Trust no one? Online poker’s recent scams and how to prevent them [Editorial]
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
If a high street company stopped doing business and closed doors with nine figures in customer money locked behind said doors, we’d hear no end of it. If a sporting celebrity embezzled fans and students out of five figures, the back pages of the newspapers would shout it from the rooftops for weeks. Yet when similar situations happen in the world of online poker, short of the flurry of activity from observers (rarely anyone more relevant than railbirds and microstakes players) on NVG... nothing.
Why? Well, the very nature of poker has something to do with it – if a midstakes grinder earning $100,000 a year from cash games gets cheated out of $10,000 it’s not the same devastating sum of money as it is to a man working 9-5 and earning $100,000 a year. It’s just a 15 – 25 buy-in downswing, and those happen. Professional poker players have an inherent disregard for the value of a dollar – they have to, otherwise that river bluff isn’t 72 big blinds; it’s six weeks’ rent or a down payment on a sports car.
Since Black Friday, we’ve had a couple of seedy practises revealed to us. Firstly, a thread on Two Plus Two entitled “Chino Rheem SCUM” began with players including PCA High Roller winner Will Molson and 2010 WSOP Main Event third-place finisher Joseph “subiime” Cheong claiming that Rheem owes them $40,000 from the 2010 WSOP. Other pros have since weighed in to say that they, or those they know, are also allegedly owed money by Chino. Twitter exploded when he won the inaugural Epic Poker League for a million dollars, though in defence of Rheem, even Cheong has said that “[Rheem would] pay it back if he won [a significant sum of money]... just so long as he didn’t hit the table games first.” Let’s hope that Molson and Cheong were by the cashier’s desk when Rheem claimed his seven figures. [
Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, we have the Portuguese Poker Prodigy scandal. Jose Macedo, interviewed by us as the real deal not so long ago, may not actually be who we all thought. Rumours first emerged on Two Plus Two of a 17-year-old who had risen from $0.25/$0.50 all the way up to crushing $100/$200 NL heads-up and was poised to be poker’s next best thing. Post-Isildur1 it was a bit too good to be true, and there were many doubters until players such as Haseeb “DOG IS HEAD” Qureshi, Daniel “jungleman12” Cates and Ben “sauce123” Sulsky all confirmed Jose’s existence and the existence of a keen poker mind. Over time, some naysayers claimed that Jose’s coaching was poor or that he was a capable mid-stakes player but not a poker God. However, generally, people believed Macedo and he got sponsorship with Lock Poker.
Of course, allegedly, he since attempted to scam a Skype sweat group of NL heads-up regulars out of $45,000. He was caught and admitted not only multi-accounting but also using TeamViewer software to view his opponents’ hole cards while he coached them as Jose Macedo but played them as Sauron1989 or dollarman on iPoker. Quershi and Cates denounced Macedo but their reputations are tarnished by association now. The full thread is here [http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/29/news-views-gossip/girah-jungleman-dog-head-scandal-part-iv-1082497/] and is one hell of a read. No one quite knows what is going on yet – whether Qureshi masterminded the whole thing to scam high stakes players (doubtful) or whether a kid from Portugal convinced some players he was way better at poker than he was in the hopes of securing the trust of young, rich players such as jungleman12, who even Brian “Stinger88” Hastings called “the most naive and gullible person I have ever met.”
Poker is unfortunately associated with hustling and seedy cheating; it’s the nature of the game and always will be. There are large amounts of money being thrown about constantly in games, stakes, loans and other arrangements with no formal contracts and only the word of an online persona. The more famous internet poker players value their good reputations and are honest people, but the simple fact is that when money is around, someone will be trying to steal it.
So how do we prevent this from happening? How do you prevent it from happening to you? Simple – don’t trust anyone. I don’t mean to sound alarmist but let’s face it, the Internet is a medium that allows people to lie willy nilly. I’m Matt Perry, writer for Bluff Europe magazine and small stakes poker player. If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while you might happily loan me $100 on PokerStars, knowing that with my reputation in public at stake and a feeling that you “know” me I would have to pay it back.
I would, but I could be lying about that. How do you know I’m not a 24-year-old woman from Boston who has simply created the Matt Perry persona in order to scam poker players? You don’t. If you don’t know someone in real life, don’t send them money online. If you trust them absolutely despite not having met them (clearly good friendships have been forged in the poker world with neither player meeting the other) then still don’t send them more than you can afford to lose.
People are just horrible and they will steal all your money, I guess, is my closing message. I always like to look on the bright side. On a serious note – everyone just needs to be really careful about who they trust and why. Incidentally, feel free to send me that $100 on PokerStars.