Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maybe Annie Duke Should Not Have Stood By UltimateBet After All??

Despite numerous rumors to the contrary, poker pro Annie Duke revealed to Gambling911.com's Jenny Woo this week that she is willing to continue to put her name behind UltimateBet.com. The 3rd largest online poker room catering to North America was embroiled in a "cheating scandal" last year.

"I really have a lot of faith of the new management's commitment to offer a good quality secure site," Annie Duke told Woo.

In Part Three of Jenny Woo's interview, Ms. Duke discusses the UltimateBet fiasco and her full reaction as well as her opinion on the changes made with this year's World Series of Poker, specifically the delayed final table. Here is some of what she said:

JENNY: What did you make of Peter Eastgate's win in the WSOP? And what's your opinion on the changes that were made this year?

ANNIE: Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch most of it which was up until the final table because I was tied up in New York on a schedule where t.v. wasn't really an option. I haven't been able to catch up on that yet but I did watch the final table. I felt that honestly he played the best of everybody at the table. From what I saw at that final table I felt that he deserved it of anybody at that table. He played really really well. The thing that I liked about Peter in particular was that I saw a lot of really hyper-aggressive play. Now to be fair I didn't see the whole final table, I saw what was on t.v. I don't know much else about him but I'm impressed the way he played. But as far as the young thing, I don't think it's particularly surprising. Poker is getting to be such a young game. There's so many people in their early twenties entering that event and a lot of them are really really good. I'm glad to see somebody who I felt was very talented win that event.

As far as the delay - I know that it definitely raised ratings which is really important and I think that whatever delay people had to take understanding that the better poker that runs on t.v. the better it is for the poker economy which is better for you as an individual. People should really try to think of the big picture as opposed to whatever inconvenience they're feeling by it. I think that we had the misfortune of having that delay introduced in a very very important election year in which I think it took away much of the ability of the WSOP being able to hype their players and get people to pay a lot of extra attention to what was going on. This wasn't' just an election year. This was a super duper high profile important election year. If it were to happen during Kerry-Bush, I think we could of probably gotten more focus on poker world. (Haha) I think there's no question that that will happen again next year but with it being a little bit shorter. It'll be interesting to see what happens next year when people are actually interested in interviewing these people as opposed to thinking about Sarah Palin.

JENNY: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding a much publicized insider cheating scandal involving UltimateBet. You have stood firmly by their side through all of this. How have your friends on the poker circuit reacted to this scandal?

ANNIE: I think that there's mixed reactions. Everybody's horrified that it happened - including me. I just want to get that out of the way. There are no excuses for what happened. It's ugly, it's ridiculous and it's incredibly upsetting. With that being said, I think there's a large portion of people out there who got their money back which I think is amazing. I had one player call me up who's an old time player playing for a really long time and who said to me, "Annie in all the years that I've been playing and all the times that I've been cheated this is the first time I've ever gotten my money back." I think that there's recognizing there are things that have happened. This was not the site cheating anybody, this was individuals cheating people. It's really horrible that it happened but the site did good by it and made sure that everybody go their money back and let's move on because the site is secure. There are other people who had a fair reaction to it - which is - you can't compensate me for the loss of confidence. My heart really goes out to those people because they are absolutely right. We go into these games and the moves that you think are supposed to work aren't working. Now you start to take those out of your game and I understand that it can have a deep and long term and long lasting affect on your game. They're right, there's no way for UltimateBet to compensate somebody for whatever long term affects that event had on their game. So to that I don't really have an answer. As far as the monetary issues, for me it was all made good on. In this administration - so to speak- definitely stood good by everything, has an amazing security center going forward, they made good on something that wasn't their fault.

I feel like being part of a solution and making sure that there are good and secure options going forward. I think my brother said this to somebody, "look UltimateBet's going to continue with or without Annie, it's going to still be there. Would you rather have Annie there trying to make sure that everything is secure going forward or would you rather have her just leave and not be a voice for the community"? So that was my take on it. I just felt like the right thing to do was to try to make sure this was handled well, that people were made whole, to have people feel that they had somebody they could talk to about it and that I could do what I could to make the site better and to make it a good option for people. I really have a lot of faith of the new management's commitment to offer a good quality secure site and I'm willing to continue to put my name by that.

One of the things that I said - and I said it in my testimony - is that online poker is unique to other financial markets because in other financial markets when you get cheated there's no way to make anybody whole. One of the reason's why people should feel very comfortable about playing online is because when incidents like this happen the sites will stand up and behave if they're regulated and make the community whole. Well, if I'm endorsing a site that's going to do just that and I walk away then I'm a total hypercritic anyway.

JENNY: What's next for you in the poker circuit?

ANNIE: I'm really going to be stepping up to the number of tournaments that I play now that I'm out of my dispute with the WPT. I'm going to be heading to Vegas on Saturday (Dec. 13) and I'm going to be playing in the Main Event there at Bellagio. Then I'm going to be playing at this thing at the Commerce. I'm just really going to step up the number of major events that I'm playing. It's funny that you ask that because I was talking to somebody in November and I was looking what had happened to my schedule; I had intended to play at the Bike (The Bicycle Casino - Los Angeles) at the end of August and then I had a commitment come up. Then I had intended to play down in Aruba but had to go to New York. And I was going to do two Poker After Dark's but I was still in New York. I finally got back and I can finally play at the Bellagio. But literally it was three months of intense "I'm going to play this, I'm going to play this, and I'm going to play this" where everything else in my life kept getting in the way.

I've now gone through my schedule and have blocked out tons of poker coming up so that I can start being a poker player again.

JENNY: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to do this interview.

ANNIE: Thank you. Talk to you soon.

Phil Hellmuth Implicated in NEW UltimateBet Online Poker Scandal!

In the aftermath of their sisterly online insider poker scams, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet formed the Cereus Poker Network, and were at great pains, along with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, to assure players all had been fixed as far as cheating is concerned.

Along With Absolute Poker, UltimateBet is one of the two online poker rooms brought to mainstream attention by "60 Minutes" coverage of their cheating scandals. You would think that we wouldn't hear about any new cheating incidents on either site for a while...But new allegations have surfaced!

A hand played online this weekend resulted in the losing player being awarded the pot. When the mistake was pointed out on the Ultimate Bet forum, the moderator declared it a "software glitch" and said he'd look into it. However, circumstances make the incident seem more ominous.

Reprints of the hand played reveal the losing player who took the pot to be none other than Phil Hellmuth, poker legend and Ultimate Bet spokesman. Further, the hand was played in a most unusual fashion. Hellmuth's opponent, Doubleballer, had the king of diamonds and queen of hearts in his hand. The flop came out king-king-jack, rainbow.

Doubleballer raised before the turn and the river, and Hellmuth called, seeing a two and a nine, with no flush possibilities. Doubleballer bet his three kings at the showdown, Hellmuth called, and then mucked. But Hellmuth was paid rather than Doubleballer.

On a hand in which Doubleballer clearly had three kings, it would seem Hellmuth would either fold, or raise. Raising could be a bluff, or indicate a full house of another set of kings with a higher kicker possible. But to call, when the hand was apparent, with losing cards, seems strange.

Once the story reached the poker forums, other incidents at Ultimate Bet came to light. One player told how he was nearing the end of a tournament, when the program thanked him for finishing in sixteenth place, even though two cards had yet to be dealt. Another mentioned meeting a small blind of $100, then folding, only to find $700 in chips deducted.

UltimateBet guaranteed a long and exhaustive audit of all software after the cheating last year. But it appears there are quirks, and worse, still happening in the system. Until the Kahnawake and Cereus respond more transparently and forcefully, Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker, and online casinos will gladly accept the customers fleeing these Internet gambling sites.

What will happen next???