Friday, May 30, 2008

UB Owns Up (Sort of)

UB Releases Statement, Admits to 21 Months' Worth of Cheating Having Occurred on SiteGot back a little while ago from a long day of training and meetings. A memorable day, to be sure. Will share a few reflections about all that tomorrow morning, as well as a look ahead to Day 1 of the 2008 World Series of Poker.

For now, though, I’ll briefly weigh in on the statement from UltimateBet summarizing the findings of an investigation into allegations of a cheating “scheme” (as UB had characterized the malfeasance in an earlier statement regarding the matter).

As you might imagine, having spent all day hanging out and interacting with other poker media types, there was a bit of buzz among my colleagues about UB’s statement. Having been occupied all day, I hadn’t seen the statement myself, and so gathered what I could from others’ impressions. Some felt the statement said what needed to be said, while others saw it as inadequate, essentially raising more questions than providing answers.

The statement specifically comes from Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, the company that owns both UB and Absolute Poker. According to Tokwiro, the cheaters used six different player accounts (changing account names multiple times in the process) to exploit “unauthorized software code that allowed the perpetrators to obtain hole card information during live play.” Not unlike the “super-user” scandal over at Absolute Poker, although the logistics here appear to have differed somewhat from what happened at AP.

Also similar to the Absolute case, UB’s statement fails to identify any of the cheaters by name (aside from listing usernames), though does state that “the individuals responsible were found to have worked for the previous ownership of UltimateBet prior to the sale of the business to Tokwiro in October 2006.” Nat Arem adds further clarification here with his post relating a series of questions he asked of UB and their replies. In response to Arem’s question about the cheaters’ identities, UB explained that they did “not believe anyone involved was an owner of the business.”

Of particular note is the confirmation “that the fraudulent activity took place from March 7, 2006 to December 3, 2007,” with UltimateBet only having discovered the existence of “the unauthorized code” in February 2008. That’s nearly 21 months of cheating, not discovered until almost three more months after it had stopped occurring.

The statement goes on to describe how the security breach has been permanently closed. Also, UB has added “to its existing security department” what is described as “a new specialized Poker Security team of professionals dedicated to fraud prevention.” Arem was apparently consulted in the creation of this new, extra level of security, something he thinks is “going to be a great tool when it’s finished.” In his Q&A, Arem reports this newly-implemented system will be in place in six to eight weeks.

The statement also outlines UB’s plan to refund all players who lost money to those operating the fraudulent accounts. I noticed that Terrence Chan received an unexpected refund. Also saw on the forums others reporting how they had already received their refunds as well.

The statement concludes with an assertion that “UltimateBet has worked closely and transparently with its governing body, the KGC [Kahnawake Gaming Commission] and its designated expert auditors, to determine exactly what happened, how it happened, and who was involved, and has taken action to prevent any possibility of this situation recurring.”

Glad to hear UB was transparent with the KGC and Gaming Associates (the auditors) during the past few months. Unfortunately, they haven’t been at all transparent with their customers during that same time period. And while this statement does provide some clarity, it also continues to conceal a great deal of information that customers should be demanding (e.g., how much money was involved; what games/stakes were affected; etc.).

Still a little baffled at the timing of the statement, too, although I think I might understand why today was the day designated for its release. I am realizing as I type this that I myself would much rather be thinking and writing about what’s going to happen at the Rio starting tomorrow. I imagine you’d rather be reading about those goings-on, too.

Perhaps that was part of the plan -- to reckon on poker people not wanting to be bothered at this moment with such unpleasantness, and thus continue (essentially) to ignore the fact that such extensive cheating occurred on UltimateBet without its owners’ knowledge for such an extended period of time.

We’ll put this one to bed (for now). See you in the morning for the fun stuff.

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