Does The Poker Industry Need A Blacklist?

The poker world has been rocked in the last few months by multiple cheating allegations. There are calls from the poker community for a poker blacklist. The PokerGo Tour took the first steps toward such a blacklist, but how does the poker world institute such a tool across the industry. Let’s take a look at whether poker should institute a blacklist.

Identifying Potential Cheaters

The first step toward a poker blacklist will be to identify known and potential cheaters. However, simple allegations of cheating will not be enough. There must be some form of hard evidence to back up these claims. In the case of Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler, many felt that there was concrete evidence to back up a suspension.

Then there are cheaters who are “outed” in one form or another. Matin Zamani outed Bryn Kenney over alleged cheating allegations. However, Kenney was not given any form of punishment. Did that set a precedent, or are there extenuating circumstances that we are not aware of?

Players can be easily accused of cheating in poker, but without concrete evidence, it is impossible to really place them on a blacklist.

What Constitutes a Bannable Offense?

Next, what would constitute a bannable offense for a blacklist. What level of cheating will receive a ban? For example, Justin Bonomo is a known online poker cheater. He was banned for multi-accounting in the past. However, many people now overlook those transgressions.

If stories from the past are true, Doyle Brunson would even classify as a cheat. He allegedly threw the 1972 World Series of Poker Main Event to avoid paying taxes on the winnings. Nowadays, that would constitute soft play. Do we ban Texas Dolly?

If a poker blacklist is created, a well-outlined list of offenses needs to be communicated to the poker public. Furthermore, there does need to be discretion to allow for anomalies. If you follow poker, you know there are instances that can be exploited, and players will find a way to bend the rules in their favor whenever possible.

Is The Blacklist Permanent?

When creating a blacklist, clear penalties need to be established. There are some that believe that a cheater should be banned from poker for life. In some cases, we can agree. For example, players like Russ Hamilton should never be allowed back into poker. Any actions that impact a large portion of the community should be punished swiftly and severely.

What about a player that has anger issues and gets put on a blacklist. If they can undergo therapy and change their behavior, should they be let back into the game? What the PokerGo Tour is doing is appropriate in the case of the ban on Imsirovic and Schindler. They will re-evaluate the pair after the end of the current season to determine whether to continue the ban.

The same should be done with any blacklist. Any blacklist should have an outlined list of lifetime offenses as well as a procedure where a ban can be appealed. For example, should we permanently ban a 21-year-old multi-accounter for life or give him a chance to prove he can be trusted after he matures?

A Poker Blacklist is Necessary and Inevitable

There are some that will argue that a poker blacklist is long overdue. After the UltimateBet saga, it became clear that players will go to any lengths to cheat others. Live poker has had a problem with cheating in the past as well, but it is less publicized. However, with the amount of scrutiny that the game is under, it is time that the industry steps up and institutes a blacklist.

Poker is at a point where a blacklist may become necessary to retain the trust of the poker public. Many are skeptical of online poker to start with, and these new allegations of cheating do not help its image. Also, as live cheating allegations become more prevalent, it is clear that action needs to be taken to protect the game.

The question is, who will step up? Will it be a major organization like PokerGo or the World Series of Poker? Perhaps we need a new governing body for poker to mandate a blacklist. Regardless of how it is instituted, many agree that a blacklist is long overdue.

Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.