Prahlad Friedman’s feelings for UB, the online poker room on which he was cheated out of millions of dollars years ago, have apparently come full circle. It was announced yesterday that Friedman has signed as UB’s newest team pro. This news comes just a week after long-time UB sponsors Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke each announced they were parting ways with the controversial online poker room.
Friedman was one of the first people to gain fame as a result of successes in high stakes online poker. Playing as “Spirit Rock” or “Mahatma”, Friedman dominated the $25/$50 no-limit games on Ultimate Bet for much of the early part of the last decade. He has since taken a backseat to the likes of Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Phil “OMGCLAYAIKEN” Galfond, and others, but still remains considered one of the best high stakes no-limit players around. Friedman won a WSOP bracelet in 2003 and reportedly considered using his winnings to air a Super Bowl commercial expressing his opposing views towards the war in Iraq and President Bush’s policies in general. No such commercial aired.
From 2005-2007, Friedman was cheated out of millions in a scandal at UB that affected many players in the site’s high stakes games. In light of that, Friedman has drawn a considerable amount of criticism this week for his decision to serve as a sponsor for the very poker room that failed to protect him from being cheated out of millions. Poker pro Daniel Negreanu took to the Twitter airwaves and gave his input, “UB will always have to offer more than face value [for a sponsorship] because given a choice that’s close, no one would choose UB. Or shouldn’t… UB has to offer more money obv. He used to say it wasn’t about the money. I don’t believe that anymore… He used to speak out against all corporations, claiming he stood for something. Then, the money was right and his tune changed… I get it happens. I’m disappointed it did happen. I’ve always liked Prahlad and still do despite his decision. Just shocking.”
Friedman has seemingly been a magnet for controversy in his poker career. In 2006, he was involved in a heated dispute with Jeffrey Lisandro regarding an ante.
Last year, Friedman was involved in an incident in the WSOP Main Event that immediately gained infamy in the poker world. While facing a decision whether or not to call all-in after the river and having had the clock called on him, Friedman waited until the floorman counted down to “one” before announcing “call”. In an instant, Friedman’s opponent exposed his hand while the floorman, having not heard Friedman’s action, declared Friedman’s hand dead thinking the clock had expired. Friedman, seeing that his opponent held a superior hand and realizing that the floorman did not hear him say “call,” quickly tossed his cards into the muck. Friedman ultimately retained his chips and remained in the tournament. The incident kept the poker world in a chatter for days.
For years, Friedman has been on the butt-end of several jokes thanks to his affinity for rapping. He made a rap titled “Poker is Fun for Everyone” which aired on ESPN. The stunt served as Friedman’s way of indicated that he clearly isn’t bothered by what people think of his love for hip-hop.
Sell-out or not, Friedman’s signing with UB marks the end of a long-standing holdout. He has received numerous sponsorship offers over the years but had turned all of them down until now.