While the majority of poker sites are trustworthy and reliable, there are some that intentionally go rogue and even go as far as to steal player funds and vanish into thin air. Just about every poker player with some knowledge of the history of online poker can think of some examples where a site or sites has ripped people off, whether this is intentional or by way of poor management. This page lists some of the more notorious blacklisted poker sites to ever come about in the industry, as well as guide you into making better decisions when it comes to choosing a trustworthy cardroom.
In the end though, it doesn’t matter, as players end up being cheated. When we deposit money at a poker site, we have certain expectations. Some of them fall into the category of desirable, good customer service, lots of traffic, good promotions, and so on. These are the things that we judge the poker sites on.
There’s also another category, and this one we could call essential, things like being dealt fair hands, the site remaining up, and not being cheated out of our money, and being able to make withdrawals. We’re not talking about just getting poor service anymore, we’re talking about something which is obviously a bigger deal.
Most Notable Blacklisted Poker Sites
Players plain getting cheated out of their money is the top reason sites get blacklisted. This usually starts out with players having more and more difficulty withdrawing, and then culminates into the site just not being able to fulfill its obligations at all. Below is a list of some of the more notorious poker sites to be blacklisted.
Poker Spot – Poker Spot was one of the original online poker rooms that came about in the early 2000’s. After enjoying small success after launch, the site most associated with poker pro Dutch Boyd folded quickly in the poker abyss. The two companies that handled their payment processing went out of business, and the losses to Poker Spot were too much to handle.
Poker Spot was found to have intentionally lied to its players though after these events, telling them that their money was safe, in a desperate effort to save the site, but it died a quick death shortly afterward, and players were not paid.
Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet – The events of Black Friday exposed the mismanagement of not only Absolute Poker and UB, but Full Tilt Poker as well. From the alleged insider fraud and “superuser” revelations, the checkered past of AP and UB caught up with them once and for all when “Black Friday” came along in 2011.
The players from Absolute and UB were out of luck – and screwed out of their money. Although Full Tilt was rescued by PokerStars and players ended up getting paid in the end, although much later, due to the government’s slow efforts to release seized money post-“Black Friday.”
Lock Poker – Lock started out as one of the darlings of the online poker world, especially for those in the USA looking for a new site to play on after the exits of PokerStars, Full Tilt and many other industry players in 2011. They established themselves by organizing the best tournament lineups in the business, offering generous amounts of rakeback to players and of course delivered one of the best software platforms out there.
Things took a turn for the worst when it was revealed that the company’s CEO, Jen Larson, and a group of other executives were bleeding the site completely dry as they began halting player withdrawals from late 2012 all the way to early 2015, when the site officially closed down. In all, it is rumored Larson and her cohorts made off with $10 to $15 million dollars of player money, with some pros having $50k to $100k+ bankrolls completely stolen from them overnight.
Fairness Standards in the Poker Industry
It’s not uncommon for players to think that a poker room’s shuffle is unfair, and you see players all the time, especially the more casual ones, blaming a site’s random number generator (RNG) for being off. So they will lose money at a poker site and then claim it’s rigged.
Almost always, this is just either a rationalization for their poor play or bad luck, typically, from a lack of understanding of what a random distribution looks like. They feel entitled to win hands more often than a hand actually wins, for instance pocket aces, thinking that if they don’t win most of these they are being cheated.
Reliable poker rooms get their RNGs independently certified though, and it’s against their interest in the long run to not have this random, as enough people leave them over suspicions of this when it truly is random. So this not being random, and even the perception of this, is simply bad for business. This is true with online casinos as well, and the online casino would actually benefit if the odds were fixed more in their favor. With online poker, you are playing against other players, and the poker sites don’t even have a stake in the hand.
Some people think that they fix it so that the pots grow larger and benefit that way, somehow dealing the cards so that more bad beats will result, but these claims are fantastic and poker rooms couldn’t even pull that off if they wanted, and they don’t. They don’t expect you to just trust them though, and this is why the good sites do have theirs certified. The goal here is to build trust, as much as they can, and trust is extremely important in online gaming of course.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t incidents of less than random shuffles, and this actually took down the first ever online poker site, Planet Poker. Planet Poker’s RNG was famously shown to not be random enough, and this spelled the death of the site.
When this is the case, this allows players to crack the RNG and cheat, so while some players are concerned about this, poker sites care about this even more, and want to prevent such abuses even more.
Players Getting Cheated
Poker sites spend a lot of effort to prevent cheating, and while it does go on to some degree, it is in the interests of the poker site to keep it to a minimum to preserve the integrity of their sites.
So for the most part, players and poker sites are completely on the same side here, wanting to stop cheating. So they have sophisticated programs to detect it, and when it goes on but isn’t initially detected, they can investigate.
Such was the case, for instance, when a player at PokerStars claimed he was beaten out of his money by a much weaker player by the weaker player being able to see his hole cards. PokerStars investigated it, and came to the conclusion that this was the case somehow, and compensated the player.
Players will often try to collude, and may not realize that there are some very sophisticated security measures in place to flag this, to prevent and put a stop to it, because the reputation of poker sites are on the line. If a poker site loses its reputation, it loses its business.
What Players Can Do To Prevent All of This
Players do need to take heed of the risks involved in playing online poker, even though they are quite low overall. Poker sites do realize the importance of trust, especially in today’s climate where some companies are always looking to cut corners to squeeze a couple extra dollars out of the customers.
However, companies like PokerStars have always shined in the trust department, especially after they were able to commandeer the storm brought forth by the US Department of Justice after Black Friday and not only paid back players extremely fast, but also took charge of the situation and were completely transparent with all their customers to ensure everything would be alright.
Some players think that regulators can step in and save them, and this is true in some instances, but there really isn’t much they can do in others, such as those resulting from business failure.
Poker sites are supposed to segregate funds for instance. Full Tilt was supposed to have segregated their players’ funds, but they found a way around this rule, and by the time it all came out, it was too late. Even without Black Friday, this site was likely headed for a fall due to mismanagement of funds by their executives.
Whether a site is rogue or not at the time is seldom black and white, and there are various shades of grey involved. The black sites of the past generally were grey first, and this is the point where you want to really start taking heed of the potential risks, not later after you have been screwed by them.
Regulation is important of course, but in the end, the behavior of a poker site is really what tells the story, and we need to see consistently good behavior for a poker site to continue to give them our trust.
Trust is first and foremost when you give a poker site your money to hang on to, and this is, and will always remain the most fundamental thing to look for in a poker room. There are many very trustworthy online poker sites out there, not only trustworthy but financially healthy, and financial health is a big factor as well.
So by being aware of the issues going on and using good judgment, the sometimes twisty road of online poker safety is really not a difficult one to navigate.