Risks of Playing Unregulated Online Poker: ACR Security Scandal

Unregulated Poker Sites

5 minutes

Last Updated: January 15, 2024

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for the online poker world as a whole, as the new year rolled in filled with scandals on both regulated and unregulated poker sites.

The one that got the most attention was easily the ACR Poker botting scandal, which was first brought to attention on the popular Two Plus Two poker forum by a user under the screenname of “TylerRM.”

The post painted an ugly picture of an operator allowing dozens, if not hundreds of Texas Hold'em Poker bots to operate on its platform and steal millions of dollars from the poker community over a span of no more than three years.

Being an unregulated site that pretty much answers to no one, there was no one to report ACR to, so exposing the security vulnerability and letting the community know about the bots was the best thing the user could do.

The way ACR handled the whole situation was a PR nightmare, and once again proved to the poker world that unregulated sites like this, despite being the only option for some players, often present more risk than reward for those who choose to play there.

ACR Poker Denies Allegations and Issues a Bot Challenge

On January 5, just a couple of days after the original claims were made at Two Plus Two, ACR Poker’s top ambassador Chris Moneymaker, alongside Ebony Kenney, who also represents the site, created a video issuing a challenge to the poker world.

Both ambassadors were adamant about their belief in ACR and its security team, and claimed that the site does not have a problem with poker bots.

To put their money where their mouths are, ACR ambassadors issued a challenge worth $100,000 to anyone who could create a working bot and have it run on the ACR platform.

The poker community overwhelmingly took this challenge as a negative way of dealing with the issue, as inviting people to create poker bots and paying them for it could create more issues than it would solve.

What’s more, it took no more than 12 hours for Matt Elligott to reply back to ACR via social platform X and inform them he has a working bot on the platform.

ACR was more exposed than ever, and tried to double down on their offer by introducing additional terms to the bot challenge that included the bot having to play 5,000 hands and play winning poker over that period.

Of course, this made the whole challenge more difficult for any would-be hackers who would create it, but even this did not last very long, as ACR backed out of their own challenge shortly after.

Bot Challenge Rescinded by ACR

The very next day, ACR went back to X and claimed that they are cancelling the challenge due to the overwhelmingly negative feedback from the poker community.

In truth, most industry insiders were, in fact, against the idea of the bot challenge and awarding people who would create bots capable of syphoning money from the economy, but the way in which the whole thing was handled bothered many.

It seemed like ACR was now seeing that bots for their platforms can be created, and that many already exist, which would mean they would have to pay the $100k bonus and hire the person who created on, as part of the original deal.

The money itself, of course, was never a big issue, but the fact they could be exposed a mere few days into the challenge was much more problematic.

The actual reasons behind ACR rescinding their offer remain a mystery, but it is clear that Phil Nagy and everyone else at ACR have a lot to do before they regain the trust of their player base.

Promises of more robust security and integrity teams in the future and more careful monitoring of the ecosystem at ACR simply aren’t enough, as concrete steps must be taken to ensure a site is actually safe before it can be used for the kind of large-scale poker games that ACR offers.

What’s the Alternative?

For millions of people out there, namely those living in the USA, ACR is one of the few options they have to play online poker these days.

Ever since all major poker sites stopped servicing US players following the events of Black Friday, ACR has been one of the very few still allowing American players to play on the platform.

The same can be said for some other legal jurisdictions where online poker is either banned or very restricted, making it hard to find enough games to play for many players.

Yet, things are changing in this regard, too, and more players have access to regulated online poker than ever.

American states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Nevada now offer legal online poker via sites like PokerStars US, WSOP.com, and BetMGM Poker, all of which offer much safer and more carefully audited online poker platforms.

Players from other parts of the world, where regulated poker operators are offered in larger numbers, have even more options to play on safer platforms, while live poker is offered as an alternative in all markets.

Live Poker
Live Poker is Safe of Poker Bots

In all cases, playing with an operator whose license is issued by a major gaming regulator, whether government sponsored like the ones in the US or independent one like MGA, guarantees a much higher degree of security and safety.

While even regulated poker sites have their issues, like the one GGPoker was faced with just a couple of weeks ago, they generally tend to take things more seriously and face any problems they have head on.

It remains to be seen how the botting scandal at ACR gets resolved, but the truth is that many shady individuals looking to cheat the poker community will always look to do so at unregulated sites than fully legal ones, as the challenges they will be faced with are usually lesser.

For the time being, play at regulated online poker apps if you have access to them, or face the risks and consequences of playing at an unlicensed site if you believe that is your only real option.

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