Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Patches and Pitch; or, the Disgrace That Is UltimateBet

UltimateBet patchI’m back, safe and sound. Still a bit weary (and, unsurprisingly, a bit under the weather at the moment). But very glad to be back.

Have started trying to catch up on the blogs and forums. My sense is most folks are describing that WSOP Main Event finale as a huge anticlimax. See both F-Train and Dr. Pauly for smart takes on the whole “out with a whimper” feel to the event. Mean Gene’s WSOP coda neatly captures the idea, as well.

Can’t help but notice when assessing “the rumble” how a lot more energy is being directed at the moment toward the UltimateBet scandal and associated stories than toward the WSOP. Which perhaps says something about the relative importance of both to the so-called “poker community.”

When we had that freeroll tourney early last week for PokerNews peoples, one of our field reporters, Tim, showed up with a hilarious white long-sleeved shirt on which were sewn about twenty patches of various online poker sites and other pokery stuff. A number of these guys have worked previous tourneys together, and so some perhaps had seen Tim’s shirt before. But I hadn’t, and so got a good belly laugh out of it.

The shirt was funny for a couple of reasons. For one, although we had dealers and played the freeroll as if it were a regular WSOP event, it was essentially an informal, friendly affair in which the idea of “sponsorships” was amusingly incongruous. Also, I got the sense that Tim’s shirt was part of a tongue-in-cheek effort to intimidate opponents, the kind of thing that perhaps works for real in other contexts, such as on the ESPN feature table during a WSOP event.

The fact is, while these patches most certainly have a tangible value for the players, they carry significant symbolic weight as well. And sometimes the figurative meaning can overwhelm whatever literal significance the patch might have.

I just got the chance this morning to read PokerNews’ statement about Tiffany Michelle’s decision to don UltimateBet patches during the last stages of her amazing Main Event run. In the statement, PokerNews expresses disappointment in the sponsorship deal, suggesting how it in fact conflicted with PokerNews’ own association with Michelle as she was both an employee of PN and a sponsored player.

The upshot? PokerNews says it has been “sabotaged by Tiffany, her agent and UltimateBet,” and as a result appears to be severing its ties both with Tiffany and with UltimateBet.

Can’t really comment on the former, as I have no real insight into the nature of Tiffany’s sponsorship deal with PN. Goes without saying that I personally wasn’t too thrilled when I saw her show up on Day 5 (my last day of live blogging) marked as the latest recruit of the UB “army.” But, whatever -- not my business.

But I am associated with PokerNews, and thus am most certainly pleased about the latter development in which the site for which I write will no longer have UltimateBet among its roster of sponsors.

Have been trying this morning to catch up on all the latest rumblings related to the sordid UB saga -- e.g., these revelations that cheating occurred on UB as early as January 2005, that numerous large scale money transfers were routinely permitted to occur between alleged “super-user”-type accounts, and that UB owner and 1994 WSOP Main Event champ Russ Hamilton along with several co-conspirators have been implicated.

UltimateBet is a disgraceful mess of an online poker site, dragging the reputation of online poker deeper and deeper into its unsavory muck with each passing week. The standing of other UB-paid entities such as Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth has clearly been negatively affected this summer, and the longer anyone persists with their association with UltimateBet, the worse it will be for him or her.

In the first part of Henry IV there is a scene in which Falstaff, play-acting as the king (Henry’s father), ironically warns the young prince about hanging out too much with people like himself. “There is a thing, Harry,” says Falstaff (as the king), “which thou hast often heard of, and it is known to many in our land by the name of pitch. This pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile; so doth the company thou keepest.”

Falstaff is joking around, but Harry knows exactly what he’s talking about. Indeed, eventually Harry will cut the fun-loving drunkard Falstaff loose as someone he can’t politically afford to be associated with once he takes the throne.

UltimateBet has now become a similar sort of “pitch” -- a thick, black, tar-like substance the more one rubs the worse it stains. Eric “Rizen” Lynch and PokerNews have realized this, and thus gotten away. I have, too, in a sense. You might notice a couple of my advertisers (under “Shamus Plugs”) have UB included among their collection of links. One has already agreed to remove the UB link. The other is up for renewal in a couple of months; I’ll see then if they’ll remove the UB link (if not, we’ll no longer be running the ad).

It’ll take a while, I think, but we’ll get the UB stain out eventually.

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Blogger John said...

I've stumbled onto you're blog in the past few weeks and I'm very happy I did. Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts as details of the UB scandal become clear.

7/17/2008 1:40 AM  
Blogger Poker_Guy said...

In reading all three, Tiffany's response and Tony G and PokerNews comments, I have to side with PokerNews and Tony G. Now, having no legal education (thank God), everything points to Tiffany schmoozing Jeff Lisandro in to getting Tony G to sponser her in to the Main Event. Once the deal was worked out, Tiffany was officially sponsored and paid for by Pokernews.

I understand her comments that multiple sponsorships are allowed, but it should have been done with the original sponsor (and cash provider's) consent.

Now, Tiffany is no naive little girl, and seems to have been able to blink those lovely lashes and get exactly what she wanted, and to go as far as she did is a testiment to Tony G's vision that she will become/is a good player worth sponsoring. Then to wander in with a whole new logo and sponsor is crass. One thing I wasn't sure of did she still have any PokerNews logos on her?

Anyway, my feeling is she used her charm to get what she wanted and then when things went well and the sponsors were rushing to her, she jumped. Can't blame her, but as others have said, why UB? She could have been a Poker Stars babe and she chooses UB?

Oh well, I guess looks go further than skin deep sometimes..

7/18/2008 2:53 PM  
Anonymous gtycoon said...


yeah Tiffany still had PokerNews' logo on.

Everyone thought she was going to show up with PokerStars' logo. Many thought it was a done deal. I guess UB just came up with a bigger offer and decided to go with it.

She picked a controversial time to go with UB!

7/18/2008 6:08 PM  

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