The Russ Hamilton saga has been sweeping the online poker world in the last week. Ever since January, Ultimate Bet has come under fire for the actions of one of its founding fathers, leading many to wonder whether he is the man who is directly responsible for cheating in the top-level games that UB offers. Recently, on a major poker radio show, Barry Greenstein, a PokerStars pro and the owner of three World Series of Poker bracelets, defended Hamilton after paying the former UB owner a visit in Las Vegas. Greenstein met with Hamilton along with his son, Joe Sebok, who is also a heralded poker pro.
Greenstein noted that an investigation at UB is ongoing and is expected to take an additional two to three months. At the end of this study, the names of those who scammed players at one of the largest online poker sites in the world will be released. Greenstein noted that one of the names “will not be Russ Hamilton. He feels that he will be exonerated.” Greenstein continued, saying “This is being investigated and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will end up that Hamilton knew who the cheaters were, but I don’t get the feeling that we’ll be saying that Russ Hamilton is one of the cheaters.”
Greenstein’s comments come just after it was revealed that three of the accounts that cheated millions of dollars away from UB players – Sleepless. NoPaddles, and nvtease – were registered to a house located at 1725 Glenview Drive in Las Vegas. Its owner is none other than Hamilton, who founded UltimateBet and sold the company to Tokwiro in 2006. In the same year, he purchased the house in Las Vegas for a mere $300,000. Greenstein noted, “I didn’t get the feeling that he was that knowledgeable about what was going on as we hoped he would be.”
Instead of vehemently denying any wrong-doing, Hamilton was advised by his lawyer not to answer several key questions that could shed light on who was behind the scandal at UltimateBet. For example, a question directed at the identity behind the “Sleepless” account led to Hamilton keeping quiet. Greenstein commented, “It was listed as someone that Russ had to have known because the address was the same [as his house in Las Vegas]. I asked him if he knew who it was. He immediately asked his lawyer if he could talk about it and his lawyer said no.”
Greenstein stated that, in due time, the identities of the guilty parties would be made public. However, “Russ seemed like he knew a couple of the guilty parties, but in the end, I don’t think it was him.” The method that the conspirators used to gain an edge over their competition was exploiting an auditing tool that was the vestige of one of the two original companies that made up Ultimate Bet. When running the particular piece of software, any account could see the hole cards of all other players involved in a hand. There were six user accounts that changed their names multiple times and are currently being investigated. Each account experienced a higher-than-normal return on investment, which was the impetus for user complaints back in January.
Money transfer histories posted on several of the major online poker forums identified an account which was named –fred-. The –fred- account transferred money to Freddie Deeb, Phil Hellmuth, and a number of the accounts which have been tied to the scandal. This led to speculation that Hellmuth and Deeb may be tied to the scandal as well, but Greenstein disagrees, saying that the –fred- account simply served as an intermediary for money transfers: “It was obvious when I saw the –fred- account. This goes on all of the time when someone asks for a money transfer. I do that too. This is a way for people to get money to play online. In the card rooms, we also do that. The –fred- account was an account used to transfer money to players. It was a virtual account. There’s nothing shady going on when people transfer money online.”
Hamilton was invited to appear on the show, but was advised by his legal counsel not to do so.