Poker is a game of skill. Players aim to sharpen their poker board game expertise to rake more pots. However, not everyone is tries to get an edge by using their intellect.

Unfortunately, the occasional case of cheating is part of the game, and these cases make headlines when discovered. From online scandals to secret hand signals to high-tech corruption, cheaters have used poker cheat sheets to get one over on legitimate players.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest poker cheating scandals.

1 – UltimateBet Superuser

It’s much easier to win at online poker when you can see everyone’s hole cards. That’s what happened during the height of the poker boom in 2007. Players took to online forums to investigate some of the curious moves from a player named “Potripper” on UltimateBet in 2007.

This player couldn't lose and never made a questionable play.

The “superuser” account was eventually discovered and attributed to 1994 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Russ Hamilton, who served as a site consultant.

Secret recordings revealed Hamilton admitting to the scheme and it’s estimated he bilked players of more than $20 million.

“I did take this money and I'm not trying to make it right, so we’ve got to get that out of the way," he said in a meeting with company officials.

Poker Cheating Scandals - UltimateBet Superuser
Poker Cheating Scandals - UltimateBet Superuser

The documentary Ultimatebeat – Too Much to Lose detailed a wide-ranging cheating scheme involving Hamilton and other “players” in his stable. A similar poker cheating scandal also rocked Absolute Poker, and the entire escapade turned out to be one of the worst in poker history.

2 – Mike Postle’s Amazing Play

Another massive alleged cheating scandal came to light in 2019. A player named Mike Postle was a regular on the Stones Gambling Hall cash game stream. He won pots with hands that most players would seemingly never play the way Postle did.

Joey Ingram and Doug Polk reviewed hours of Postle’s hands on their YouTube channels before alleging that he had to have been cheating.

“Mike just always seems to manoeuvre himself into the perfect situation,” Polk said.

During play, Postle often glanced at his phone in his lap. Critics believed he was receiving messages about his opponents' cards from someone in the control room.

Postle filed a lawsuit against some of those critics, but that was ultimately dismissed, and he was ordered to pay $27,000 in defendant legal fees. Other players sued Stones’ parent company and eventually reached an undisclosed settlement.

Postle still denies the cheating allegations.

3 – Frog Poison

Some pretty bizarre allegations involving cheating, frog poison, and shamans surfaced in 2022 involving high-stakes pro Bryn Kenney. Poker pro Martin Zamani alleged that Kenney ran a cult-like stable of players that often involved cheating, multi-accounting, and more.

Some even alleged Kenney played on other players’ accounts and also that players willingly colluded with other members in the group.

Poker Cheating Scandals - Frog Poison
Poker Cheating Scandals - Frog Poison

Zamani alleged other interesting details. including Kenney sending some players to a “shaman” to help get their heads right. That apparently included a South American cleansing ritual called “the kambo,” which involves frog poison. Zamani said some players became violently sick after ingesting the poison.

The entire ordeal made the news and had many looking at Kenney much differently. He has since denied any allegations of cheating.

4 – Multi-Accounting Strikes Again

A second scandal involving another high-stakes pro came to light in 2022. Ali Imsirovic had once been one of the biggest names in poker. But he found infamy after Alex Foxen alleged he was involved in a poker cheating scandal.

Foxen said Imsirovic intentionally looked at another player's cards in the PokerGO Super High Roller Bowl main event in North Cyprus.

The allegations also included Imsirovic's ban from an online poker site for using real-time assistance (RTA) software, which is banned on most sites, and for multi-accounting.

Poker Cheating Scandals - Multi-Accounting Strikes Again
Poker Cheating Scandals - Multi-Accounting Strikes Again

Imsirovic later released a video online denying the allegations at the SHRB – one of the top high-stakes world poker tournaments - but did admit to multi-accounting.

"I feel like I've paid all of my dues and want to move past this," Imsirovic said.

5 – Cheating with Chips

At the Borgata Winter Poker Open in January 2013, Christian Lusardi decided to tilt the odds in his favour by smuggling 160 counterfeit chips into his stack. The entire ordeal began when players suspected fake chips were in play late in the tournament, leading to the event’s suspension with 27 players remaining.

Law enforcement began investigating the entire ordeal. And plumbers at Harrah’s later uncovered counterfeit Borgata poker room chips Lusardi had attempted to flush down the toilet.

Lusardi eventually received five years in state prison.

The 27 players left in the tournament all received the remaining cash – $19,323 each. Those with nice chips stacks were undoubtedly frustrated with not getting a shot at more winnings.

Poker Cheating Scandals - Cheating with Chips
Poker Cheating Scandals - Cheating with Chips

6 – Interesting Admissions from the Admiral

U.S. Vice Admiral Timothy Giardina may have been better at naval battle plans than playing poker. The military man was busted in 2013 for using fake chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Giardina was the deputy head of U.S. Strategic Command, second in command of the country’s nuclear arsenal, one of the Navy’s most senior leaders, and a three-star general.

“Documents unveiled under a Freedom of Information Act request depict him as a habitual poker player, spending more than 1,000 hours – or 15 hours per week – at the Horseshoe’s tables in the 18 months before being caught playing three phoney chips in June 2013,” the Daily Telegraph reported at the time.

“He was fired from his post at Strategic Command … and reduced from three-star to two-star admiral. Earlier this year, he was found guilty of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer – lying to an investigator and passing fake gambling chips. He was given a written reprimand and ordered to forfeit $4,000 in pay.”

Giardina admitted to playing the chips but denied knowing they were counterfeit. He claimed to have found the chips in a restroom at the casino and made an error in judgment by using them.

However, investigators uncovered traces of the admiral’s DNA underneath stickers on the chips used to alter their value - transforming $1 chips into $500 chips.

7 – Fleecing Friends

Poker Cheating Scandals - Fleecing Friends
Poker Cheating Scandals - Fleecing Friends

Portugal’s Jose “Girah” Macedo quickly made a name for himself in the online poker world in 2010-11. He began playing at micro stakes and eventually moved up, amassing more than $1 million in winnings. But many had doubts about his success.

In August 2011, Macedo began encouraging some in his strategy group to play high stakes against a player he called a “whale” – a terrible player.

However, the whale kept winning, and friends soon asked what was happening.

Macedo eventually fessed up that a friend was running bad. So, he had tried to help this friend rebuild their bankroll. How’d he do that? By seeing his other friends’ poker hand rankings on Skype and then relaying that information to the so-called “whale.”

Others believe the scheme was even more sordid and that Macedo was playing the heads-up matches to take advantage of his friends.

Since then, reports have surfaced that Macedo founded a cleaning business in the UK and later an MMA academy.

8 – Secret Signals

Poker Cheating Scandals - Secret Signals
Poker Cheating Scandals - Secret Signals

Some cheaters never seem to learn in this final entry on the list of poker cheating scandals. Germany’s Ali Tekintamgac won the World Poker Tour’s Spanish Championship in 2010 for €278,000. So, in poker terms, he had clout!

However, the victory came with some negative press. Video footage showed an observer, who said he was part of the poker media, using hand signals to tip off Tekintamgac to his opponent’s hole cards.

Even more cheating allegations followed. The Partouche Poker Tour barred Tekintamgac from taking a seat at the main event final table in Cannes, France, later that year.

German authorities soon got involved and discovered more cheating attempts and that Tekintamgac had several cohorts in his cheating schemes.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to cheating-related fraud and received three years in prison.

“Tekintamgac, who pleaded guilty during the trial, was arrested last September on suspicion of fraud, PokerNews reported, “and was later accused of running an international cheating organization that operated at poker tournaments as well as during a large number of illegal live poker games organized in Hamburg.”

Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast