Friday’s news comes nearly a year after we last heard from the KGC, and about 20 months after a few online players first began publicizing their suspicions that cheating might be happening on the site.
Turns out at least 31 different people -- in addition to 1994 WSOP Main Event champion and UltimateBet “consultant” Russ Hamilton -- were involved in the cheating at UB. And those guys had over 100 separate accounts with which to have their fun (click on list to enlarge). Over $22 million has now been refunded to affected players, and the KGC has further fined UB $1.5 million. The KGC says it believes “criminal behavior” has taken place, and so is providing information to law enforcement authorities, although whether any sort of prosecution will follow remains to be seen.
According to Friday’s report, this applesauce went on at UltimateBet for a period of four-and-a-half years -- from June 2003 to December 2007. If you’ve been paying attention, the UB cheating era keeps getting lengthier (and involves more cheaters) with each report. Back in May 2008, Tokwiro Enterprises, the company that owns UltimateBet (and Absolute Poker), reported that the “fraudulent activity” on UB first began in March 2006. The last time we heard from the KGC back in September 2008, we were told that “multiple cheating incidents” started to occur on UltimateBet in May 2004.
Since this is the “final decision,” I imagine the UB cheating era won’t be extending back any further. Couldn’t go back too much further, I guess -- UB only went online in 2001.
I’m glad the KGC has at last made its “final decision” public. I’m glad efforts are being made to try to make the criminals pay for their deeds, although am skeptical those efforts will get very far. I’m glad that the KGC has audited and approves of the operation of Tokwiro Enterprises, and has also audited and approves of the Cereus Poker Network system on which both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet presently run.
Of course, it took a bunch of players noticing a player named “NioNio” was enjoying a statistically improbable run of good fortune on UB -- not the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, despite its being “empowered to regulate and control” the sites to which it issues licenses -- for the cheating by 30-plus other individuals on the site to be discovered. And, it appears, eventually stopped.
Not so glad about that.
Tokwiro took over ownership of UB in October 2006, and Friday’s report further details how the new owners became aware of the cheating, reported it to the KGC, and aided KGC with the investigation. The new report confirms the previous statement made by Paul Leggett, CEO of Tokwiro, that “this cheating occurred on our site through illicit software placed on the UB servers prior to our purchasing UltimateBet” and “that Tokwiro and its entire management team had no knowledge of the illicit software until it was revealed by our investigation; and no one associated with Tokwiro was involved in the cheating scheme at any point.”
Fine. The new owners are clean, although they were in charge for over a year before recognizing that a gang of folks using over 100 different usernames were cheating the site. And again, such recognition only arriving after some players started to notice and complain.
When that happened -- in January 2008 -- we had just heard from the KGC regarding the Absolute Poker cheating scandal that took place in 2007. There it was concluded that cheating had occurred at AP for a period of about six weeks during the late summer of 2007. Multiple user accounts were identified as having been involved in the cheating, “with players using software that enabled the viewing of the ‘hole cards’ of each of the other players.” Not exactly what happened at UB, apparently, according to the “Anatomy of the Cheating” section of the new report, but practically speaking very similar. The suckers playing with these cheaters were playing with their cards face up.
Absolute Poker was fined $500,000 and placed on a two-year probation by the KGC, a probation which involved the KGC conducting random audits of AP. By then, I had already abandoned Absolute Poker as a place to play, having pulled my money off the site in October 2007. I had an account over at UltimateBet at the time as well, and realizing that the same company ran both sites, I soon removed my funds from UB, too, in November (though not without some headache) -- that is, even before the NioNio thing came to light and (eventually) we all began to realize the UB scandal was much, much bigger in scope than what had happened at Absolute Poker.
So I was no longer playing on UltimateBet when the site acknowledged in March 2008 that a cheating “scheme” had been detected on the site via an “interim statement” sent to various poker industry folks. Nor was I a couple of months later when players began uncovering a number of other usernames that appeared to be involved in the cheating. Nor in September 2008 when the KGC issued its “initial findings” on the UB matter.
Nor in November 2008 when that “60 Minutes” story about the scandals appeared along with accompanying features in The Washington Post. Nor in December 2008 when UltimateBet spokesperson Phil Hellmuth was shipped a pot despite holding the worst hand, about which he said afterward (on the 12/28/09 episode of The Ultimate Poker Show) “this has happened 100 times.”
Like I say, I made my decision long ago. Am a bit incredulous, I guess, that an online poker site can manage to abuse its customers so badly for so long -- not to mention negatively affect the reputation of the industry as a whole -- and still be endorsed. And attract players.
But that’s none of my business.