Can you take action against a bad poker site or find worse players at some sites? People have been successful in Europe (as players as well), but none will win a case against a poker site that accepts US business… For the vast majority of poker players, their experience with online poker is a positive one and looking for a site with the worst players is a popular strategy to get an edge. For most average players even if they lose their deposit, they’ve had fun and enjoyed playing. If they win, they’re probably going to lose it back to a better player. We believe that Betonline.ag (site review) has the worst players and is the easiest site to make money off bad players.
I always consider playing at any poker site that is in connection with a sportsbook due to an instant advantage. The people who are sports bettors or even better if you can find them, casino players, are the most valuable types of players. Any poker site operating a large online sportsbook is usually easier winnings and thus the mention above. They either don’t know how to play or they are inherently retarded because they play casino games for money on the internet, probably the dumbest thing that is more popular than people realize.
Now, I’d like to discuss my list of the worst poker sites to ever exist. Note that while it is relatively long, but considering thousands of poker rooms have existed in an unregulated environment, it’s not that long. Here is a fact. I advertised a site and clearly mentioned before and after a notice about how management was found cheating the software (old UB scandal) and the results were that I had MORE signups to the poker room. Whether people wanted to see how they cheated or try and cheat themselves I have no idea but in the end they deposited, played, and didn’t care.
Worst Poker Operators of All Time
Sometimes sites went broke because of incompetence (ex: ultimate poker), with site owners and managers being simply too inexperienced to run an online poker room. Other times, management knowingly chooses to mislead and deceive their clients for personal financial gain which classifies them in our worst poker sites list mentioned below. After the US government became more aggressive, loss of payment processors, frozen funds, and criminal indictments all became additional causes of poker sites going under. In the regulated US market, sites will have a near impossible time competing against the WSOP and PokerStars monopolies.
Online poker legislation is gaining ground in several states and is legal in Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. However, most online players in the United States are still playing on foreign sites in unregulated markets.
Laws passed against overseas operators have put a massive dent in the industry in the past ten years. The passage of the UIGEA in 2006 [A] criminalized foreign operators and forced many sites to leave the market.
Even before anti-online-gambling laws were passed, players had their fair share of issues with rogue operators. The sites below that had and have bad reviews should serve as cautionary tales to online poker players. Unless you’re playing in one of the states where it’s legal at a regulated site, it’s paramount to keep an eye on the latest news.
Anyone Remember Pitbull Poker?
Pitbull Poker was an online poker room that was formed in May 2004. They were one of the few online poker sites to offer their room solely in a no-download format. Their software was a browser-based client that used Java.
Pitbull was never a large poker room. They were a smaller room on what was called the Flash Poker Network. At the time, they offered a free $10 no-deposit bonus, which drew players to the tables. They also utilized prop players, which were used to start games and keep games going in an attempt to make the site grow. The pay for props was usually around 100% rakeback.
I had the displeasure of propping for Pitbull Poker during 2008–09, shortly before their closure. The pay was impressive (125% rakeback), but there was always something eerie about the play on that site. I often felt my opponents could read my hands based on their play. It turned out – they could!
Pitbull Poker had what were called “super users.” They employed a staff of “players” that could see the hole cards of others. This was first alleged at the 2+2 Forum in August 2009 [B] and was validated two months later by a former employee [C].
Soon after this story broke, PitBull shut their doors and took all player funds with them which is why they are listed as one of the worst sites on this article. Their site went offline, and that was that. While a forum employee alleged that he and other super users were taking “$5,000 a week from players,” it’s unlikely that users lost much at Pitbull.
Though they opened their doors in 2004, Pitbull was never a large poker site and was mostly a non-player in the market. They survived due to their small no-deposit bonus offer, paying propositions players, and ripping off the few players that deposited.
JetSet Poker Went Down Badly
JetSet was another site that I frequented as a prop player during online poker’s heyday in the United States. They, like Pitbull Poker, used a stable of prop players in many of their games but did attract considerably more customers. JetSet was much more successful than Pitbull but was still a small room for the time.
They had a vibrant micro and low-limits player base and offered plenty of freeroll tournaments. Most of their action topped out in the middle limits. They also had some of the best software around. Their product could be best described as an earlier version of Full Tilt Poker’s. Players could choose multiple avatars, and the software was quite advanced for the time, especially for a small site.
Just about a week after the UIGEA passed through Congress in October, JetSet sent a message to players through their software that they were shutting down their operations. They later posted on their website that they were forced to close down due to US regulations.
The site shut down within 15 minutes, and despite issuing a statement, there was no promise to repay players or even a mention of balances. Making matters even more suspicious, they accepted deposits up until the minute they told players they were shutting down. It doesn’t get much worse than that for poker players.
Casinomeister reported that players could email JetSet management and provide a name and address to receive their funds. JetSet said it would take 6–12 weeks to process these payments. Though some players later report being paid in forums, it appears the vast majority were not.
There were also allegations that JetSet was operating illegally in the United States. Their parent company, JSP Interactive, had offices in Malta, but their phone numbers were fake. The company’s only email contact was to a dormant address.
JetSet’s software company, BH Development, filed for bankruptcy back in 2008 but was bought clandestinely by Cardroom International. They sued Full Tilt and PokerStars in 2011 after Black Friday, alleging that these companies monopolized advertising on major US television networks.
That claim was dismissed but was followed by a lawsuit claiming that Full Tilt illegally acquired JetSet’s software. Cardroom International bought BH Development in 2006. The case has yet to be fully settled, and, in what seems to be an uphill battle for Cardroom International in court, even more charges were dismissed in the latest update.
Regardless of the lawsuit, players were never paid in full. JetSet can offer all the excuses they want, but they could have easily paid players through a number of different methods after their closure. They also lured players into depositing up until their final minutes of operation and had several slow-pays dating back a few months before the time they closed their virtual doors.
It’s unclear how much JetSet stole from players when they went under, but many reported losing accounts in the four-figure range and some in the low five-figures. It was at least several hundred thousand dollars and possibly upwards of half a million. Again, if you start receiving bad customer service, long withdrawal times, or start reading bad reviews on certain poker websites, stay away from them. It’s mostly likely a red flag something is going on and they are up to no good.
World Poker Exchange (WSEX)
The World Poker Exchange was the product of WSEX.com, which was one of the largest online sportsbooks before their closure in April 2013. The sportsbook, which was formed in 1996, was one of the largest in the world until things started going downhill for the business in 2009.
In April 2006, WSEX launched the World Poker Exchange (WPEX). What made WPEX different from other online poker rooms was that players received 100% rakeback. This model had been tried previously by other sites and had failed.
Since their poker room took no rake (though it did take a rake from other network skins), they operated at a net loss. However, their goal was to drive customers to the site, hoping that the increased poker traffic would lead to more poker players wandering over to the sportsbook and casino sections of the site.
Traffic quickly grew at WPEX, and the room quickly developed a solid player base. The room’s success was short-lived, however, as there were many complaints about bots and cheating. WPEX didn’t respond accordingly with their security team and offered little or no oversight to the play at their room. They eventually made changes, but there were still issues with collusion and security.
This caused many players to leave the room, despite the lucrative promotion. The software was also far inferior to the many other more advanced poker clients. There were frequent slowdowns and crashes.
The lack of trust in game’s integrity and software issues ultimately led to a massive decrease in traffic, and WPEX was now labeled as a bad poker site to play at. About a year after opening their doors, WPEX reduced the rakeback percentage to 90%. In the coming months, the rate began to go lower and lower. After about a year, the rakeback percentage was at 50%. Soon after, the room decided to end their rakeback promotion altogether.
After the room had been dormant for many years and WSEX had had payout issues of their own, WPEX closed in February 2012. At the time of their closure, the room only had a few dozen players per week frequenting their rooms.
The closure of their WPEX was a sign of things to come for the sportsbook. Slow-pay complaints began to surface around 2009. By 2013, they owed players more than $1 million in backed withdrawals requests.
In March of that year, they closed their doors without paying players. Rumor has it that they even stiffed their local employees on their final paychecks. The staff left a message on WSEX.com saying that they, “sincerely apologized for this unfortunate situation” and they would do the best they could to rectify it.
That was the last players had heard from WSEX before it went offline completely. It’s a sad story that saw some of the industry’s most innovative and popular sportsbooks end in failure. One of WSEX’s co-founders, Steve Schillinger, committed suicide a month later in Antigua.
PokerSpot Was The First Poker Site
PokerSpot was one of the very first online poker rooms. It may have been the second to go online after Planet Poker launched in January 1998. The site was founded by professional poker player Dutch Boyd [D].
PokerSpot launched in May 2000 and was one of the first rooms in all of online poker to offer tournaments. They grabbed many players who craved tournament action, something that many other sites in the industry did not yet offer.
Online poker at this time was an emerging industry, with only a handful of players and sites. This was several years before the “Poker Boom” [E], which began in 2003. There were no such things as e-wallets or electronic checks. Players’ only deposit option was credit or debit cards, and they could only request withdrawals via mail.
PokerSpot ran into troubles in 2001. Withdrawals slowed to a crawl, and it is widely believed that Dutch Boyd ordered his staff to stop processing withdrawals while also telling players that it was business as usual at PokerSpot.
Boyd, along with his other investors, hoped that the recent surge in online poker’s popularity would provide an influx of deposits, which could help them process their already backlogged withdrawals. In the online sports betting world, this is known as operating “on the float.”
PokerSpot closed their doors in the fall of 2001, and players were out in excess of $400,000. Bailout packages were discussed, with several online casinos and poker rooms showing interested in PokerSpot’s software platform.
However, a deal never did materialize. Boyd reportedly wanted more money for his software and turned down a deal that would have had his players reimbursed. After screwing over his players at PokerSpot, Boyd started RakeFree.com, a subscription-based online poker room. This project also failed.
Dutch Boyd did go onto to gain popularity on the tournament circuit as a player. He won over $2 million from tournaments and won two WSOP bracelets. At no time did he attempt to pay back PokerSpot’s players after winning his millions.
Boyd is still active in the online poker community, which has changed drastically since the days of PokerSpot. In 2013, he launched a Kick-starter campaign to fund an autobiography called Poker Tilt, which chronicles his last decade in the poker world.
As of mid-2015, the book has still yet to be released but is sold through his website for the pre-order price of $24.99. Considering all the people he has wronged in the poker world, I doubt he will sell many copies of his forthcoming book.
Cereus Network (Absolute Poker and UltimateBet)
The Cereus Network, which consisted of Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, will go down as one of the worst online poker scams of all time. UltimateBet was launched in 2001, and Absolute Poker was first launched in 2003, based out of Costa Rica.
They were licensed by well-known regulators the Kahnawake Gaming Commission [F], which operates out of Indian Territory in Canada. The sites were both eventually part of the Cereus umbrella but didn’t merge until Absolute’s parent company, Blanca Games, bought them after the passage of the UIGEA.
Like many sites during this period, Absolute Poker used proposition players to start games and create action so that others would sign up and deposit. I had the pleasure of propping at Absolute Poker for the first few years of my online poker career. We got paid 100% rakeback but had special seating rules that required us to start games. It was an excellent program and perfect for players learning the game. Overall, I enjoyed playing there, and the action was good.
Of course, like other sites, the fact that it used proposition players was not openly advertised. There wasn’t anything wrong with this, as it was common practice at many other poker rooms at the time. The prop program did end eventually, once the site became more popular and achieved strong liquidity for their games.
After some small hiccups after launching, Absolute did quite well and were a mid-level online poker site in the crowded market that existed until the UIGEA was passed in late 2006. After the law had been passed, many other sites left the market, giving Absolute more market share. However, their early years of success were short-lived, as they were implicated in perhaps the biggest cheating scandal the online poker world has ever seen.
In 2007, a cheating scandal emerged at both Absolute Poker and UltimateBet. The scandal was such big news that is even made the television program 60 Minutes as a lead story. Not only were large amounts of theft committed, but for the first time, we saw an online poker room cheat its own players at the tables.
Using an exploit in the software that was originally put in for test purposes, some of Absolute’s higher-ups had the ability to see the hole cards of the entire table as the action played out each hand. “User 365” was the screen name that had this ability, and though the account was not able to play at the tables, it could see everyone’s cards in real-time.
It was soon discovered that User 365 was observing a significant number of games at Absolute Poker, including high-limit cash games and large tournaments. The observer account was also tied to the user “Potripper.” Wherever Potripper was playing, User 365 was also spectating at the same tables.
Potripper’s win rate was shockingly high. At 2+2 Forum, posters discovered that AP had a compromised “super user” account that could see players’ hole cards. Here’s a link to the archived thread [G] from October 2007.
Potripper’s win rate was impossible for even the best online poker players. The red dot on this graph [H] represents Potripper’s win rate compared to some of the best players on Absolute Poker at the time. As you can see, there’s no doubt that Potripper had an unfair advantage. No poker player, despite their skill level, could produce this kind of win rate.
After further examination of the hands, it was clear that Potripper wasn’t even trying to conceal the account’s advantage. The avatar was logged in from Costa Rica, where AP’s offices were located.
Furthermore, he did nothing to disguise his play with the fact that he could see other players’ hole cards. He regularly called down opponents with meager holdings. His play during a $1,000 NL tournament raised huge red flags. The entire tournament (where User 365 fed him hole card information) and his play are still available on YouTube which is shown below; it’s pretty mind-boggling to watch.
UltimateBet had a similar cheating scandal that had gone on since 2005. Shortly after the sites merged to form the Cereus Network, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission stated that it found clear and convincing evidence of cheating at UltimateBet and Absolute Poker from 2004–2008, which resulted in both sites getting the worst reviews on poker forums and news articles.
Their report alleged that Russ Hamilton, poker professional and consultant for UltimateBet, was the ringleader of the cheating scandal. The Commission ordered that Cereus refund victims of Potripper and other users at both sites, which amounted to $22 million in refunds into victims’ accounts.
The Cereus Network never fully regained the trust of players, but it was still a relatively popular network for several years, up until April 15th, 2011. On that day, the US Department of Justice charged several online poker site operators and payment processors with UIGEA violations and other crimes. The Cereus Network, both Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, were named in the indictment. Dubbed “Black Friday” for online poker the United States, it was a crushing blow to the industry.
Like Full Title Poker, Cereus had mismanaged their finances for a long time, and that became abundantly clear after the Black Friday indictments. Unlike PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, they still allowed US players to log in and play at their tables. However, they didn’t process any withdrawals to US customers after the indictments.
The amount lost by players to Cererus is estimated to be at least $50 million, which marked them as two of the worst poker websites in the history of online poker. The company had just a few million dollars after Black Friday and stayed open for several more months before ultimately shutting down for good.
Brett Beckley, one of the few names attached to the Cereus Network, turned himself into US authorities shortly after Black Friday. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 months in jail in 2012. He was released in 2014.
His half brother, Scott Tom, who also had a part in the founding of Absolute Poker, continues to reside in Antigua. He faces a potential 80-year prison sentence if he leaves the island, though the US government is aware of his whereabouts.
Author Ben Mezrich wrote the book Straight Flush [I], which chronicles the rise and fall of Absolute Poker and the Cereus Network. It has interviews with Scott Tom, Brett Beckley, and others involved in the formation of the site.
Blanca Games, the parent company behind the Cereus Network and both Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice [J] in November 2012. However, the deal provided little relief to players, as funds from the liquidation had already been promised to other parties.
Players will be able file for a remission if there are funds left over, but as of April 2015, the remission process has not started. It’s unknown how much of the 50+ million dollars owed to players will be available for repayment. It’s likely players will have to settle for 10 cents on the dollar or less, and it’s certainly possible players won’t receive any remission at all.
Full Tilt Poker
Full Tilt Poker’s fall from grace was the biggest in online poker’s history. All it took was one afternoon for Full Tilt to fall from the second largest poker site in history to a company that was later proven to be insolvent.
Full Tilt first launched in 2004 in the midst of the golden age of online poker. They were the first site that was professional-player focused and used the fame of many of the poker world’s biggest stars in their marketing.
Poker professionals Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and many more were all heavily involved in the company. FTP was almost an overnight success. Their heavy poker-pro marketing drew players to the tables. They had many commercials across US television that advertised their play money software and had the slogan, “Learn, Chat and Play with the Pros”.
Their software was also likely the best in the industry. As mentioned above, it’s alleged that Full Tilt Poker illegally acquired JetSet Poker’s software, but the lawsuit alleged by Cardroom International has never gone anywhere in court.
The similarities between the two clients are striking. JetSet’s client was already fantastic, and Full Tilt’s product seemed like an upgraded version. Both had similar avatars that only those two sites utilized at the time.
The passage of the UIGEA in 2006 criminalized online gambling operators who took bets or provided online poker to US citizens, which caused a large number of sites to leave the market. Most notable was Party Poker, which was the largest site for much of the earlier years of online poker.
Any company operating in the country that was publicly traded on a large stock exchange was virtually forced out because their shareholders could be criminally liable. This included Party Poker and many gaming industry giants based out of Europe. The online casino and sportsbook industry servicing the United States was also drastically affected.
Full Tilt and rival PokerStars made the decision to stay in the market, and their business went to the next level. PokerStars started a run that made them the world’s largest poker site, a title they still hold today. Full Tilt Poker also grew rapidly. They were easily the second largest site in the world behind PokerStars.
Both sites enjoyed an unprecedented level of success in the next five years. However, little did they know that the US Department of Justice had been building a case against both sites that would bring them to their knees.
On April 11th, 2011, the US Southern District Court of New York unsealed an indictment against the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and the Cererus Network. The indictment alleged that the online poker companies violated the UIGEA and engaged in money laundering and bank fraud. They also froze hundreds of millions in assets across several sites.
Within hours after the indictment, real-money play by US players was suspended at Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. The sites had just dealt their final hands in the US online poker market.
To cut a long story short, PokerStars and Full Tilt both agreed to leave the US market, and the DOJ allowed them a period of one week to return funds to their customers through electronic checks transfers a few weeks later. However, while PokerStars paid all of their players within a week, Full Tilt Poker’s payments were delayed.
Both Full Tilt and PokerStars continued their operations in overseas markets, but unbeknownst to many, Full Tilt Poker was insolvent. After getting large portions of their cash frozen by the US government, they weren’t able to process more than 100 million dollars in e-checks.
Despite knowing their coffers were bare, they continued to accept player deposits from international players for several months while US players waited for payment. This led to many updates by Full Tilt representatives that assured players that a resolution would soon be worked out.
However, Full Tilt’s problems were too numerous. Not only did they have issues with defunct e-checks, loss of payment processors, and funds frozen by the US government, but the inner dealings of the company were also a mess. Player deposits were being used for withdrawals, and professional players involved with FTP had taken money off the top while some owed millions of dollars in loans; bad news for players who had money in their accounts at Full Tilt.
Full Tilt had their Alderney Gaming Commission license suspended in July 2011, and operations at the poker room ceased immediately worldwide. As the situation became clearer to the public, the once mighty poker room was looking for a bailout. They owed over $334 million in player funds that they did not have.
During the next year, there were many suitors for Full Tilt, but a deal wasn’t made quickly. A French gambling company Groupe Bernard Tapie came close to purchasing FTP, but with so many issues and parties involved, it fell through. Hopes of getting paid began to look bleak for players, but in July 2012, a surprise buyer emerged.
PokerStars worked out a deal [K] with the DOJ to pay them $546 million over three years, which would reimburse all players and give them control of Full Tilt’s holdings, including their software.
The sale to PokerStars saved players worldwide from losing their bankrolls and included terms that allowed PokerStars to re-enter the market if online poker was legalized in the United States. So far, it has been legalized in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. PokerStars was approved to operate in New Jersey on September 30, 2015, and plans to be operational a few months after.
Even though PokerStars purchased Full Tilt in 2012, it would take another two years or more for US players to receive their bankrolls. The rest of the world’s players were paid much sooner, but US citizens had to go through a lengthy remission process. As of November 2015, 92% of petitioners have been paid, but the process has still yet to be fully completed [L].
Full Tilt Poker launched again in November 2012, and while they haven’t come close to their player numbers pre-Black Friday, they have settled in as the fifth most popular poker site in the world.
Many of the professional players associated with Full Tilt, especially Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer came out of the debacle with tarnished reputations. Their greed, mismanagement of the poker room, and outright theft of player funds make this well deserved.
Full Tilt’s story could have easily ended up with the loss of $334 million in player funds, but luckily, PokerStars came in and saved the day. No one from the outside could have predicted the financial shape the company was in when they were indicted in 2011. Fortunately, players were paid, and disaster was averted.
Lock Poker – ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, THE WORST EVER!
UPDATE May, 2015: Lock Poker has gone offline as of April 17, 2015. While LockPoker.eu is still active, the client and poker network are both no longer active. On April 29th, they also lost their license by the Curacao Gaming license. Their sister network skin, Superwins also still has an active webpage. Support has gone offline for both email and live chat.
Estimates lost by players is between $13-15 million. That money is almost certainly gone for good, as Lock Poker funds were trading as low as 10 cents on the dollar on 2+2 Forum. At this time, there appears to be no options for players to receive funds lost to Lock Poker and its properties.
Lock Poker is the only site on our list that is still operating today. At this point, they will likely go down in history as one of the worst online poker scams in history. As of April 2015, Lock owes players more than $1 million in backlogged withdrawals.
Lock Poker originally launched in 2008 on the Cake Poker Network. They were relatively unknown on that network but gained a lot more popularity after moving to the Merge Gaming Network in 2010.
Lock got off on the wrong foot with Merge Gaming from the start. They advertised promotions that broke network rules and had bonus and VIP programs for players that seemed too good to be true. They were also accused by many other network sites of “poaching” players from other network skins. Others worried about their small margins due to their high overhead and seemingly limitless promotions.
After burning their bridges with Merge management, Lock then rejoined the Cake Poker Network in 2012, which was renamed the Revolution Gaming Network. At the time, many outlets reported that Lock Poker had purchased Cake Poker and the network, but this turned out not to be the case.
Lock cash-out issues also began around this time and bad reviews on the site started popping up all over the internet. Other network skins had issues with Lock Poker not paying their network fees. Lock began to ring-fence some of their cash game tables from the rest of the network. In late 2013, they left Revolution Gaming altogether and formed a new network with new software.
Lock even tried to launch a skin for their network in 2014 under the name Superwins Poker. The site uses Lock Poker’s software, and their website has a nearly identical layout. It should go without saying that Superwins should be avoided.
Lock is still operating, but almost no players populate their tables. At this point, funds on Lock Poker are basically worthless, and the prospect of players being paid is close to zero. However, many poker portals and other online gambling sites still tout Lock Poker as a legitimate online poker room. Some even give them positive reviews.
Lock Poker’s promotions and poor margins likely doomed them from the start, but their management has long been deceptive to both the industry and their clients. Support no longer answers emails relating to withdrawal issues but is still happy to help players deposit.
It’s unfortunate that some unsuspecting players are still tricked into depositing at Lock Poker. Who knows how long they can have their doors open with almost no money coming in these days – hopefully, not for much longer.
Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
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