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The Slippery Slope Into Cheating

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Nov 18, 2020

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Gavin GriffinIt seems as though it’s been about 30 years, but somehow, we’re only a year removed from the first accusations of cheating against Mike Postle, a poker player who won six-figures in a low-stakes, live streamed, Sacramento cash game. The story completely took over the poker world for several weeks, and has been revived with updates throughout the year. Well-known poker players and personalities combed through live-streamed hand histories to gather evidence, and even ESPN was ran segments on SportsCenter about it.

It was the talk of the live poker scene. Almost everyone in the poker room I was in was discussing it, sharing theories about what happened, who was involved, and how it was allegedly done. In June of this year, the court case against Stones Gambling Hall and its tournament director Justin Kuraitis was dismissed. Now, Postle is suing many in the poker community for defamation, libel, and some other things I don’t quite understand.

I’m not here to discuss whether Mike Postle cheated or not. I think that has been discussed ad nauseam and there’s an overwhelming consensus in the poker community. If you’d like to read more about that, there are plenty of articles about the situation on CardPlayer.com.

In this column, however, I want to share why I believe that not all cheating is equal. This is the story of how I found myself sliding into cheating, and why I stopped.

Back in the early days of online poker, when partypoker was still operating in the U.S., there were a lot of skins for the software. Skins use the same underlying software, but with a different look. Back then, anyone could be an affiliate for one of these skins. When I told people that I played poker online, many offered me an affiliate code and some bonuses or rakeback.

This is how I found myself with four accounts on Empire Poker, one of the partypoker skins. The site and their skins would only allow you to play four tables at a time, but the games on there were way too good for me to limit myself to four, so I started some new accounts.

No big deal, as far as I was concerned, as almost everyone I knew that played online at that time had more than one account. Some people even had naming conventions that made it obvious that all the accounts belonged to the same person. (PokerGuy1, PokerGuy2, PokerGuy3, etc.) There were locks on having more than one account from the same IP address in a cash game or single-table tournament (STT), so I couldn’t play those accounts in the same games.

Then they started offering multi-table tournaments (MTT) that had an overlay almost every week. I played them with my main account, while I played STTs with my others. It still didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong.

I entered two of my accounts into the MTT one week, and it still didn’t hit me that I was doing anything wrong. After all, those accounts weren’t playing at the same table, so it wasn’t that big of a deal in my eyes. In fact, when some others in the community were busted for multi-accounting in 2006 on PokerStars and partypoker, I remember thinking to myself that it had been standard practice only the previous year.

As was probably inevitable in a tournament that soft and small, one day I made the final table with two of my accounts. I tried to play in such a way that I wasn’t cheating, but it was impossible. It was at this point that I realized how big of an advantage I was gaining, and that it was something I needed to stop doing. I had been cheating, and I had kind of slid into it by continually excusing myself for things that, when looking back on it, were at least against the site’s Terms of Service and probably morally wrong. I could argue to myself that everyone I knew was doing it, or that it didn’t matter if I didn’t play at the same table with two of my accounts, but with some distance, it’s clear that what I was doing was wrong and there’s not really a good excuse for choosing to do so.

I’m not saying any of this to excuse the allegations against Mike Postle. Clearly, using the information of everyone’s hole cards to beat them in a poker game is something that every single person, whether they understand the game of poker well or not, should know is absolutely wrong. But I wanted to show that not all cheating comes from nefarious beginnings.

When I opened four accounts on one skin, I was doing so to be able to play more of the STTs that were being offered, because it was like printing money for me. This eventually led to me doing something I justified to myself as okay, but later realized to be morally wrong.

The difference between a capital-C cheater and someone who cheats, I think lies in the ability to be self-reflective, realize what you’re doing is wrong, make amends if they are required, and then change the behavior. We can hopefully learn from our mistakes, and the mistakes of others, and through that learning we can get better as poker players and as people. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG