Potripper online poker scam


Potripper: the account that threatened to bankrupt online poker

Potripper. If this nickname doesn’t ring a bell, that’s quite normal. Here in Italy it has not been talked about enough, but in the United States “Potripper” was like an earthquake in the world of online poker, happened moreover at one of the worst times in poker history.

Settle in, we’re about to tell you one of the most incredible (and sad) stories involving the world of online poker. Who was Potripper? What did he do wrong? And what have been the consequences for online poker?

Potripper and the Cereus Poker Network Scandal.

In the second half of the 2000s, the world’s online poker industry had Full Tilt and PokerStars as its great giants, and just as these two were experiencing the biggest scandal in their history (Black Friday), Cereus Poker Network was not faring any better.

Cereus Poker Network
included Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, two well-known poker rooms at the time. You may have seen their logos on the outfits of Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke of the times.

In 2007, the dust-ups began: starting with forums such as the well-known Two Plus Two, more and more players began declaring themselves victims of cheating and reporting suspicious behavior by some account.

One among them, the one who immediately became most famous, was indeed “POTRIPPER,” who in September 2007 managed to win a $1,000 and $1,000,000 guaranteed tournament hands down, without ever faltering, and with a historical play of only three low stakes tournaments.

It could simply be someone who attempted a major shot and it went all too well for him, but the final hand of the tournament left little room for doubt.

Super User software that saw the cards at online poker

At the final Heads-Up against Marco Johnson, Potripper played a “level-headed”  Stu Ungar.

Potripper completes with 10♣9♦, Johnson checks with 9♣2♥. The flop is 4♥K♦K♥, check, Potripper bets 9,000 and Johnson calls. 7♠ on the turn: check, Potripper bets 13,500 and Marco goes all in on bluff for 200,310, receiving Potripper’s call. On the river a 5♠ that does not change things.

In short, after this hand the community became more than suspicious, and pressure was put toward Absolute Poker to request Hand History, the detailed history of all hands played.

It did not take too much investigating to realize a crazy pattern: Potripper was playing flawlessly, attacking when the opponents had nothing and also passing good points when he was under.

This “God Mode,” so called by some, could only have one explanation: Potripper had a way of seeing opponents’ cards and those that would come out on the board.

The statements and consequences for Absolute Poker

Absolute initially refuted the allegations, but shortly had to confirm:

the site was the victim of a security breach, in which a qualified consultant to the site devised a sophisticated scheme to manipulate internal systems, gain access to third-party computers and accounts, to see other customers’ hole cards while playing and without their knowledge, resulting in foul play.

This could have been a so-called “Super-user,” an account to monitor the software with special privileges and access. Absolute Poker a couple of months later pointed out that there was no evidence of the existence, present or past, of such a Super-User, but also announced that it had identified 7 cheater accounts and reimbursed 1.6 million to players victimized by this scam.
Some time later, an investigation by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission confirmed instead that the cheating was perpetuated, as suspected by many, by an internal member of Absolute Poker through a God Mode account. That day AP was fined $500,000 and two years of very close supervision by the commission. A trifle compared to the tens of millions that will later be declared between the two sites….

Ultimate Bet, Russ Hamilton and illegal software scams

The Absolute Poker affair has also raised suspicions about some Ultimate Bet accounts. In mid-2008, the platform’s owners had to admit that they had detected illicit actions since March 2006 by 6 accounts and 18 screen names.

The fraudulent activity was traced back to unauthorized software code that transfers other players’ hole card information to the perpetrators of the scam during the game. We identified the code as a part of a pre-existing control system manipulated by the perpetrators.

These are the statements of the company that owns Ultimate Bet, which in fact wanted to distance itself from possible blame, redirecting it to the previous owners.

Many pros distanced themselves from the platform, while some like Annie Duke in particular, continued to represent the company and defend it against the allegations.

The person who caused the most stir, however, was Russ Hamilton. If this name does not ring a bell, it is not surprising. Consider that he is the only WSOP Main Event winner without the poster hanging on the walls.

Russell Hamilton, one of the architects of the online poker scandal

In fact, subsequent investigations revealed that Hamilton owned most of the computers and IP addresses of 117 user names and 23 accounts involved in the scam, and many of these accounts transferred money to Hamilton’s official account, which had defrauded his colleagues out of tens of millions of dollars.

Hamilton became the face of this scandal as 31 other names turned up, revealing a scam that had been going on since June 2003 (five years earlier).

Ultimate Bet received a $1.5 million penalty and an obligation to refund $22 million to players affected by the scam.

Later, in an audio posted on the web without permission, Hamilton admitted to taking between $16 million and $18 million this way, and it is estimated that the total money stolen by this method amounts to more than $50 million.

The statements and consequences for Absolute Poker

Eventually Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker closed their doors during Black Friday of 2011, contributing heavily to the blackest moment in online poker history.

Fortunately, online poker has since recovered without suffering more scandals of this magnitude, and Potripper and the like are no longer left. If not the scheming of some unlucky player (who does not have full understanding of probability theory) who complains that “in online poker you can see your cards.”


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