The world of online poker is very safe and relatively scam free. But there are exceptions and certain players are more exposed to these scams than others. If you want to make sure these scams don’t get the better of you and that you never fall into their clutches, then make sure you read through our guide to avoid poker scam sites, before checking our poker blacklist, both of which are included in this article.
Do Poker Scams Exist?
They do exist, but they are rare. The world of online gambling is very highly regulated and highly competitive and it’s difficult for scams to prosper.
After all, scams are short-lived. They setup shop, they take peoples’ money, and before those players realize that something is amiss and start initiating chargebacks and getting the authorities involved, they disappear. Except, this is not how they operate. That’s certainly how people think they operate, but 99% of poker scams out there are much more devious and much less transparent.
They typically focus on players who reside in countries where online poker is hard to come by, such as the United States. They use payment methods that take a lot of time to stall customers for as long as possible, and when it comes time to actually stealing money they close accounts, block withdrawals and then make excuses.
But it’s not just thievery that gets these sites blacklisted. All sites that fall into the following categories also deserve this title and should be avoided:
- Rigged Sites: There have been cases of employees gaining access to software codes that allow them to see everyone’s hole cards, earning them an unfair advantage that they use to clean up.
- Fake Bonuses: These are the sites that offer the world, but fail to deliver on any of it. They pull the rug out from under you, and point you to clearly worded Ts & Cs when you complain.
- Customer Support: Sites that don’t respond to customer complaints, either because they are not staffed or they don’t care. This is actually the biggest complaint where blacklisted poker rooms are concerned and some of the biggest scam sites have been guilty of this, as discussed below in our poker blacklist.
- Fake Software: Some software is out-and-out rigged. This is much more common on online casinos, where even BetFred, a fairly big name, have been caught using rigged software in the past (although it seems to have been an issue with the developers and not them). They are rare in poker rooms because poker rooms earn their money by taking a rake and don’t, or shouldn’t, care who wins the game. But they do exist and some sites have been caught using them in the past, either to allow specific players/staff members to win, or to make the games more tense and action-packed in order to increase the bets.
How to Spot Scam Sites
These scam sites are actually easier to spot than you think, just follow these rules:
- Reputation: You should be able to Google the site and get a lot of information. If there is no info at all, or you return a wealth of warnings and bad reviews, stay away.
- Regulation: If they are regulated then they should display the badge, you should find the license number when you click it, and you will have recourse if they scam you. However, don’t just assume that any license is good, because that’s not the case. Anything from the UK, Alderney or Malta should be safe and secure, but there have been a lot of scams operating with a Curacao license. Not all sites that use one are scams, far from it, but this regulator doesn’t do much to stop scams and is therefore not a guarantee of safety.
- Payment Methods: Scam sites avoid methods like credit cards and PayPal as it is easy to initiate chargebacks and this is the last thing they want.
- Location: A site that focuses on only US players is more likely to be a scam than one that focuses on EU, AU or CA players, as US players know online gambling is restricted and are more likely to take risks as a result.
Our Poker Blacklist
The following list is updated on a regular basis and contains all of the poker sites that you need to stay well clear of.
- Ultimate Bet (Defunct): Not only was this site one of the major victims of Black Friday, when poker sites were shut down in the US, but several years prior to that it was discovered that their CEO had been using software that allowed him to spy on hole cards. We mentioned such incidences above, and while UB were not the only ones caught doing this, they have been the biggest and the worst.
- LockPoker (Defunct): For many years this was one of the best poker sites for US players, but then things turned sour. It stopped paying out and it eventually shutdown, with the licensing authorities (based in Curacao) doing nothing to help the players that had been scammed.
- Carbon Poker (Active): This was one of the poker sites that picked up a lot of the slack when sites like PokerStars stopped allowing US players. But they have been very slow with payouts over the last few years and they are not very responsive either. Extreme caution is advised.
- Action Poker Network (Active): This network is small and relatively unknown in modern poker circles, but it has been a bigger player in the past. At last check it was operating under the name “Chico”, but regardless of what they are calling themselves these days we would not recommend them. They focus on the US market and we have heard hundreds of complaints about non-paying withdrawals.
- Absolute Poker (Defunct): This is an oldie, but one worth mentioning nonetheless as it is one of the biggest poker scams in history. The owners were indicted on all kinds of charges and at the time it went down as one of the biggest poker controversies in history.
- Luck3 (Defunct): This site got into all kinds of trouble when it refused to pay its affiliates and players, but then people started digging and found out that they weren’t paying employees either. They were happy to take money, but not to pay it out.
- BetOnUSA (Active): These guy have been involved with a lot of controversies and have cycled through many different names in the past. It’s worth keeping an eye out for them as they are a very questionable poker room.
- Joker Club (Defunct): This site was accused of having dodgy software that made it easy to cheat. This type of scam is rare, as discussed already, but it does exist and these guys have been one of the worst offenders.