Story of the Absolute Poker — Most Diabolical Poker Scam

Dennis  «Dennis_Stets» 
17 Jun 2024
Poker Rooms
17 Jun 2024

Today we’ll look at the dark history of the Absolute Poker scam and how 6 college students built the biggest poker site in the world until the police brought it all crashing down.

When there's a lot of money involved, there will always be sharks, hustlers, and cheaters wanting to get a slice of the pie. The history of this poker website is rather dark, and in 2007, they experienced a scandal that shook the poker world. In this article, we unravel the complete story behind the most diabolical poker scam of all time.

In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

How It All Started

Our story begins when six fraternity brothers started playing online poker while attending the University of Montana. They soon realized that operating an online poker site would be much more lucrative than being just players. So, they decided to launch their own website. 

Scott Tom got funding from his father, Phil Tom, and worked with his fraternity brothers to find a software development company. They eventually collaborated with a South Korean company to design their poker website, which became known as Absolute Poker.

AB Poker officially launched in 2003 after receiving a license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Scott Tom and his friends moved to Costa Rica to manage the company. During the development of Absolute Poker's software, numerous test accounts were created to ensure the program was working correctly. 

One such test account, known as «number 363», could see the hole cards at any table. This account was only used for development purposes to verify that pots were distributed correctly and could not be used to play in real money games. Given that this was one of the first accounts ever opened on Absolute Poker, it is likely that the person in control of this account had close ties to the company.

Four people from different parts of the United States opened accounts at Absolute Poker. These accounts, known as «Graycat», «Steamroller», «Doubledrag», and «Pot Ripper», were operated by actual and real players who did not know each other. Initially, they played on Absolute Poker but did not do well, leading to long periods of inactivity on their accounts. 

These names are important to remember as they play a key role in the cheating scandal that would later unfold.

In September of 2006, Congress passed the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). Private companies like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker chose to continue accepting US players. Absolute Poker, still a private company at that time, continued its operations as well. Meanwhile, Ultimate Bet found itself in a precarious position.

More Problems in 2007

In 2007, Absolute Poker faced significant challenges as a public company with plummeting stock prices, exacerbated by its heavy reliance on US customers amidst regulatory pressures. Greg Pearson, owner of Ultimate Bet, had previously supplied anti-fraud software to Scott Tom at Absolute Poker's inception. However, as the majority of its clientele were US-based, focusing on non-US markets to please shareholders wasn't an option.

To alleviate its situation, Absolute Poker embarked on a complex merger facilitated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which saw it taking over operations from Ultimate Bet. This move promised substantial revenue potential, bolstering its position as one of the nation's largest poker sites.

In 2007, during a major software update involving programmers from various locations, including Costa Rica, the infamous account «number 363», with access to hole cards, caught the attention of a nefarious figure. Recognizing the potential for cheating players by exploiting access to opponents' hole cards, a sinister plan was set in motion.

In August 2007, a player known as «Potripper» astoundingly won Absolute Poker's $11,000 weekly tournament with extraordinary precision. 

Folding at strategic moments and consistently winning showdowns, «potripper’s» uncanny play raised suspicions among opponents. The incredulous nature of some hands played prompted serious doubts among the poker community, leading to allegations of cheating.

Further scrutiny revealed abnormally high win rates for three other players: «Graycat», «Steamroller», and «Doubledrag», who excelled in $5/$10 limit hold'em games, outperforming even the most skilled high stakes regulars on the website.

On September 13th, 2007, «Potripper» found himself locked in a heated heads-up battle with another player, «Сrazy Marco» (also known as Marco Johnson). In the final decisive hand, potripper confidently went all-in after the turn card, securing the victory with a 10-high hand. Crazy Marco, holding a nine-high hand with a flush draw, was astonished by potripper's bold move, considering a 10-high hand typically wouldn't justify such aggressive action — especially in a tournament with a $1,000 buy-in.

Troubled by his suspicions of foul play, crazy Marco contacted Absolute Poker, requesting the hand history to investigate further. Absolute Poker initially denied any cheating allegations against potripper but eventually sent crazy Marco a file containing what was purported to be the hand histories. However, upon reviewing the file, crazy Marco discovered it was a confusing jumble of code that made no sense to him. Little did he know, Absolute Poker had mistakenly sent him a file containing highly sensitive information — every player's hole cards, observations of the table, and even IP addresses — details that a poker website would never disclose.

This mishap escalated when the file, intended for private investigation, was inadvertently uploaded onto YouTube, turning into a public spectacle. 

Anyone with basic poker knowledge could discern that potripper seemed to possess an uncanny awareness of all the hole cards. Players and analysts quickly delved into the data, focusing not just on the hand histories but on the subtler information embedded within the file.

What these vigilant players noticed was a pattern that raised serious suspicions. Starting from the third hand of the tournament, an observer appeared who meticulously tracked every subsequent move made by the suspected cheater. 

Curiously, the cheater had folded the first two hands before this observer's arrival but then proceeded to not fold a single hand before the flop for the next 20 minutes. The cheating player only folded pre-flop when faced with another player holding pocket kings.

This suspicious behavior persisted throughout the tournament, prompting players to investigate further. Discussions on forums like 2+2 revealed that potripper's email address was linked to Delving deeper, they traced the observer's IP address and account details back to servers associated with Absolute Poker, specifically linking them to an individual named Scott Tom, who happened to be a part-owner of Absolute Poker.

Within hours of these revelations circulating online, the DNS information for, Scott Tom's email domain, was abruptly deleted.

In response, Absolute Poker distanced itself from Scott Tom, stating that he hadn't been employed by the company for over a year. Despite this, the connection to Scott Tom and the suspicious activities during the tournament left a lingering cloud of doubt over Absolute Poker's integrity.

Absolute Poker finally addressed the cheating allegations by issuing a statement attributing the incident to a disgruntled employee who had hacked the system to demonstrate its vulnerability. According to their statement, this employee allegedly attempted to frame Scott Tom, a claim Absolute Poker vehemently denied, asserting that Tom was not involved in the cheating.

Absolute Poker admitted that the cheating had taken place over a period of approximately 40 days. As a remedial measure, they refunded $1.6 million to affected players.

However, this amount was only a fraction of what Scott Tom and other perpetrators had potentially gained over years of illicitly viewing opponents' hole cards during games.

On January 16th, 2008, the KGC (Kahnawake Gaming Commission) initiated an investigation and imposed a fine of half a million dollars on Absolute Poker. Neither investigation, however, disclosed the identity of the employee responsible for the cheating. Curious about how this scam was executed? Unbeknownst to players, Absolute Poker had struck a clandestine deal with the cheater: in exchange for a detailed account of the cheating methods, they agreed not to divulge his identity.

How It Ended?

So here's how the scam unfolded: The perpetrator located inactive accounts at Absolute Poker and gained access to them by altering the passwords at the server level. Using a separate computer, they created test account «number 363», granting them the ability to view all hole cards at the poker tables. To cash out the winnings without raising suspicion, the cheater enlisted family and friends to participate. After accumulating a substantial sum, they deliberately lost these funds to their accomplices in poker games. This method enabled them to evade detection for an extended period.

By September 2007, as their winnings and confidence grew, so did suspicions among other players who suspected cheating and collusion. In a bid to cover their tracks, the cheater logged in as «Doubledrag» and intentionally lost every hand. However, their efforts to conceal the scam ultimately failed when it was exposed.

In April 2011, the US Department of Justice indicted Absolute Poker and its affiliate, Ultimate Bet.

Scott Tom and his brother Brent Beckley faced personal indictments related to their involvement with Absolute Poker. Scott Tom fled to Antigua to avoid prosecution, while Brent Beckley received a 14-month prison sentence in 2012. 

During the legal proceedings, the federal government seized less than 10% of the $53 million in combined balances held by Absolute Poker players. 

This action was intended to recover funds but left the company with at least $48 million unaccounted for. However, at the time of the seizure, Absolute Poker only had $3 million in its accounts.

The substantial discrepancy in the missing funds, amounting to over $50 million, was largely attributed to Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet using player deposits to reimburse victims of the fraud.

Notably, Scott Tom was never compelled to repay the embezzled funds, and the financial strain led Absolute Poker to cease operations in October 2011, finally closing its doors in 2017.

In 2017, Scott Tom surrendered to authorities and was released on a $500,000 bond. The «Potripper» account, central to the cheating scandal, was ultimately traced back to Absolute Poker's corporate offices in Costa Rica and allegedly linked to AJ Green, the director of operations, and reportedly Scott Tom's closest friend. 

Following the fallout from Black Friday, where major poker websites were shut down by the US Department of Justice, settlement funds were utilized to reimburse players who lost their deposits when Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were seized.

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