Monday May 13,2013 : HELLMUTH COMMENTS ON NEW ULTIMATEBET DISCLOSURES (Update)
13-time World Series of Poker bracelet holder expresses regret and claims he was not fully informed of developments
The World Series of Poker's most successful player, international ace Phil Hellmuth, has released a statement on his involvement with UltimateBet in the wake of the fresh disclosures on Youtube tapes of a discussion between key UltimateBet execs and lawyers.
Appearing in widening media ripples from its introduction on the twoplustwo poker forum, the Hellmuth statement expresses regret over his association with the cheating online poker enterprise and those involved. Hellmuth was a shareholder and early investor in the project, but fronted extensively in promoting the operation before its demise in the Black Friday shutdowns.
Hellmuth made the statement voluntarily after listening to the tapes, which it is understood were initially put up on the internet by Travis Makar, a previous associate of Russ Hamilton, who was reportedly the main driver behind UltimateBet and took most of the official blame for the multi-million dollar cheating scandal.
The tapes apparently include comments showing that those allegedly involved in the recorded discussion – Hamilton, Greg Pierson and lawyers Daniel Friedberg and Sanford Millar, plotted to hide the full details of the cheating software from Hellmuth despite his investment in the enterprise and his high profile in promoting it.
In the statement Hellmuth admits that he made a bad judgment call in his relationship with the UltimateBet founders and managers, and expresses his disdain at the plot to keep vital information from him.
Explaining his decision to continue risking his reputation fronting for the poker room as the crisis developed, Hellmuth says he was led to believe that if he abruptly left the business it would impair the company's ability to pay players impacted by the cheating scandal – the biggest in online poker history.
“They lied to me about their activities and I made a big mistake in trusting them for way too long,” the poker ace ruefully comments.
Hellmuth and UltimateBet finally parted a few months before UltimateBet and its sister Absolute Poker were closed down in a 2011 US Department of Justice investigation and indictment now known widely as Black Friday.
Industry observers have been quick to point out that Hellmuth's statement contains some startling omissions. It does not mention his alleged ownership stake in software company and early UltimateBet owner, the now defunct Excapsa, or his alleged financial interest in Iovation, an online anti-fraud company that UltimateBet founder Greg Pierson ran.