13 Time World Series of Poker Champion and a former ambassador for Ultimate Bet Poker Phil Hellmuth released a statement via his agent, Poker Royalty president Brian Balsbaugh, in which he states his regret over his long term relationship and involvement with the UltimateBet poker and its former administration.
Phil Hellmuth was an early investor and he owned a small part of the company. He also acted as the ambassador and the face of UB in media for more than 10 years.
The statement, which is released via his agent Brian Balsbaugh, was first published on the 2+2 forums by the independent poker journalist Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers. The statement caused mixed emotions among 2+2 members. While most users supported Hellmuth´s statement, some asked, “But why now?” and questioned the timing of it.
Timing of the statement is quite interesting indeed. Tapes were released only a couple of days ago which reveal that UB founder Greg Pierson, Russ Hamilton, Daniel Friedberg and Sanford Miller not only participated in the cheating, but actively tried to minimize payments back to victims of the theft. Hellmuth´s statement right after the tapes seem to be part of a damage control attempt on his behalf.
“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.” Hellmuth says in the first paragraph of his statement.
That´s definitely a sharp turn on Hellmuth´s stance regarding UB officials whom he considered family and best friends only 5 years ago. “Then it was time to go into the Hall, and I was thrilled to have in attendance: my wife, my sister Molly, my dad (my mom had to leave), Iovation CEO Greg Pierson, UBT (Ultimate Blackjack Tour) CEO Russ Hamilton, Carl and Court Wescott, and my most trusted advisor Dan Friedberg (and his wife Reina). The above represent my best friends, and some of my family.” He was heard saying during a speech when he entered Poker Hall of Fame.
When it comes to the question why he stayed with Ultimate Bet after the cheating scandal, he says he did it hoping that he would help those who were cheated get paid back. “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.”
However the above paragraph especially drew skepticism among poker community. The fact is after learning about the cheating scandal, Hellmuth continued to work for the company and continued to be paid of stolen money. He tried to assure players that everything was ok and he encouraged people to deposit on Ultimate bet; because of that, lots of those people eventually had their money stolen. And for his work, he didn´t only receive his regular paycheck but he also continued to receive investment payouts from his UB ownership into 2012.
To clear those very legitimate doubts about his statement, Hellmuth is offered an exclusive interview by Scott (ElevenGrover) Bell, who is currently producing a documentary of the UB scandal. “You should answer these and other questions on film. I will reiterate my offer to give you semi-final cut on the edit. I offered Brian Balsbaugh something I offered nobody else. Phil could review the questions before an interview and have input on the cut we make of the interview.” Said Bell on two separate 2+2 forum posts about the subject.
Don’t bet on that interview happening though. Claiming ignorance and honesty behind a lawyered-up public relations release is a lot easier than actually answering questions.