All-Time Stupidest Online Poker Cheater

The Highlands Club Hack of 2001

Highlands Poker"But the dealer just stares
There's something wrong here...
The gambler is seized and forced to his knees
And shot dead." -- The Clash

The rest of my stories from the poker boom come from my own first-hand experiences and direct second-hand conversations. This story is an exception. I wasn't personally involved with any of the events below, so this all comes from second-hand conversations or information posted on poker newsgroups at the time. But, since it is a good story, here we go...

December 2000 was the beginning of the end of the first stage of the online poker industry. The first of the post-Paradise-software sites, TruePoker and UltimateBet, just opened for play money beta testing (they would open for real money in Spring 2001, and Party Poker and PokerStars came in the following months). But still at this point, Paradise Poker had 90% of the action, with Planet Poker accounting for almost all of the remaining 10%. The word "almost" is there because a scam site, Pokerspot, had some action (even if no money), and the software behind Planet Poker was being licensed to a few entities that tried to set up their own sites.

One of the entities to license the Planet software was The Highlands Club. Highlands was endorsed by Poker Hall of Fame member Doyle Brunson. (Doyle's second online cardroom, Doyle's Room, would come four years later.) Just after New Years 2001, Doyle's friend Chip Reese was playing head-up on Highlands. Many people regarded Chip as the best all-around poker player in the world at the time. When inducted, he was the youngest member of the Poker Hall of Fame, and the trophy that goes to the winner of World Series of Poker $50,000 Player's Championship is called the David 'Chip' Reese Memorial trophy. So, 1) playing Chip head-up would be a reckless idea for the vast majority of poker players, and 2) Chip didn't suck at poker.

After playing Limit Hold'em for awhile against this opponent (Doyle later dubbed him "Creepo"), Chip called Doyle to say something very fishy was going on. During their play, Creepo never called Chip's bets on the river when Chip had a decent/strong/winning hand, but always called or raised when Chip was bluffing. Likewise, Creepo would always bet when Chip held a hand that could not call to catch a bluff. Never and always.

Creepo was playing as if he could see Chip's cards... which of course he could. Creepo and a couple partners had hacked the awful, obsolete Planet/Highlands software so that he could see all the cards dealt (but not any cards that had not yet been dealt). This "god mode" ability is like an invitation to print money... unless you are a complete and utter imbecile like Creepo and get detected in a matter of hours.

After Chip's call, Doyle alerts Highlands support, and they pull the Chip/Creepo hand histories. Among many absurd plays, is this whopper...

Chip is dealt 22, and Creepo gets AQ. The action (remember, this is limit poker) goes like this:
Chip raises from the button, Creepo calls.
The flop is AQ2. Creepo checks, Chip bets, Creepo calls.
Turn is a 7. Creepo checks, Chip bets, Creepo calls.
River is a 9. Creepo checks, Chip bets, Creepo folds!

Never before in the history of head-up limit Texas Hold'em has AQ been played like this. It would never happen -- unless you could see the cards.

The irony though is: it shouldn't happen even if you can see the cards! As David Sklansky and others pointed out at the time, only a moron would make their cheating this obvious (especially combined with all the other similar hands). Like most cheaters, Creepo was too greedy to sacrifice one short-term nickel for thousands in long-term profit.

If you can see all the cards, you have to lose some hands. You have to make some EV- decisions. Duh, if you can see all the cards, you have to play like don't see all the cards!

Creepo and his partners were such colossal idiots that instead of milking Highlands and Planet and other licensees of that software for hundreds of thousands over the next few months until the software became fully obsolete, they 1) got caught on Highlands within a couple hours, 2) weren't able to exploit Planet because both cardrooms shut down to fix the hack after it was discovered, and 3) to top it off, these cheating idiots managed to lose even more when Highlands confiscated and didn't return their initial deposits!

Creepo and his pals broke into a bank, didn't get any money, and lost their wallets in the bank before they left.

Six years later, the Absolute Poker scandal came to light via a similar hand, where POTRIPPER called an all-in raise on the turn with T9 (against 92) on a KK47 board. That ridiculous call revealed longstanding "god mode" cheating, where the pathetic short-term greed of a cheater once again led to his downfall. That was a far bigger scandal, and a bigger loss of income in the end for POTRIPPER, but still, Creepo's one afternoon of epic failure has to earn the "stupidest cheater ever" award.

Also see Full Tilt Poker Business Choices Pre-Black Friday and Beta Males and the Poker Plateau