Jose Girah Macedo poker cheating scandal

The Girah Scandal: How a Fake Prodigy Cheated the Poker World

Cheating scandals are an unavoidable part of poker lore. 

A recent tweet from Bill Perkins about a multi-accounting cheating scandal sent the poker community into sleuth mode.

The depth of whatever happened to Perkins might never be known, though Dan Bilzerian has accused Dan “Jungleman” Cates as being at the heart of the cheating Perkins is referring to.

After hearing the allegations against Jungleman, Vanessa Selbst revived the discussion around one of the biggest poker scandals of the past 10 years:

If you aren’t familiar with what Vanessa is referring to, buckle up and get ready for a ride. The poker story arc of Jose “Girah” Macedo, once known as the “Portuguese Poker Prodigy,” is going to blow your mind.

Multi-accounting is just one part of the 2011 poker cheating scandal involving Girah, Jungleman, and Haseeb “DogIsHead” Qureshi.

The Rise of Girah

In the latter months of 2010, the TwoPlusTwo forums started buzzing about an online player referred to as “Portuguese Poker Prodigy”. Little was known about this player’s true identity.

Forum posters seemed to know that “Portuguese Poker Prodigy” was under 18, and had run up a sizable bankroll playing online poker. Because of his age, the “Portuguese Poker Prodigy” couldn’t play legally on any online poker site, yet the legend persisted.

In March 2011, this mysterious poker genius came forward, revealing his identity in his own TwoPlusTwo thread.

Jose “Girah” Macedo was the name behind the legend, and by that time Macedo was 18 years old and ready to make a name for himself in the poker world.

Macedo laid out the story behind his incredible rise through the online cash game ranks in the thread. Starting with a €30 bankroll, Macedo grinded his way up from 2NL to 200NL in just a few months.

At that point, Macedo said he began discussing strategy with other professional poker players, getting advice and continuing to work on his game. Macedo would regularly visit TwoPlusTwo and dissect the posts of top players like Dan “Jungleman” Cates, Ben “Sauce” Sulsky, and Haseeb “DogIsHead” Qureshi.

Macedo said he eventually reached out to these players on Skype, building relationships with Qureshi and Cates.

By the time March 2011 rolled around, Macedo unveiled his identity in his debut TwoPlusTwo post, including a table that showed more than $1.6 million in cash game winnings.

The table no longer appears in the post, but a PokerNews article from that month captured a screenshot of Macedo’s unbelievable results:

Jose Girah Macedo cheating scandal

The story of the incredible rise of “Girah” seemed to check out. Other posters in the TwoPlusTwo thread, however, had doubts.

Just hours after the lengthy introduction of “Girah” to TwoPlusTwo, forum members began to allege that “Girah” was actually a fictitious creation of Qureshi and Cates.

Girah poker cheating scandal

TwoPlusTwoers discovered that the domain was registered by Qureshi, and many suspected the impressive stats were actually from Jungleman’s database.

The TwoPlusTwo forums have long been known for an ability to expose cheaters and frauds in the poker world, and a number of forum members had already suspected something was amiss with Macedo’s story from the start.

Macedo’s star began to rise, however, as the then 18-year-old landed sponsorships with Lock Poker and PokerStategy. 

By April 2011, Macedo was challenging Tom “Durrrr” Dwan to play in a round of the “Durrrr Challenge”, a series which pitted Dwan in high-stakes heads-up matches against pokers top players. Macedo had seemingly reached the pinnacle of poker.

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Hole Card Cheating Scandal

By August 2011, the Macedo myth began to unravel. TwoPlusTwo poster “MossBoss” started a thread detailing a heads-up strategy Skype group started by Macedo. 

Macedo would offer to watch other players’ poker sessions live and remotely on Skype, under the guise of coaching. Around July 2011, Macedo began encouraging players in the group to play against “sauron1989”, a player on iPoker that Macedo identified as a woefully bad player to members of the strategy group.

With Macedo watching the sessions over their shoulders on Skype, players from the group started playing “sauron1989” at the high-stakes tables on iPoker. In spite of Macedo’s claims that “sauron1989” was a bad player, members of the group regularly lost five-figure sums to the supposed poker whale in single sessions.

“MossBoss” lost $21,900 over the course of two sessions, with Macedo watching on Skype. Suspecting something was wrong during the matches against “sauron1989”, “MossBoss” began to inspect the Skype chat logs with Macedo that took place during the games.

Upon closer inspection, MossBoss realized that “sauron1989” would often disconnect from iPoker at the same time Macedo would log off of Skype. Further investigation from group members turned up suspicions that Macedo was running a similar scam on Merge Poker with another screenname, “dollarman223”. 

With the members of the strategy group pressing, Macedo admitted what group members suspected — he was the player behind the “sauron1989” screen name, and was playing against them while looking at their hole cards remotely on Skype.

The thread started by “MossBoss” about the incident features the admission from Macedo as the second post:

Girah poker cheating scandal

“MossBoss” stated that Macedo agreed to pay back more than $30,000 in ill-gotten gains from the hole card scandal. Macedo’s sponsorships with Lock Poker and PokerStrategy were revoked.

But this was just the beginning. The strange details of the rise and fall of “Girah” were just starting to come to light.

Girah, Jungleman and DogIsHead

Many TwoPlusTwo members closely associated “Girah” with Dan “Jungleman” Cates and Haseeb “DogIsHead” Qureshi throughout Macedo’s meteoric rise through the poker ranks. Forum posts from Cates and Qureshi seemed to hype up the “Portuguese Poker Prodigy” in the months before Macedo revealed his identity on TwoPlusTwo.

Following Macedo’s cheating admission in the Skype scandal, Qureshi took to the forums to apparently set the record straight on his and Cates’ association with “Girah”.

In a 7,000-word post, “DogIsHead” explained his own admission of scandalous activity in the poker world.

Qureshi claimed that his friendship with Macedo started in early 2010, with Macedo seeking coaching. By December 2010, Qureshi and Cates agreed to go 50/50 on a staking deal to back Macedo.

In the post, Qureshi admits to being “slow/lazy” about getting backing funds into Macedo’s Lock Poker account. In April 2011, Macedo and Cates finally attempted to get $100,000 to Macedo by depositing on Qureshi’s “SamChauhan” account on Lock Poker.

Qureshi then tried to transfer that money to Macedo’s “Girah” screen name on Lock Poker, but the site wouldn’t permit the large transfer. Macedo suggested that Qureshi chip dump the $100,000 to Macedo in a heads-up match, which Qureshi did.

Dan Jungleman Cates poker cheating scandal

Dan “Jungleman” Cates admitted to “ghosting” on the “Girah” Lock Poker account

Jungleman Ghosts Girah

Shortly after poker’s Black Friday on April 15, 2011, Cates played on the “Girah” account; first remotely, and later on his own computer, according to Qureshi.

“Jungle was bored and unable to play on any sites after Black Friday,” Qureshi says in the post. “Jose offered to let Jungle use his account if he let Jose watch.”

Jungle agreed to it and played at first through Teamviewer on Jose’s screen (at first telling Jose what to do and then trying to click the buttons himself), but when it proved to be too laggy and a pain to use, Jose gave Jungle his password and let him play on the account on his own computer. He played some PLO and NL over a couple of days. He lost money net.

According to Qureshi, the ghosting from Cates led to Macedo’s disqualification from the ‘Bluff Challenge”, a promotion on Lock Poker that tracked the biggest winner on the site and awarded a spot on the cover of Bluff Magazine. Lock Poker detected a login from an outside IP address into the “Girah” account, leading to the disqualification.

Later in the TwoPlusTwo post, Qureshi admits that Cates played on Qureshi’s “SamChauhan” account weeks later.

A month or so later, while Jungle and I were in Vegas, Jungle played [my] SamChauhan account and I took 50% of his action. Jungle lost 40k, which Jose lent to us against his account balance. This comprises the 40k we owed him. I have never played on the SamChauhan account, and it is currently empty of any account balance.

The post goes on to state that Macedo played on the “SamChauhan” account at one point as well. 

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The Aftermath

The real truth behind one of poker’s more bizarre cheating scandals might never truly be known. Cates did two interviews after the scandal, check out the transcript of the first interview with SubjectPoker here. A short summary of the second interview can be found in this piece by PokerStrategy.

In the interviews, conducted by Vanessa Selbst and Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, Cates first states that he had no significant relationship with Macedo. The second interview, however, comes after Cates’ publicist contacted SubjectPoker and stated that “Jungleman” wanted to come clean about some of the details of the multi-accounting scandal.

Macedo and Qureshi disappeared from the poker world after the scandal. Macedo popped back up in PokerNews headlines in 2014 after launching a cleaning service in the United Kingdom.

If that wasn’t enough poker cheating drama for you, read up on the Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker superuser scandal here:

Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker: What Happened?


Home > The Girah Scandal: How a Fake Prodigy Cheated the Poker World
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About the Author
Geoffrey Fisk

Geoffrey Fisk

Freelance writer and poker player based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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