High-Stakes Poker Community Rocked By Onslaught Of Cheating Accusations

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The high roller world has always been a small one, but it could get even smaller if pros like Alex Foxen get their way.

Foxen is speaking out on Twitter about rampant cheating in the high-stakes community. As a result, he is supporting the push for the creation of an industry-wide blacklist, which would ban proven cheaters in one arena from participating in games and events at another venue.

“A poker blacklist can’t come soon enough,” Foxen wrote.

The idea, floated by partypoker, has been around for years but has gained some traction in the last week as more and more players have been outed for shady and unethical behavior.

Foxen was supported by Chance Kornuth, who believes that online poker sites that find cheaters should expose them so everyone can known their identities.

In September of 2020, GGPoker revealed that it had banned 40 online poker accounts for cheating, issued another 40 warnings, and confiscated nearly $1.2 million, which was returned to the victims. However, none of the players involved were directly named.

The Accused

The catalyst for Foxen’s tweets was the play of reigning and current frontrunner for Player of the Year Ali Imsirovic at the Super High Roller Bowl in Cyprus. Foxen accused Imsirovic of multi-accounting and the use of real-time assistance (RTA), while also being one of the banned players on GGPoker.

“Ali is a known cheater to almost all in the high roller community, however without much ironclad proof, most stay silent,” said Foxen.

Although he didn’t share proof, Foxen was adamant that he was “100%” certain and was backed up by numerous other high roller players who had been warned of the same.

Imsirovic had been one of the biggest players on the site and even won what was at the time a record-breaking no-limit hold’em pot in a GGPoker cash game, but has reportedly not played or cashed on the site since the flagged accounts were removed.

Imsirovic has yet to respond to the allegations. In the days after he won a high roller event at Aria and was also a participant in PokerGO’s Heads-Up Championship event, however he was eliminated in the first round and left quickly before making a statement.

Foxen’s tweets were corroborated by Justin Bonomo, who said that he had been told that banned players had been guilty of everything ranging from looking at preflop charts, to occasional RTA use, to full on collusion with a stable of horses that were also using RTA.

Bonomo said that he had lost more than $1 million in these shady games, and that while Ali was the second biggest offender, the main culprit was a player whose first name starts with “Ja.”

Although he didn’t elaborate, others were quick to name Jake Schindler, who ironically won the above-mentioned Super High Roller Bowl event for $3.2 million and is also a former POY winner.

Schindler has also not yet commented on the accusations.

But perhaps the most bizarre finger-pointing came from Martin Zamani, who went on Doug Polk’s podcast to talk about his former backer Bryn Kenney.

Kenney, who is neck and neck with Bonomo for the lead on poker’s all-time money list with $57.5 million in earnings, allegedly ran a cult-like stable of players on the site.

Zamani revealed that not only he had been ordered to ghost other accounts and use RTA, but that Kenney had very strict lifestyle rules his horses had to follow as well. Kenney’s players reportedly had to eat a vegan diet, and those who were caught eating fast food could be dropped from the team.

He then said that at one point, Kenney forced him to visit a shaman, who wanted to cut into Zamani and use frog poison on his open wound.

Kenney has not yet responded, but Polk stated that he was threatened with legal action from Kenney’s attorneys if he went ahead with the podcast. Polk did it anyway.

What Is RTA and Ghosting?

Most know what multi-accounting is and why it is obviously against the rules, but RTA or ghosting may be new terms to some.

RTA, or real-time assistance is any chart or program that helps a poker player with their decisions while a game or hand is in progress.

These RTA programs use a game theory optimal (GTO) approach to the game, allowing players to stay perfectly balanced and make mathematically-correct and unexploitable plays. This results in an edge that can add up to millions of dollars each year in these high-stakes games.

While RTA programs that scrape the online poker site for data have been easier to detect, players can make it tougher for sites to spot by using a separate computer and manually inputting the cards themselves to find the answer they are looking for.

Ghosting is a form of collusion when one player takes over for another in either a cash game or a tournament online. Sometimes a better player will “buy” the account from a weaker player, or a coach will just instruct their player on what to do. Other times a player will simply use a different account to hide their identity.

Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates was accused of ghosting in 2020 by fellow high-stakes cash game player Bill Perkins. Cates would eventually admit the wrongdoing, but stated that the practice was rampant on the sites the games were running on.