Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ultimate Bet Poker Cheating Scandal Getting Bigger!

Months passed since UltimateBet acknowledged in March of 2008 that management became aware of cheating allegations in January of 2008. The initial, albeit late, statement indicated that at least one player account was deemed to have abnormally high winning statistics and an unfair advantage at the tables. UB was “determined to complete a full and thorough investigation,” but no one had any idea just how long that would take.

Players waited. And waited. And by the middle of May, patience had worn thin. Posters on forums like PocketFives and 2+2 began making noise and demanding a response from UltimateBet. It became a heated discussion, several members of the media kept the story in the public eye (though no major poker magazines, with the exception of Poker Player Newspaper, would touch it), and players wanted answers. Nat Arem, poker player and key rogue investigator in the Absolute Poker scandal months ago, took to PocketFives with the information he had. “I’ve spoken with the guy who is, basically, leading the investigation at UB. I guarantee that he is working on it … While I can’t tell you a lot of what he’s told me, I can tell you that UB is not ignoring it internally. In fact, the delay in resolution is not at UB itself. They’ve done a very thorough investigation and they’re committing some very significant resources to make sure that it never happens again at AP or UB.”

While Arem is a trusted member of the forum community, the secretive nature of the post did not sit well with players. Although Arem let it be known that new management and ownership of UB would prove trustworthy in the future, it was the many months of delays, lack of correspondence with the public, and lack of player reimbursement information that was unsettling.

Members of the poker community were also putting pressure on UB-sponsored players to take a stand. Annie Duke chose to respond on PocketFives in a long and seemingly heartfelt statement. It was her recent decision to renew a contract with UB and become even more involved with online tournament operations there that drew the most scrutiny, and she responded with openness.

After meeting with UB management in Costa Rica, Duke wrote, “I came away satisfied with both the intent of the management team to deal honestly with the allegations, as well as with the integrity of the management team itself. That is coming from someone who was as skeptical as could be … I know that the management team is eager to make its findings public with the month [May] … Until then, I will continue to promote the UB brand because it is a brand I believe in and love and am deeply emotionally invested in.” With two respected people—Arem and Duke— acknowledging the unresolved issue, players still found it odd that so much time had passed without any word from UB. Forum posters spread the word as loudly as computer keyboards can, and it seemed to work. With threats of more negative publicity, UB finally produced a statement to address the insider cheating scandal on May 29, just one day before the 2008 World Series was set to start.

In the next issue, look for details of the UltimateBet statement about the scandal. Though it was more of a comprehensive release than the statement that “closed” the Absolute Poker mess, it left some questions in the minds of some players. Even so, the management that released the statement clearly hoped to put players’ minds at ease and start the reimbursement process. To be continued…