New Tape Reveals Massive Cover Up in Ultimate Bet Poker Scandal
Just when we thought the horrific super-user cheating scandal that rocked users of Ultimate Bet Poker more than 5 years ago was finally behind us, the debacle has resurfaced with new information. A series of recordings from the winter of 2008 was released by a former employee of the site’s owner, Russ Hamilton, revealing a massive cover-up by numerous site officials. None were more disturbed or infuriated by the details of the recordings than Phil Hellmuth Jr., former sponsor of UB Poker.
Between the years of 2003 and 2007, it was discovered after an in-depth investigation by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission that Russ Hamilton had been utilizing a super-user account to play poker at his own poker site, Ultimate Bet. A feature known as ‘God Mode’ gave him the ability to see the hole cards of his opponents. Thus he was able to swindle an estimated $20 million (though some close to the situation say it was a lot more) from the site’s online poker players.
For years, only Russ Hamilton had been officially implicated in the cheating scandal. However, the release of the tapes, recorded by Russ Hamilton himself at a discreet meeting with UB’s founder and CEO, Greg Pierson, as well as two attorneys, Daniel Friedberg and Sanford “Sandy” Millar, revealed that a lot more people were involved in the situation. Pierson, for example, was – and still is – the owner of Iovation; the company that supplied security and identity verification for UB Poker, as well as the God Mode feature that allowed them to commit such a heinous act in the first place.
Travis Makar, a computer expert and former employing of Russ Hamilton, has been releasing tid-bit of incriminating evidence over the years, and finally submitted the entire series of tapes as part of a massive information dump. We can easily assume that Hamilton recorded the meeting as a means to cover his own you-know-what, for if anyone else present in the room decided to flip, he would have evidence to blackmail them into keeping their mouths shut. During the recorded meeting, Hamilton spoke of scheming players out of somewhere between $16-$18 million using the God Mode function. He also mentioned reporting $5.2 million of the stolen money on his taxes.
More importantly – at least for Phil Hellmuth, the record-breaking 13-time WSOP bracelet winner who spent years endorsing Ultimate Bet as a sponsored pro and defended the management team wholeheartedly throughout the initial stages of the debacle – Hamilton et-al specifically discussed the importance of hiding the truth from Phil Hellmuth. The professional poker player is outraged by what he heard on the recordings, knowing now that they intentionally lied to him, keeping him in the dark so that they could use him in an attempt to uplift the defunct operation. Certainly the fact that Daniel Friedberg – who went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Hellmuth and was his personal attorney for a period of time – was in agreement with keeping Hellmuth in the dark was a heavy mental blow to the poker pro.
Hellmuth wrote a statement, delivered by his attorney and posted on the respected public poker forums of 2+2 by independent poker journalist Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers. The statement began:
“I’ve made a living off of reading people at the poker table and in the business world. Trusting my gut has allowed me to be at the top of my profession and develop a lifetime of friends and great experiences.
Unfortunately, I made a horrible read regarding my relationship with the founders of the now defunct online poker site Ultimate Bet.”
Phil went on to express his disgust and anger at the outright deception of his former trustees. He said that his first reaction upon hearing of the scandal years ago was to demand that the management team fire anyone involved and immediately recompense all players who suffered losses. “I was led to believe that if I left UB right away the business would be impacted and then less likely to pay its obligations to the victims,” Hellmuth explicated his reasoning for remaining with the poker site as a commitment to help the players.
In closing, Hellmuth bared his empathy and sincere regret, apologizing to all poker players, not just for his gullibility, but for the loss of trust that UB (and Black Friday) instigated throughout the online poker community.
The number of players who were duped by the UB cheating scandal is unknown, but undoubtedly immense. Among those mentioned on the tapes were Prahald Friedman, former UB Pro, who reportedly lost $360,000, and American poker pros Mike “trambopoline” Fosco, Robert Williamson III and 3-time WSOP bracelet winner Mike “The Mouth” Matusow.