Poker pro Annie Duke has released a statement, distancing herself from the infamous UltimateBet cheating scandal which saw the company steal more than $50 million from its customers.
The so-called “super-user” scandal was revealed more than five years ago, however, earlier in the month, an employee of the online poker site released secret tapes of UltimateBet founder Russ Hamilton which implicate the 2004 WSOP tournament winner, Duke.
Travis Makar, Hamilton’s former assistant, made public the three-hour audio tape of a 2008 meeting during which Hamilton admits the company’s employees used a tool to view poker players’ hole cards during games in order to cheat them out of millions.
The tapes also feature UltimateBet founder and CEO Greg Pierson, and attorneys Daniel Friedberg and Sanford Millar. The men discuss some of the victims of the scam, including high-profile pros Mike Matusow, Prahlad Friedman, Robert Williamson III, as well as actor and poker fan Ben Affleck.
During the discussions Hamilton mentions Phil Hellmuth and Duke, former endorsers and sponsored players for UltimateBet. Hamilton and his cohorts discuss keeping Hellmuth in the dark about the God Mode tool, but he mentions that Duke was aware of it and even used the software herself on a time delay.
However, in a statement posted on her Facebook page, Duke denies all knowledge of such a tool. Duke said:
“Listening to the leaked audio that describes an elaborate attempt by some of UltimateBet.com’s founders, including Russ Hamilton and Greg Pierson, to cover up cheating reminds me once again how much I regret having been associated with the people that were involved in this conspiracy. The release of this audio has spurred accusations and I want to make it clear that I have never used a tool on a delay or otherwise that gave me or anyone else access to hole cards for use during real money play nor was I aware that such a tool existed until the scandal broke.”
Her statement goes on to say that she regrets how long it took for those who were cheated to receive their money back and that she never would have been involved with the company had she known what was going on.
“The data dump from Travis Makar and others also make it completely clear who the perpetrators of the UltimateBet.com cheating were, and that I was not involved in their scheme in any way,” she adds. “At one point Russ Hamilton mischaracterizes my legitimate role as a commentator as he tries to concoct a cover story for his scheme. I can only assume that he is referring to the several times that I commentated on tournaments in which a delayed broadcast was provided to the public, as this was the only delay that I was ever aware of.”
Duke said that she only provided commentary as the poker matches were played live and broadcast on a delay so as “to avoid affecting play”.
“The screen that I saw was captured and streamed onto the internet along with my commentary so anyone who tuned into the broadcast saw exactly the same screen that I saw. The broadcast delay was designed to protect the integrity of the game by making sure that the hands my co-commentators and I were commenting on would be finished BEFORE our commentary was broadcast on the internet.”
Her statement also includes paragraphs from co-commentator John Vorhaus and UltimateBet’s former Pro Relations Manager Joanne Priam. Vorhaus says:
“I worked alongside Annie Duke doing play-by-play and color commentary on UltimateBetonline poker tournaments during the mid-2000s. The use of a delay function during those broadcasts was for the express purpose of ensuring that our commentary didn’t inadvertently give information to the tournament players and had no connection whatsoever with the so-called ‘super-user scandal’.”
“Annie agreed to participate as a commentator only if we could ensure that there was enough of a small delay in the broadcast so that we could avoid any live commentating affecting players’ behavior in the event they were listening. After it was confirmed the delay was feasible she agreed to commentate. It is my understanding that during the tournament, Annie was isolated in a recording studio with only a screen in which to report on and that she did not have access to a computer in which to log on to UB, view hole cards or interact in any way with players.”
UltimateBet closed shortly after the scandal.