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Five of the biggest poker controversies

| 18.11.2016

Whether it’s playing or watching, poker can be a thrilling game. The chance to outsmart your opponents and grab some big wins means that it appeals to many players, however, only a select few can make it to the professional level. With the best players in the world facing off, fine margins can decide mega-money hands, and that has led to some major controversies over the years.

Here we look at some of the biggest to rock the poker world.

Champion player accused of cheating over £7.7m win

Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey is still hoping to receive the £7.7m he won in London

Phil Ivey is one of the most decorated poker players of all time, and is in the top five for the all-time money list from playing the game. He also boasts an incredible 10 world series of poker bracelets, and is generally respected as one of the best around, which makes accusations of cheating very strange.

But, that’s exactly what happened, after Ivey won £7.7m from a Mayfair casino in London back in 2012, from playing a version of baccarat known as punto banco. He was accused of edge-sorting, which is a gambling technique that involves exploiting design irregularities from the back of cards. Essentially, when a card came out, it’s believed that Ivey would know what it was from the back of the card, is that smart? Or cheating? It certainly seems hard to us here at Coral, and bear in mind, it was the casinos own deck, and their dealers were at the table.

Well, the casino deemed it cheating and said they had no liability to him, as this was not a legitimate strategy. They returned his initial stake, of £1m, with a court case ensuing as a result.

Ivey argued that he was using information that was available to any player and was down to the casino failing to protect themselves, yet he lost his high court case in 2014, but that wasn’t the end of it. After an appeal, two years later, the verdict didn’t change, although the court acknowledged that Ivey was not dishonest.

That still isn’t the end of the matter, as Ivey is seeking permission to launch an appeal at the Supreme Court, so this one could rumble on for a while longer yet…

Online poker brings new problems

With the introduction of online casinos, the way of poker changed over the years. As we all know, you can play poker anywhere, with the fantastic Coral tab you can be at the tables from your device or mobile. This changed across the whole industry too, and for professionals it meant online tournaments were the place to play poker.

However, that too created controversy, with one player particularly, Josh Fields. Playing under the name ‘JJProdigy’ he was regarded as one of the best online poker players in the early to mid-2000’s. Yet, playing an online tournament, he was found to be under two accounts in the same tournament, and won $140,000.

An investigation found that he was too young to be playing online poker anyway, and was banned, but that wouldn’t stop more issues arising. Fields was then believed to be taking over for other players during the later rounds of tournaments and taking a cut of their winnings.

After making up excuses initially for the multiple accounts, Fields eventually came clean and admitted that he had breached the rules. Despite a supposed heartfelt apology, the same situation would arise on a regular basis and in the end Fields would become a complete outcast in the online poker world. He had wasted his undoubted talent.

Counterfeit chips leads to jail sentence

Poker Chips

Lusardi was sentenced to five years in jail after using counterfeit chips

This controversy landed a North Carolina man with a five-year jail sentence as well as some hefty fines after he tried to scam the casino with fake chips. Christian Lusardi was playing the poker tables at Atlantic City, but instead of playing by the rules, he had bought millions of dollars’ worth of fake chips.

In the end, Lusardi was caught out in farcical circumstances. After suspecting that the counterfeit chips had been recognised, Lusardi went to his room to flush them down the toilet. But, after guests complained that water was leaking into their room, maintenance arrived and had found that the chips were clogging the pipes!

More chips were then found in a toilet at the casino and in total $3.6m worth were recovered, although they obviously had no real cash value. It caused chaos at the casino, as the poker tournament that Lusardi had played in was suspended, and he’d won nearly $7,000 in that game.

Lusardi would plead guilty and receive a five-year sentence as well as being forced to pay $463,540 to the Borgata casino for loss of revenue and just under $10k for damaging the pipes! Ouch.

Poker prodigy found to be a cheat

Every so often in the online poker world, stars will emerge as great players, who are tipped to make millions from the game, and Jose Macedo was one of them. Known as Girah, the young Portuguese player had even secured a high-profile sponsorship deal, but all was not what it seemed.

Given his reputation, Girah managed to convince players to use his own network against one specific player. He would also live sweat their play via Skype, which means he would watch the game and give them comments as the hands played out.

Of course, whenever they played against this player, they would lose, and people began to get suspicious as they thought he was playing too well. In total, the people that Girah had referred lost around $30,000.

It didn’t take too long for people to realise that whenever Girah logged in to Skype, the other player would log out, and vice versa.

After being caught out, Girah issued an apology, admitting he had cheated, and that he was prepared to take the consequences that would come his way. He also promised to pay back all the players that he had cheated, although we don’t know if he did.

A man comes 9th in the women’s WSOP!

In 2011, Jonathan Epstein found himself surrounded by women on the final poker table at the world series of poker event. That was because he was playing in the ladies’ event!

However, to be fair to Epstein he did nothing illegal, there was no disguising himself, or pretending to be a woman. He just sat there and played.

That’s because the gender-discrimination laws stopped WSOP organisers blocking men from playing, although it was widely expected that they wouldn’t play. Despite that, over the years a handful of men would feature, but none made the impression that Epstein did at the tournament.

He managed to see off over a thousand players and make his way to the final table, with the booing and shouts gradually getting louder along the way. “Beat the dude”, was regularly heard during the final table game, and big cheers met his exit.

Epstein would walk away with a cool $13,701 for finishing 9th, so you could say that he was the real winner, but he hasn’t been back since!




Chris Gallagher