet forums made sure that didn't happen. Apparently, the final straw was the rent of a castle in Portugal for a party with Lock Poker's under contract pro players.
This whole catastrophe looks as if it could have been predicted many years ago, but Larson obviously didn't care as the legalities protect her from any serious repercussions.
#2 Ray Bitar
Ray Bitar was at the forefront of probably the most well publicised poker disaster we have yet seen. On Black Friday, Bitar was the CEO of Full Tilt Poker which ceased trading while owing money to more than one million players.
The US Department of Justice had shut down the company in relation to charges concerned with violation of the UIEGA (2006), and overnight any funds which were still in player's accounts became inaccessible. The numbers were said to run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Well known professional players Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson were also involved heavily with Full Tilt Poker, and have been heavily berated by the poker public for their actions. But while they were part owners, it was Bitar who was the top man, and hence the guy the law came running for.
In 2013 Bitar pleaded guilty, and it seemed almost certain that a decade or two behind bars would be the punishment. The Department of Justice used familiar phrase, 'global Ponzi scheme', and criticised Full Tilt Poker for claiming that all player's funds were 'safe and secure' when this was hardly the truth.
The end of the tale was a plea bargain that saw Bitar forfeit over $40 million and avoid a custodial sentence due to needing a heart transplant. While it's tough to not feel sorry for somebody in such poor health, there is a portion of the poker community that feels he got away lightly, even if he is flat broke.
#1 Russ Hamilton
Top of the pile has to be the much vilified Russ Hamilton, of Ultimate Bet fame.
It's one thing to make bad business decisions which cause people hurt in some way, but quite another to set out to cheat and defraud from the outset. What happened nearly ten years ago on the Ultimate Bet platform is, in my opinion, the sorriest story online poker has ever seen.
Hamilton was the main beneficiary of what is known as the 'super user' mode on the Ultimate Bet poker room. This loophole which was built into the client software, allowed privileged users to see the hole cards of all the other players. By the time the scandal was uncovered, it is estimated that more than $22 millionhad been unfairly siphoned away into Hamilton's pockets.
Could it get any worse? This has to be the first thing that people worry about with online card games. Can somebody cheat and see your cards?
In 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission concluded that it had ample evidence of cheating, totalling more than $22 million, which occurred between 2004 to 2008. Ultimate Bet agreed on the strength of this to refund all of the affected players.
For me, the worst part of this, is that the after effects of the fallout are still hurting the health of the game today. How many people out there now will never consider taking up poker in an online environment?
Hamilton is also a WSOP Main Event champion. What on earth does that make people think about our game?
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