Monday, December 21, 2009

The Rest of the Story (UB Hand Histories)

Seat open at UBBack in September 2007 -- several months after the UIGEA had become law and PartyPoker and other sites pulled out of the U.S. market -- I thought I’d open up an account over on UltimateBet in order to give myself more options for places to play. Then, about six weeks later, the Absolute Poker insider cheating scandal broke. I had an account on AP as well, and knowing that both companies were run by the same folks, I decided it best to pull my funds from both sites.

About two months later (January 2008), news of an even larger cheating scandal over on UltimateBet first appeared. With subsequent reports we learned of the jawdropping magnitude of the UB scandal. Cheaters with access to opponents’ hole cards played on the site from June 2003 to December 2007, with 32 different people -- including 1994 WSOP Main Event champion Russ Hamilton -- linked to over 100 different accounts apparently having been involved.

Those numbers came from a September 2009 “final decision” by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, an outfit “empowered to regulate and control” online gambling sites by issuing them licenses. That “final decision” reports that Tokwiro Enterprises (who now owns UB) had paid $22,054,351.91 back to players who had been cheated on the site, as well as a $1.5 million fine to the KGC. The site got to keep its license, but is now on a one-year probationary period.

Needless to say, I was glad I got off UltimateBet when I did. I probably would’ve never looked back except for the fact that later in 2008 I heard UB spokesperson Annie Duke (on Poker Road Radio) saying that anyone who had played on the site and who wanted to obtain copies of their hand histories could receive them.

As I say, I only played on UB for about six weeks, and in fact only intermittently. According to my records, I had played only a little over 1,100 hands. And at my low limits, I was fairly certain I had not been up against any of the cheaters in my games. Still I was curious to see my HHs, and so made a request. I received a couple of promises back over the following weeks, but eventually UB support stopped answering my emails and the HHs were never sent.

In September 2009 -- a couple of weeks after the KGC’s final report -- we heard the surprising news that Joe Sebok had signed on with UB as a spokesperson and “media and operations consultant.” Like Duke before him, Sebok was saying things about making hand histories available, and so I once again submitted a request. I received a prompt reply that I would be getting my HHs “ASAP,” but weeks went by and nothing came. I sent another email in late October, and it was returned as undeliverable.

I sent a brief note on Twitter stating what had happened, and Sebok -- whom I’ve met a couple of times while covering the WSOP -- ended up responding to me. He said he’d look into it, and try to ensure I got my hand histories. It took nearly a couple more months, but I finally did get an email back from the “Poker Security Manager” with a ZIP file full of hand histories.

The ZIP file contains 614 text files, some of which include just one hand and others that have multiple hands (dunno why). The histories themselves are a bit difficult to parse -- they are not the clean-looking ones you get from PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker -- but I can make out the action at least. They’ve also sent me a large number of hand histories for hands in which I was just sitting out, meaning of the 854 HHs included, there are only about 700 hands of mine in there.

Since I keep my own records for all of my sessions, I can see that a number of hands I played on UltimateBet are missing, including two entire sessions. In all, it looks like I’ve gotten back hand histories for about two-thirds of the hands I actually played on UB.

To be honest, I’m not that interested in taking it any further and trying to get the missing hands sent as well. I know this amounts to fairly minute trivia, all things considered, but for the sake of completeness I wanted to report here how my little hand history saga has concluded. Kind of silly to think it took this long (over a year) just to send me these 700 hands (and that there are still 400 or so for which I didn’t receive HHs). But I do appreciate Sebok getting involved and helping me out here.

Still no plans to revive that account, though.

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Anonymous CADmunkey said...

The whole UB debacle really left me bitter. It was the only site that I ever made what can be classed as a significant amount of money on. I've just never been able to bring myself to play there again since. Pretty cool of Sebok to read your blog and sort your HH out, even if you only got 2/3 of 'em. Keep up the good work, yours is the only blog I read nowadays and even though I rarely comment, I usually enjoy every post you make.

12/21/2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Not for nothing, Shamus, but if you know you were not affected by the superusers, aren't you just slowing down the process for those who might have legitimate gripes. And again, not that this is an excuse for UB, but if they can tell you weren't playing in the affected tables/stakes, then might that be why you were given low priority?

These are just questions. I don't have any answers. I just thought they were worth asking.

12/21/2009 3:38 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, Cadmunkeyman. Good to hear from you.

Those are worthwhile questions, for sure, Jordan. It actually wasn't until the most recent round of requests that I learned for certain I was unaffected -- although I suspected I wasn't all along.

Indeed, I told Joe S. I understood and had no problems with being put in the back of the line with my request. But to his credit he said he felt as though it shouldn't matter -- anyone wanting HHs should get 'em. (If you've ever requested such from PS or FTP, you know how much, much more efficient they are handling those.)

12/21/2009 4:01 PM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

That's fair enough. Anyone who requests hand histories should be able to get them, no matter what the situation. I just wonder if in this case, UB is inundated with requests, which naturally slows down the process. Yet, because of the situation (which they created), they are looked at with extra scrutiny when a natural backlog occurs. In the end, though, it all goes back to their error in allowing the super users, so I have no pity for UB.

12/21/2009 4:35 PM  
Blogger bellatrix78 said...

It's absolutely amazing what incompetence there is. How difficult is it to run a database. You ask Pokerstars to send you HHs, regardless of your stakes and your number of hands, you get them back, often withing 24 hours, but definitely within a week.

Either the site has total disregard to small stake players or low volume players in which case, eff them, goodbye. Or the site is run by incompetent people and they still haven't cleaned up their act. The fact that you know one of the spokespeople of UB should not speed up the process. Their silence on your e-mail requests tells me that nothing would've happened had Sebok not told you "he'd look into it".

It leaves you with such a sour taste in your mouth. Even if it weren't for the cheating scandal, I would not trust my money into the hands of people that don't even have their database in order. It almost seems as if you'd getter better info from PTR than them! *hrpmf*

Fortunately I never played on UB and only played on AP way way back in 2005 clearing some bonuses. But they still can't convince me to ever come back no matter how many shills they put patches on. Please, if you are going the third party route (away from PS or FTP), please, please, please go with Cake network (including Doyle's room).

12/21/2009 5:00 PM  
Blogger Sean G said...

Great to hear the rest of the story. I'm happy to see some action but disappointed it wasn't as thorough as you'd like.

As savvy as Sebok seems to be with new media, you'd think he'd understand the importance of taking care of a prominent blogger. I believe Sebok's sincerity, but this suggests UB doesn't appreciate the value of his role.

12/22/2009 2:14 AM  

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