How to Spot a Rogue Poker Site
Online poker has its own checks and balances. A mix of regulation / licensing and players who are quick to call out any wrong-doing makes certain that the vast majority of sites are completely legitimate. Over the years, a handful of poker sites have become rogue. There have been cases where sites disappeared, taking money with them – and others where ‘superuser’ accounts had special access to the hole-cards.
This page gives you an overview of what to look for in a poker site before you part with your money. Before that, there is a 101 on how to protect yourself from a seemingly legitimate site suddenly becoming rogue. At the end of this page you will find some examples of sites which have gone bad throughout the history of poker.
How to Protect Yourself from Rogue Poker Sites
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and with 20/20 hindsight, I am sure that a lot of the scandals in online poker could have been predicted and avoided. Since it is not always possible to know in advance which sites will become rogue, you need to play a good defense. The main factor here is to make sure that as much of your bankroll is safe as possible.
Using the Full Tilt Poker shutdown as an example; many players lost their entire poker bankroll when this site closed in 2011. The same thing happened with Ultimate Bet, and more recently - players on Full Flush Poker are still waiting to find out if they will see their money again.
A smart approach moving forward is to make sure that you only the funds that you need online at any point in time. Outside the US, I recommend an eWallet like Skrill or Neteller for this. You can hold some of your money there – making it instantly available for deposits if needed. There is an extra advantage to this, you’ll have funds to take advantage of any short-term bonus and promotion offers whenever they appear.
I also recommend joining a poker community, either on Facebook or one of the bigger online forums. Players are quick to warn each other when issues arise, to get this information you need to be in the right place to receive it.
What to Look for Before You Deposit?
You can avoid most issues by looking for 3 simple things before you part with any money. These are explained below. These are an operating license, external RNG testing and a clean bill of health when it comes to making fast cash outs.
#1 – Operating License: Seeing a license from a reputable gambling jurisdiction will not guarantee a site is 100% safe. Looking at this from the other way, if a site is not licensed at all, there is a very big chance that it will turn out to be rogue. There are many licensing jurisdictions dotted around the world. Global licensing bodies include Malta, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. Other jurisdictions that license US sites are Curacao, Antigua, Kahnawake and Panama. There are also licensing bodies which allow poker in their own countries, for example in the UK, France and Italy.
#2 – RNG Test Certificate: RNG stands for ‘Random Number Generator’. This is the software that controls the deal of cards, and ensures that everyone gets a fair deal. I will say that over billions of hands, nobody has ever proved that online poker is rigged (that is an urban myth). There are several reputable companies which test RNG software. Legitimate sites are happy to show their certification in this area. Look for badges from iGaming Labs, eCogra or Technical Systems Testing.
#3 – Clean Bill of Health for Payment Processing: One of the first warning signs of a site going rogue is that payments slow down – or even stop completely. I search for payment issues for every site before I deposit. If you see any consistent pattern of delays or excuses, you might want to dig a little deeper.
Past Rogue Poker Sites
There have been several scandals in the past, some of these go back 10 years or more, while others are more recent. Tusk Gaming was one of the first major scandals involving sites which shut down abruptly, taking player bankrolls with them. These sites were on the first version of the MicroGaming Poker Network (MPN), who – while not directly involved – did not come out of this scandal looking good.
One of the biggest scandals in recent years involved linked sites Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. Evidence was uncovered of ‘Superuser’ accounts in the high stakes games. These accounts won way too much money, and replays of hands showed that they knew what their opponents were holding. Both sites closed after 2011’s ‘Black Friday’ taking all player balances with them.
Another ‘victim’ of Black Friday was Full Tilt Poker. This site looked to be running fine from the outside. It turned out that they were mixing player deposits with their operating costs. When Black Friday halted deposits from the US, the ‘pyramid scheme’ collapsed, and people found there was not enough money to pay back player balances. This site was eventually bought by PokerStars, and many people eventually got their money back.
Lock Poker was perhaps the ugliest episode of a poker site going rogue in recent years. Payments became slow, then stopped altogether. The owners pointed fingers at their network, processors and just about everyone else possible. Eventually the site closed, with all player balances lost.
Finally, there could be another to add to the list happening recently. Full Flush Poker on the Equity Poker Network has closed, leaving players in limbo as to whether they will see their money again.
Finding a Legitimate Site
This page does focus on the negatives. The good news is that most poker sites are very much legitimate, well run and have built trusted reputations over the years.
The right site for you will depend on your location, device(s) and preferred payment methods. A great place to start is our Poker Sites page, which links out to the many different articles focused on finding you the best possible poker room.