The Grind

Stephen's Poker Blog

  1. 2008-04-16 12:31:15

    Stealing Is Wrong: Part 1

    I've heard about many different incidents involving theft of online poker bankrolls. The most common form is someone getting their account "hacked." Usually it's because the victim's computer has been compromised with some sort of virus or spyware. Often times it's a keylogger that files the victims keystrokes and then sends data to some bastard with no morals. The bastard then logs in to the victim's poker account with X poker site and proceeds to "chip dump" to another account. While logged in he'll usually change the password.

    It's not always necessary to obtain unique passwords for every site the victim has money on. Most people will use just one email address for their poker accounts. Obtain the email password and all you have to do is click "forgot password" at the many smaller poker sites that don't have security questions. It then emails the new password to the compromised email. The smart bastard also changes the email password. This can make it much harder for the victim to get things in order before it's too late.

    One way I've heard this happens is when a bastard befriends a victim. He might spend several months earning a "high roller" victim's trust via IM and email exchanges. Then he'll send a file labeled as a hand history converter, an odds calculator, or something else poker related. The file is dirty of course, and often times programmed specifically to grab passwords from certain poker sites.

    Other times the bad files can be acquired by clicking on a link posted in a poker forum that leads to something nasty. Moderators are usually on the look out for this. The best defense is to just not click on a link unless the poster has a fairly high post count and/or is trusted by a vast majority of the community.

    This sort of theft is not nearly as easy to get away with as it used to be. And while I've heard stories about players 5 and 6 figure bankrolls getting stolen, frozen, or lost for weeks, the story usually ends with them getting their money back once the investigation is over. The major poker sites have sophisticated software as well as trained employees on the lookout for the signs of shady dealings.

    Even with the beefy security, it still happens, but it's pretty rare. And the crime can usually be traced to the victim either doing something stupid like sharing an account with someone he doesn't know that well, or not guarding his computer thoroughly against threats like viruses. That's why I make sure to keep my computer squeaky-clean; a habit I started because of online banking.

    Most of you know about the Absolute Poker scandal I'm sure. If not, the gist is that someone working at Absolute had access to the hole cards of every player and was feeding that info to accomplices on the outside who were in turn making perfect poker decisions at high-stakes games. The decisions turned out to be too perfect, and smart players used data-miners such as poker tracker to discover this and call out the cheaters. An independent company audited Absolute, players were compensated for losses, and suspects were fired. The hole cards were able to be viewed because of a back door written into the code back when the software was still in testing. This should not be, and is not possible under normal circumstances with any poker software. It would be incredibly stupid to write in that ability.

    But this incident just fueled the fire of all the conspiracy theorists who think such "super-user accounts" ,as they are called, exist all over the online poker world. They think that the sites are in on it to get even more money. Some also think that players write programs that allow them to see opponents' cards or to know what cards will hit the board. I have actually been accused of this on more than one occasion. A semi-epic thread developed not long ago on the forums for my rakeback affiliate (the forums are private, otherwise I would link it). It was started by a player who just "knew" I had to be cheating. It was quite amusing, flattering, and offensive all at the same time. Anyways, that could be another blog entry entirely. In my opinion those scenarios are both very VERY unlikely. It's in the best interest of the sites to make things as fair as possible. Cheating players out of their money would bust them too many times. The sites make PLENTY from the rake. Also, it's virtually impossible to independently write a program that would allow you to view opponents cards or know the coming community cards. My longer term success in the online poker world coupled with logical reasoning is enough to convince me that "super-users" are a phantom non-issue.

    Over the course of online poker history, the thieving methods I've mentioned so far have reaped very little total rewards for the morally deficient bastards out there who've used them. Despite this fact, these methods seem to be the most talked about. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I would bet that far more money has been stolen under very different circumstances. In a nutshell, those circumstances are simply the site just running away with your money. I'm not trying to freak anybody out. In general I think online poker is safe. But there have been many cases of smaller sites either going bankrupt and not having the funds to cash players out, or simply cutting their losses before things got that bad and running away with 7 figure sums. That's why I'm careful about the smaller sites that I play on. I read about their history. I listen to players opinions. And I check to see if they show up on any naughty lists at

    I wish I could say that all my preventative measures are purely the result of a thoroughly tenacious mindset for success and safety. But, like most people, my cautious behavior took a more defined and purposeful shape after I got burned. I learned the hard way. That is not to say it wouldn't have still happened even if I had been just as careful back then. But no one was quite prepared for all of the fall out created by the passing of the UIGEA. Having thousands of dollars stolen from you, and having virtually no legal route to justice was a very frustrating life experience. And I was one of the fortunate ones. Some players lost sums that would make me vomit. But that story warrants it's own blog entry. Tune in next time to hear the horror in it's entirety. ;)

    Posted by uzjedi at 2008-04-16 12:31:15

Comments on “Stealing Is Wrong: Part 1”

    • avatar for Jason M
    • thanks, kyle :) btw, we're still waiting uz! lol

    • avatar for FREMONTkyle
    • i read everything on this site at some point and as you can tell its ussually in the wee hours of the night while im playing dollar tournies to keep me sane

    • avatar for Jason M
    • i read it! and my captcha is T6AA. almost soooo good.

    • avatar for uzjedi
    • Alright, I've been busy....playing Mario Kart Wii :p...and with people visiting. I'll be back into the blogging soon. I totally forgot about the 5/10 game. I think I still remember a few hands. What I'll do is just talk about NL poker at higher limits in general, including that game. I guess if people are gonna actually read this stuff, that should motivate me to post more. ;)

    • avatar for Jason M
    • Yeah, UZ, where's it at? :p

    • avatar for FREMONTkyle
    • what happened to the post for the 5/10 game at wynn

    • avatar for Jason M
    • Good call, Alexis. That's exactly how I got my FT roll started. Last time I was visiting the UZJEDI, I bought the rest of his account up. He actually was about 15c short, so he logged in, stole some blinds, and logged out :p

    • avatar for Pokermom
    • p.s. Very well written article. Look forward to part 2.

    • avatar for Pokermom
    • One way to "cash out" is to transfer your excess bankroll to another user. This requires some trust, of course, but I overhead some guys agreeing on a transaction at a live game.

      It's a good deal for both parties. The guy with the excess bankroll gets cash immediately. The guy buying the transfer with cash doesn't have to hassle with getting money into his account other ways and NO FEE (or maybe the transferor charges $5 or something).

      Kind of off topic, but seems like you just don't want excess bank roll hanging out in your account and this is one way to do it. If you are profitable online, then you should definitely cash out on a regular basis, until you move up the food chain.


    • avatar for Jason M
    • Kewl. I look forward to the next one :)

    • avatar for uzjedi
    • I had money frozen for a month that I eventually got from one site. And I never got my money from another site. That's what my next entry will be about. Both were part of a resulting chain reaction that started with the UIGEA passing.

      Otherwise, my online experience has been good. I get my cashouts from my current sites within just a few days of requesting them.

      Nick, as I mentioned in my post, I'm not trying to freak anyone out. If you were at all worried about small shady sites, then just stick to one of the big boys like Stars or Full Tilt. You money is completely safe there. Just don't accept files from people you don't know. ;)

    • avatar for Jason M
    • Hey man, aside from the UIGEA snafu, have you ever lost money on the small poker sites? BTW, thanks for the links to the storys and the casinomeister. Good stuff.

    • avatar for Jason M
    • I'm going to support your theory that sniffing out the cards your opponent has pretty much can't be done as an outside job. Good luck with that... Even from the inside, it seems like a pretty stupid way to try and make money - especially if you are going to call a preflop all in with 72 because you know three 7s are coming. LOL.

      Nick, these are extreme circumstances, and usually do not affect your everyday player. That being said, you do have to be wary. Grinding it out in a casino every day is a lot harder to make as much money as you can online. More hands, lesser rake, more tools...

    • avatar for Ethan
    • Nice post - looking forward to part 2.

    • avatar for Nick L
    • This makes me want to not think of playing online poker for a living. those are some horror stories I would never want to deal with. I would much rather take bad beat after bad beat in live play rather then deal with that bullshit.