Years Later, the UltimateBet Insider Cheating Gordian Knot Still Unraveling

In case you missed it, the weekend’s biggest news story in poker was likely the release of incriminating information in the years-old UltimateBet insider cheating scandal.  John Mehaffey checked in yesterday with a solid summary of the release of secret tapes incriminating Russ Hamilton and others in the cheating and subsequent coverup, and I’m aboard this fine Sunday night with a little bit of color commentary.

*Quick Link* 2nd Secret Recording Released on PFA –

First, let’s reestablish the background.  Former Russ Hamilton computer expert Travis Makar published over 100 files of various types on Friday, including two large audio recordings secretly taped by Russ Hamilton himself, regarding the cheating.  Exactly what Hamilton’s motives were in creating these tapes, I’ve yet to completely understand, though I suspect he knew that the jig was up and he wanted to get some dirt on his fellow crooked UltimateBet executives, which he accomplished nicely at that.

Travis Makar Drops HUGE Bombshell

As for Makar, his motives are a little bit clearer to understand.  Makar has leaked dribs and drabs of info connected to the UB scandal, and I’ve communicated personally with him as part of my own years-long investigations into the cheating scandals at UB and Absolute Poker.  Makar’s even called me at three in the morning to talk about stuff, and no, I wasn’t wearing khakis at the time.

Based on my knowledge of Makar, I suspected that a release of information like this might occur at some point, though I wasn’t involved in it and was surprised as anyone else to see the published recordings.  I did, however, know they existed; Makar had previously published a couple of brief snippets from them, and talked about them in a couple of interviews, at Bryan Micon’s DonkDown site and elsewhere.

Yesterday’s data dump also included dozens of photos of the computer rig Makar assembled to allow Hamilton to bypass UB’s security, logons and passwords for many of the extra accounts Hamilton used, and other assorted files connected to the cheating.  Makar had already published most of that, though a few of those items were new as well.

The Timing of the Secret Russ Hamilton Recordings

The biggest question regarding the emergence of the information is, “Why now?”  The answer to that is complex.  The totality of the information clearly implicated Makar himself as Hamilton’s accomplice, and I truly believe his instincts for self-preservation overrode all his other concerns.

Based on my own conversations and e-mails with Makar, the situation was very complex: he’s asserted receiving both a million-dollar bribe offer to turn over all the information he had to Greg Pierson at iovation, and has also published a photo of a “three monkeys – Hear No Evil / See No Evil / Speak No Evil” figurine he claims he found in the driveway of his Las Vegas home, believing it to be a threat to stay quiet.  Makar has claimed to me that he didn’t want the money.

He also didn’t want to face any charges himself in the matter; that seems clear as well.  The statute of limitations for the fraud and theft involved in the UB scandal, which ran from 2003-07, probably expired just in the past couple of months.  However, I state that with the usual IANAL (“I am not a lawyer”) disclaimer.  I e-mailed Makar late Friday night about his motivations for releasing the complete recordings now, since I’d urged him to release them a couple of years ago, suspecting correctly that they were the true smoking gun in the scandal.

Was it because of the recent reemergence of Greg Pierson and iovation in connection with the new Nevada online poker era?  I asked.  For those of you who are unaware, iovation was recently subcontracted to supply identification services for Ultimate Poker (unrelated to the old UB), which began offering real-money action in Nevada early this month.  Iovation was being used by CAMS/Verifi for this service, and Ultimate Poker parent Fertitta Interactive dropped both CAMS and iovation like a hot potato this week when they learned of iovation’s sordid background.

Makar’s response was this: “Yes, it was hearing that iovation was involved, and since Black Friday, I don’t feel the need to hold back for fear of being sued or threatened.  Hope that helps.”

My Conclusion

I believe Makar on the iovation part.  I don’t believe him on the Black Friday stuff.  If that was a true and full motivation, he could have released these recordings two years ago, as I and others urged.  I even volunteered to go to bat for him with federal agents, if that’s what it took, but in my opinion his self-preservation instincts won out.  I believed all of this new information would emerge eventually; the truth outs, it always does.

The internet sleuths, me included, are still digging through the recordings, which are a virtual goldmine of details regarding the cheating.  I’ve also begun transcribing the audio recordings, a process which will probably take several weeks, due to their overall poor quality and rapid-fire exchanges.  Many of the broad proclamations from the recordings are already spreading through the poker world, leaving know doubt as to the culpability of Russ Hamilton, Greg Pierson and other UB executives in the cheating.

Examples already abound, such as Hamilton talking about having reported $5.2 million in stolen funds on his personal income taxes, or his classic line to Daniel Friedberg, as Michael M. at the CrAAKKer blog reported: “I did take this money and I’m not trying to make it right, Dan, so we gotta get that out of the way right away, real quick.”

Class act, that Russ Hamilton.  All of his friends that I’ve spoken to waxed long and lovingly on his generosity and charitable giving, absolutely oblivious to the fact that that’s how the best con men work.  He’s neither the first, nor the best.  He’s just the latest.

There will be tons more on the old UltimateBet scandal in the weeks ahead, such as today’s issuing of a statement by longtime UB spokesperson Phil Hellmuth, well worthy of a separate post.

For a story that stretches back a decade or more, the UB cheating tale still has plenty of legs.

Up To $3,000 in Bonuses! Play Now
100% up to $3,000 Bonus

Bovada is our most recommended ONLINE CASINO and POKER ROOM for US players with excellent deposit options. Get your 100% signup bonus today.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply