Top Poker Scams and Hustles in History
Poker has done wonders for players around the world, allowing them to make a living playing live and online poker games.
Poker gets a lot of positive coverage through televised events, mega tournaments like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and live streams on Twitch.
However, poker also gets a bad rap at times due to the number of poker scams and hustles that have tarnished this game over the years.
In this article, we put together some of the most common poker hustles in history and some of the biggest poker scams in recent years.
Counterfeit Chips at the Borgata Winter Poker Open in 2014
Poker player Christian Lusardi became notorious after the Borgata caught him using counterfeit chips at the Borgata Winter Poker Open in 2014.
Unhappy about his uneventful poker career, Lusardi introduced fake chips into the game. Nobody suspected him of cheating when he emerged as the chip leader on Day 2.
However, tournament officials realized something was amiss when they noticed the number of chips in the game was more than what it ought to be.
They launched an investigation and discovered several fake chips. The investigative team used the casino cameras and realized that Lusardi was running a scam on them.
Lusardi made things worse by attempting to flush the fake chips down the toilet, clogging the hotel pipes. The Borgata ejected Lusardi from the tournament on the second day, and the police arrested him the following day.
Eighteen months later, an Atlantic County grand jury officially indicted Lusardi on third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree attempt to theft through deception, and second-degree trademark counterfeiting.
Cult-Like Cheating Operation on GGPoker
In an 80-minute interview on the Doug Polk Podcast in April 2022, poker player Martin Zamani accused Bryn Kenney, who is ranked second on the All Time Money List, of running a cult-like poker cheating operation on GGPoker.
Zamani told Polk that Kenney uses horses to collude in online poker games on GGPoker. The poker community uses the term “horses” for players taking part in tournaments and cash games for payment. While accusing Kenney, he also admitted that he scammed others out of millions of dollars.
Zamani said that Bryn uses cheating tactics like ghosting, real-time assistance (RTA) and collusion. He gave listeners the impression that Kenney was the head of a cheating cult on GGPoker. Allegedly, Kenney’s “horses” had to live the kind of life Kenney wanted or risk getting dropped from the team.
Zamani also accused Kenney of sending his horses to a shaman to improve their game and get their energy levels high. Talking about his experiences in the shaman’s ritual room, he said that she described herself as a warlord and a murderer and prescribed a cleansing ritual called Kambo, which involves injecting the poison of the giant monkey frog through a small cut made on the human body. He said he did not permit the shaman to conduct the ritual on him.
Although Kenney quit as an ambassador for GGPoker in March 2018, he continued to work as a consultant for the online poker room and reportedly helped grow its business.
Responding to Zamani’s allegations, he admitted he had an online stable but denied using RTA software. He confirmed that he used collusion and ghosting, but denied being harsh on his horses for refusing to follow his lifestyle suggestions. He also accepted that he had sent Kenney to a shaman.
Kenney, however, refused to respond to Zamani’s allegations that he earned more than $2 million per week from GGPoker.
The Mike Postle Cheating Scandal
The cheating allegations against Mike Postle held the poker community’s attention for most of 2019 and 2020.
Postle’s life started to change when Stones Gambling Hall, a poker room in California, set up live streams for its $1/$3 games.
Postle participated in these games frequently and impressed commentators and viewers with his skills. Postle just had a knack for making right decisions and sniffing out big bluffs.
Many found it hard to accept Postle’s continued success at Stones Gambling Hall and felt something was amiss. Poker commentator Veronica Brill, who is adept at poker statistics and mathematics, was one of them. She felt something was wrong and approached Justin Kuraitis, who was the poker room manager at Stones in March, 2019, but he did not take her seriously. When Postle continued to win game after game over the next few months, Brill voiced her suspicion on Twitter.
If someone is displaying a probability of cheating on a live stream you don't make the entire room not be able to use their cellphones in an attempt to reduce everyone's anxiety and then still promote the player as one of the best.
— Veronica Brill (@Angry_Polak) September 28, 2019
Poker vlogger Joey Ingram took these allegations seriously and tried to figure out how Postle managed to win most games. After compiling information from 69 sessions, he concluded that Postle had won 62 of them, making a profit of more than $250,000 in a year. This caught the attention of the poker community who started to look into it.
Poker experts also noticed that although the casino streams the games after a delay, it records the data in real-time. A player had the opportunity to use the right technology to access real-time data and become a live superuser. A superuser is a player who can access accounts and view the hole cards of all the players in the game.
Many players believe that Postle became a superuser with the help of insiders like Kuraitis. The footage shows Postle staring at a mobile phone placed on his lap before making the correct decisions. Joey Ingram breaks this down in a series of videos available on YouTube.
In October 2019, ninety players filed a lawsuit against Mike Postle, Stones, and Justin Kuraitis, demanding damages. The lawsuit was based on circumstantial evidence and analysis conducted by Ingram, Berkley, and Brill. Stones got a clean chit when the judge stated that gambling losses cannot become the subject of legal proceedings under California law. The judge also dismissed the case against Mike Postle.
Later in 2020, the plaintiffs filed an amended lawsuit because of an opportunity to sue Stones for the rake paid. To win the case, they had to prove that Postle cheated in these poker games, and Stones did nothing to prevent it.
In September 2020, news broke out that most plaintiffs decided to accept a settlement. And those who refused to settle stopped responding to the lawyer handling the case, indicating they were no longer interested in the Postle affair.
Now in the clear, Postle filed a defamation lawsuit naming several poker players and companies, including PokerNews, Daniel Negreanu, Joey Ingram, ESPN and others. Postle would later go on to drop the lawsuit and go underground to avoid being in the media spotlight.
Collusion at the Partouche Poker Tour of 2009
A compilation of videos by French poker player Nordine Bouya provided evidence of collusion at the final table of the Partouche Poker Tour in 2009.
The video shows French poker players Cedric Rossi and Jean-Paul Pasqualini working as a team and using hand signals to convey card information to each other. Pasqualini finished first and won a prize of €1 million. Rossi finished second and won over €600,000.
According to a Mirror report updated in May 2013, nobody investigated the case because of the lack of rules for poker tournaments back then. However, the Global Poker Index (GPI) debated the issue for ten days and decided to suspend the two players. While it could not be established for certain that they cheated at the poker table, the GPI removed them from its rankings because of their unfair behavior.
The Cold Deck Hustle
Have you heard people throwing around the term “cooler” while playing poker? The term originated from one of the oldest poker hustles, the cold deck, or a deck of cards rigged in one player’s favor.
The scam worked several years ago when live poker tournaments with tight security were unheard of. The organizers set up the best coolers, introduced them at the right time, watched the poker drama, and grabbed the spoils.
The scam also required a stooge, who created enormous pots by pushing the stakes higher. The stooge also attracted the fish to the table by pretending to be wealthy and drunk. During the game, he distracted the players to enable his accomplices to introduce the cold deck and fix things in his favor.
Invisible Ink Scam
Three Italian poker players successfully used invisible ink and contact lenses to scam the Princes Casino in France out of €64,000 in two separate games of Stud Poker. The casino staff became alert when the group, which had won $44,000 earlier in the week, returned for another game a few days later. They decided to investigate when they won another $20,000.
Upon closely examining the cards, the investigative team discovered that the trio had taken the help of a casino employee to mark the backs of the cards with invisible ink. Initially, the investigators believed that the three used cameras, but later they discovered that they used special contact lenses to spot the invisible ink marks.
This process of edge sorting or card marking was also used by Poker Hall of Famer Phil Ivey in America and the UK to win millions of dollars at Punto Banco. Ivey was sued and his name was tarnished over these cheating allegations.
In every industry, there are con-artists who always seek short-cuts or a hustle to earn a quick buck. Poker is no exception to this and continues to get a bad rap due to these scams. Reading about top poker scams and hustles is important because you need the knowledge not only to detect a scam, but also to stay safe and not get conned.