Poker is a game, much like golf, where the players uphold the integrity of the rules themselves. Dating back to the age of the riverboat gamblers of the 1800s, those who plied their trade often would settle any disagreements with fisticuffs and, on extreme occasions, with a weapon. It led to the game of poker being viewed as an unsavory activity rife with chicanery, deceit, cheaters, and outlaws.

Over the time since then, however, that reputation has slowly dropped away. As poker became more a part of the mainstream rather than the periphery, the court of public opinion has become more the arbiter of “right and wrong.” A look at the Mike Postle situation is a clear indicator of this, but another case isn’t quite so cut and dried.

Ali Imsirovic – Poker Great or Poker Cheat?

Undoubtedly, Ali Imsirovic, the poker wunderkind who began his public poker career in 2015, knows his way around the baize. While he would only make roughly $250K between 2015-18, Imsirovic exploded on the game in 2019, racking up over $5 million in earnings through the exploding world of the “High Roller” tournament. He would top that in 2021 (2020 = COVID) by earning over $6 million in rolling to the Player of the Year title. All totaled, Imsirovic has made $18,697,121 in his tournament poker career, according to the Hendon Mob database, placing him in the Top 50 in poker history.

That’s where the wheels fell off, however.

In 2022, accusations from many in the poker community resulted in Imsirovic (alongside Jake Schindler, who could also be the subject of this piece) being besieged for alleged misconduct in the online game. He would rack up over $3 million in earnings before his cash in the World Series of Poker Championship Event (a 229th place finish for $46,800)…and disappear from the live tournament world after that. Imsirovic has not been seen at a major tournament poker circuit event since then, due in part to his suspension from one circuit and another’s refusal to allow him to play their “High Roller” events.

The PokerGO Tour, where Imsirovic was making massive coin, banned him (and Schindler) in mid-2022, citing “the integrity of the game” in keeping him from their tournaments. The European Poker Tour allegedly earlier in the year had prevented Imsirovic from participating in the EPT Monte Carlo’s High Roller tournaments without indicating why, which might be where it all started. As of today, the PokerGO Tour has not reinstated Imsirovic to their circuit, and Imsirovic has chosen to not play in any live events elsewhere.

There is an intriguing discussion that can be had, however. Is Imsirovic deserving of this type of punishment? Is it the way we should be managing these types of situations? Let’s break it down as we look at the case for – and against – Ali Imsirovic.

The Case Against Imsirovic

The allegations against Imsirovic are voluminous. Going back to former Player of the Year Alex Foxen’s accusations against his fellow former POY, to the fact that an online site (GGPoker) banned him from playing from the site (a fact that GGPoker did NOT make evident to customers of the site), to the moves by the EPT and the PGT, there have been many accusations put up against Imsirovic. Recently, a Twitter screed from Daniel Negreanu added more fuel to the fire.

In that Twitter discussion, Negreanu alleged that Imsirovic has been playing on unregulated sites (allegedly America’s Cardroom) and, like a leopard, he hasn’t changed his spots:

In Negreanu’s opinion, the continued violation of poker’s integrity by Imsirovic can only be rectified by banning him from the game. Now, that is a bit rich – Imsirovic’s obvious talents in poker are a threat to Negreanu’s continued success (and money earnings) in the game – but it is something that is a realistic option. Add in Imsirovic’s continued silence on the subject, and many might have already decided against Imsirovic in this situation. But there is another side…

The Case for Imsirovic

There is a remarkably simple case for Imsirovic – he has never been legally accused or convicted of any transgressions which would normally warrant being prohibited from taking part in an activity.

In baseball, hit king Pete Rose admitted to gambling on the game – it resulted in his continued banishment from the sport for over thirty years. The National Football League has recently reinstated wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who confessed to betting on football and was suspended from playing in the league for a year (a loss of millions for Ridley). Break the rules in any other sport – look at NASCAR’s punishments for crew members who let a tire get away from them on a pit stop – and the ramifications are immediate and strong.

While he has been accused of improprieties in the world of poker, Ali Imsirovic has not been found guilty of any of what has been alleged against him. He has never been charged legally regarding this situation. There is not a court that has found him guilty of anything. There have only been shadowy accusations and a ban from an online poker site (GGPoker) that are supposed to serve as an overall conviction of Imsirovic’s actions.

Part of this stems from the inadequacy of the world of poker in policing itself. There is not an international regulatory body – no FIFA, no governing organization for the sport – that could issue an edict that would have any teeth. It is left up to the myriad of poker rooms, tournament circuits, organizations, online poker operators, and other outlets (the Poker Integrity Council, which was ballyhooed as a “savior” in the drive to “clean up the game,” has been extremely toothless in its actions) to try to show that there is “integrity” in the world of poker.

To be brutally honest, Imsirovic would have MORE of a case in a courtroom than any of his accusers would. If Imsirovic were to bring up a lawsuit against the PGT for their prohibition of him “working to make a living,” he would have an extremely solid case because he has not been convicted of anything. He could also do the same against the EPT (although European courts probably wouldn’t be quite as kind as U. S. courts), not to mention some of those who have “besmirched his name” over the past eighteen months.

Where Does it End?

This has become yet another black eye on the world of poker. Either Imsirovic has violated the laws by using outside programs to cheat at online poker, or he is simply an excellent player who is being vilified by those who compete against him and begrudge him for his success. Whichever way you believe in this situation, it needs to have some sort of endgame – either allow Imsirovic back into the game or show how he has sullied the “good name” of poker through his actions. It is time the people got all the evidence rather than a select few.


  1. Mcrib says:

    This article brought to you by Al Imsirovic‘s lawyers

  2. Earl Burton says:

    I only wish I could get the money for that position! LOL!

  3. Doug says:

    There is no law against using RTA, only site terms of service. Sites are certainly able to ban anyone they want, but the live venues have a trickier case.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *