Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Online Indictment of Russ Hamilton in UltimateBet Poker Cheat Scandal!

PokerPlayer's Jennifer Newell wrote this article today linking Russ Hamilton, the 1994 WSOP main event champion and former owner of the online poker site UltimateBet, to the recent gigantic and monsterous Ultimate Bet cheating scandal. I met Hamilton a few times over the years and cannot say what if any direct involvement he had in the scam, but I am awfully curious.

UltimateBet has its hands full and some explaining to do, as does former UB owner and 1994 World Series of Poker main event champion Russ Hamilton.

The UB scandal officially began in January of 2008 when the site’s management acknowledged that there was some credence to players’ claims of cheating. But by July 2008, after the official investigation had been ongoing for at least four months, UB confirmed that the cheating actually began in January of 2005, meaning that it could have been going on for nearly three years. In the fourth month of the investigation, new accounts were still being linked to the software glitch that allowed one or more super-users to cheat on the site.

Enter the biggest glitch of all, courtesy of Nat Arem, the rogue investigator/poker player who was a key figure in breaking the Absolute Poker scandal wide open. That glitch’s name is Russ Hamilton.

Arem took some information he was given and began researching confirmed super-user account names. Three names --nvtease, NoPaddles, and sleepless—given to Arem by a whistleblower at UB, were linked back to one address in Las Vegas. The address belonged to none other than one of the owners of UB during the time the scandal was confirmed to have happened. Russ Hamilton bought the home in 2006. At the very least, three of the super-user accounts in the UB scandal were directly connected to the Hamilton family during the time that the accounts were being used to cheat players on the UltimateBet website.

While it may sound as if dots are being connected by an unauthorized person in this matter, a source tells me that Hamilton is being implicated in the UB scandal, as evidenced by his having hired an attorney, and that Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth—both UB-sponsored players—had knowledge of Hamilton’s alleged involvement prior to Arem’s revelation.

My request to Russ Hamilton for an interview or statement was not returned.

Others have attempted communication with Hamilton as well. Barry Greenstein and Joe Sebok asked Hamilton to make an audio appearance on PokerRoad Radio, and though Hamilton declined for the July 16, 2008 show, he did invite Greenstein and Sebok to come to his home for a private discussion. Hamilton’s lawyer was present during the meeting. According to Greenstein and Sebok, Hamilton claimed that when all of the facts are eventually revealed, he will be cleared of any wrongdoing. And his lawyer, while advising his client not to respond directly to the allegations with an alibi or other explanation, asked why the public was unable to “unable to wait a couple months.”

At press time, a spokesperson for UB has accepted my request to answer questions but has not yet done so. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), the regulatory commission that issues gaming licenses to companies like Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, released a statement to note that the main objective has been to identify and reimburse cheated players on UB, which has been done, and correct the flaws that allowed these breaches to occur. The statement read, in part:

“The KGC’s investigation into the UltimateBet matter has yielded a number of key findings which, within the next several days, will enable the KGC to issue its decision on the appropriate steps to be taken.”

For now, the public waits. We wait for answers from UltimateBet in the form of a resolution to an ongoing scandal that continues to get worse, a formal decision from the KGC, official charges against Russ Hamilton, and/or a statement from him regarding recent allegations.