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Hellmuth Makes Statement After UB Tapes Released
The release of five hours of private tapes implicating Russ Hamilton and members of upper management in the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal sent many in the poker world scrambling this weekend, including Phil Hellmuth.
The tapes, which were recorded five years ago and involved Hamilton and members of UB's management/legal team discussing the extent of the cheating and plans to cover it up, were released on Friday night by Travis Makar, Hamilton's former computer specialist.
In the recorded meeting Hamilton admits to using super user accounts to steal money from players and says he both had no plans to repay the money and that much of it was distributed back into other player accounts and to the company's marketing efforts.
Members of the UB management team, including Greg Pierson, were present and recorded saying they hoped to minimize the damage to the company's reputation and limit the company's repayment to $5 million. Over $20 million was eventually refunded to cheated players.
Duke, Hellmuth Named in Tapes
Also mentioned in the tapes were the two most prominent faces of Ultimate Bet -- sponsored pros Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth.
Hamilton referred to Duke knowing and using "God mode" to see other players' hole cards but only on a 15-minute delay.
Duke responded to the accusation on Twitter by saying she did use it to commentate on UB tournaments, which is standard practice.
I had access to the delayed viewing of cards only for a few UB tournament events where i was a radio commentator.— Annie Duke (@AnnieDuke) May 12, 2013
This delayed viewing was made this public during those broadcasts and is standard practice for WSOP commentators for live events also.— Annie Duke (@AnnieDuke) May 12, 2013
Hellmuth wasn't implicated in the meeting as knowing anything about the cheating and in fact was discussed as a threat to keeping it under wraps if he found out. A strategy was also discussed to keep Hellmuth in the dark.
In response to the tapes, Hellmuth released a statement today via his agent Brian Balsbaugh, who sent it to noted poker social media guru Kevmath. An excerpt:
"I've made a living off of reading people at the poker table and in the business world. Trusting my gut has allowed me to be at the top of my profession and develop a lifetime of friends and great experiences.
"Unfortunately, I made a horrible read regarding my relationship with the founders of the now defunct online poker site Ultimate Bet.
"I trusted their team and believed in their ability to run a first class website and business. Most importantly, I allowed them to convince me that they were honest and forthright. I've never been more wrong about anything in my life.
"When I became aware of the cheating scandal, I immediately insisted that everyone be paid back and whoever was responsible be banished from the company. At the time, I was led to believe that if I left UB right away the business would be impacted and then less likely to pay it's obligations to the victims.
"As such, I made the decision to believe the leaders of UB and stayed on in the hopes that they would make right to anyone cheated."