Doug Polk posted a video on Friday to discuss exposing scammers in poker. His position is essentially that scammers need to be exposed for the good of the poker ecosystem.
If you haven’t watched the video, I encourage you to do so before reading the rest of this piece.
What Constitutes a Scammer – Distinctions Need to Be Made
First, what constitutes a scammer in poker? The simple definition is someone that willingly defrauds someone in poker. This can range from openly cheating the person to scamming them for money, free coaching or something else of value.
One thing we need to be careful of is automatically pegging someone as a scammer when something goes sideways or when that designation is not necessary. The instance of Alex Dreyfus’ slow repayment of some personal loans last year comes to mind.
Dreyfus took longer than promised to repay Fedor Holz and others. He eventually repaid with a little interest. Some wanted to peg Dreyfus as a scammer because of the delayed payment.
This is a bit ridiculous to me. Dreyfus did pay his loans back and while it is understandable that Holz and others would be upset, he didn’t “scam” them. Had he not repaid, then that’s another matter.
In the case of most scammers, there are usually multiple people out there that have been taken as part of the scam. Polk addressed this in his video and it is a common thread among scammers.
It’s important that we make sure that we distinguish between people that are legitimately trying to defraud someone and those that make a mistake or two. The actions of the person will usually quickly indicate which side of the fence they’re on.
Poker is Not a Fantasyland And Scams Need to Be Exposed
As Polk pointed out, there are those out there that believe that exposing scams is bad for the game because it can potentially drive away casual fans and players. While it’s easy to understand this point of view, it is a dangerous view considering the realities of the game.
While poker is nothing like it was prior to the Poker Boom, it is still not a perfect community. This game does draw bad elements. Anything that has the potential to net an individual large sums of money is going to draw some of the wrong type of people.
Worrying about offending or driving away the casual fan or player is doing a tremendous disservice to everyone else that enjoys the game. I was incredibly fortunate to meet up with a couple of older players when I first started that clued me in to what to watch for and even specific people.
As Polk talked about in his video, when he was scammed by Brad Booth, he didn’t know what to look out for because he didn’t have someone looking out for him. That’s why it is incredibly important for players to look out for one another.
“Outing” Scammers Still Doesn’t Completely Solve the Problem
One problem that I still see with outing scammer is that while it can curb their activity, there’s usually no real consequences to prevent them from doing it again. For every person like Brad Booth that appears to be trying to make things right, there are going to be 10 that are going to try to lay low or find another mark that doesn’t know what’s going on.
As Polk spoke about in his video, there aren’t many legal remedies that you can take in such a matter. If they scammed through an online poker site, you can try and get them banned from that site. But that person can then move on to another site and try again. In some cases, they may even try again on the same site under a different account.
Sure you can try and sue, but most cases will get thrown out because they’re handshake deals. Let’s say you’re successful and win a lawsuit. How are you going to collect? Are you going to take out a judgment and try to collect?
What are you going to collect on? If they are so broke they are scamming people, chances are there are no assets to collect from. What happens if they skip the country?
Can More Be Done to Address The Issue
In a perfect poker world, I’d make it where scammers that don’t attempt to make restitution are forced out of the game entirely. They get banned from all live venues and from online poker sites entirely.
Granted, it is going to be very difficult for such a ban to be enacted because many scams are done on an individual basis. If someone is outright cheating on PokerStars or another site, you can make a case for other sites banning him.
But if player X scams me in the same way that Doug Polk was, that’s a civil matter. A casino or poker room trying to refuse service based on a civil matter unrelated to their property could face their own legal issues.
Perhaps the poker media and community as a whole could actively work to excommunicate scammers. If a popular player is legitimately proven to be a scammer, we actively work to quit covering that player. Don’t give them any type of positive publicity whatsoever.
Furthermore, the industry could go as far as to close all opportunities for endorsement, promotion or sponsorship. Cut off as many potential revenue stream as possible to enact some type of punishment.
Scammers in poker often succeed because of a lack of knowledge by the general poker public and the lack of any real consequences for their actions. Educate the players and enact some concrete consequences for scammers and it can help to reduce the number and frequency of scam. It won’t eliminate them entirely, as nothing ever will, but it could help make the community safer.