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Blacklisted / Rogue Poker Room Guide

Page summary: A full overview of the poker rooms that scammed, rigged or ripped off players.

Blacklisted and Rogue Online Poker Rooms

If you head online to play poker you have every right to expect that the game will be fair and that you’ll have no problems in cashing out. In the majority of cases, players will have no problems whatsoever. Over the years, there have been a handful of rogue operators in the online poker scene. This page explains what happened, and shows you what to look for to ensure that you are not caught out by any future ‘bad apples’.

This article starts by looking at the ways in which a site might be considered ‘rogue’ or a scam, with some of the offences listed here worse than others. Next, some of the biggest scandals in poker history are discussed along with the offenders. The article ends by examining easy ways in which you can protect yourself from being scammed or ripped off.

What is a ‘Rogue’ Poker Site?

There are many reasons why an online poker site might be blacklisted. The worst offenses happen around the fairness of the games or the finances. Some of the scandals over the years involved ‘super users’ in high stakes games, with access to other player’s hole-cards. While there has never been any evidence of an unfair deal from any site – this is a common ‘conspiracy theory’ among players. The more likely issues are to do with payments. Over the years several sites have disappeared, taking balances with them and ripping off poker players.

There are less obvious ways in which a site could be considered rogue too:

  • Poor security meaning players personal and financial details could be compromised (this has not happened to the best of my knowledge)
  • Lack of monitoring of the games, meaning problems like collusion aren’t always identified.
  • Bonus schemes which are impossible/next to impossible to clear.
  • Poor customer services, where it can be tough to speak to anybody or get a reply.
  • High fees for making standard withdrawals

Lessons from History – The Worst Offences in Online Poker

One of the worst scandals in online poker occurred in 2007 when people related to the management of popular sites Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker were caught spying on opponent’s hole cards in high stakes games. This cheating was identified by members of the 2+2 poker forum. They realized that the player had a win rate which far outweighed the win rates of the top professional players – this scandal ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was not this cheating scandal which finally bought down ‘UB’ and ‘AP’. After Black Friday in 2011 they stopped paying out players, eventually shutting down completely. No player ever received compensation for this.

In 2013, there were rumors that Lock Poker was having issues in paying out player withdrawals. A large number of players were waiting a very long time for their money. It was confirmed in 2015 that Lock Poker had folded, taking the money with them. It is estimated that Lock players are owed a total of $15 million.

One of the biggest poker sites in the world, Full Tilt, was part of another huge scandal in the online poker world. The enforcement of the “Unlawful internet Gambling Enforcement Act” on April 15 2011 (known as “Black Friday”) by the Department of Justice saw Full Tilt closed down. Players with real money in their accounts expected their funds would be returned to them. It turned out there was a shortfall in the Full Tilt accounts. The management of the site had been using this money for operating expenses. Many of the protagonists of this huge scam have never been brought to book.

Fortunately, US players had their balances returned via the US Federal authorities after PokerStars bought this site. Full Tilt now share their player pool with PokerStars.

How Players Can Protect Themselves from Rogue Sites

Having read the previous couple of sections, you might be feeling alarmed at the notion of ever playing online poker again. Fortunately, these cases are genuinely few and far between. In fact, the cases highlighted above have led to the online poker scene becoming safer than ever, as tighter and stricter regulations have come in on the back of them.

So, how does a player ensure that the poker site is a genuine, fair one?

The first thing a player should check is that the poker room is licensed in a known gaming jurisdiction. Places such as Malta, Gibraltar, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands Antilles and Antigua are well known and trusted jurisdictions. A player should also check to see if the site has a ‘fair gaming’ certificate on the site. The companies that give these certificates are independently run and will ensure that the random number generators on the site are working exactly as they should. This is perhaps more important if you were playing at an online casino, but it certainly applies to poker sites as well.

Fortunately, you won’t have to do all of the detective work yourself, as there are a number of review sites who will let you know if there is anything ‘rogue’ about a site you’re checking out. If there is a site which isn’t acting in the best interests of its players, word soon spreads, so even a simple google search will tell you all you need to know.  One of the best ways to avoid playing at a rogue / blacklisted site is to stick with those companies that have built up a good, long standing reputation within the industry.