UB Tapes and Lock Poker: Poker's Bottoming-Out Moment
Strive as one might to look at the current poker landscape with a glass-half-full mentality, it is hard not to feel a certain sense of disgust towards a couple of the goings-on in poker right now. The recent leaking of damning audio recordings of former Ultimate Bet insiders coupled with the ongoing payment processing issues of U.S.-facing site Lock Poker foster a sense that poker's public image probably can't go any lower.
online poker 468x60
Last week, audio recordings leaked from the Ultimate Bet superuser scandal painted a very vivid picture of the corruption that took place inside that company. The tapes leave certain UB insiders, such as former World Champion Russ Hamilton, with a total inability to deny or downplay their involvement in a scandal through which "God mode" cheating software was used to fleece the site's high-stakes customers out of millions of dollars.
Hamilton is featured on the tapes discussing with other UB insiders how to limit the company's liability for having cheated their customers out of approximately $17 million through the use of software which revealed opponents' hole cards. The recordings also implicate Greg Pierson and his company Iovation, which prior to these recordings being leaked was charged with providing player verification services to Nevada's newly-launched legal online poker scene, with having creating the God mode software for Hamilton and others to use.
Also mentioned as a culprit in the UB scandal was Annie Duke. In the audio recordings, Hamilton alleged that Duke has a copy of the "God mode" software but only used it on a time delay of five minutes. That Duke knew of the cheating scandal taking place at UB and even used the cheating software herself on a time delay is sufficient enough reason to revoke any final shred of authority that she may cling to in the poker world.
Not only should these individuals be permanently blacklisted from any involvement in the poker world, they should be prosecuted in a U.S. court and jailed for their actions.
Lock Poker Meltdown
Since Black Friday, PokerTips has adamantly advised its American readers not to trust any U.S.-facing online poker rooms with their funds. For anyone who took this advice, the current situation at Lock Poker should provide a sense of validation. The site, which is the second-largest online poker room still accepting deposits from U.S.-based players, has drawn an increasing level of scorn from the poker world due to their payment processing woes. Some U.S. customer have waited up to five months to receive a cashout from the site. Those with money still on Lock Poker have little reason to value their account balance.
Last week, two Lock Poker pros, Chris Moorman and Paul Volpe, became the first in a long-overdue process of sponsored pros disassociating themselves from the brand. Moorman, Volpe and others such as Michael Mizrachi and Matt Stout have collected payment for endorsing the brand long after it was apparent that player monies at the site are not safe. These individuals have no excuse. The only forces which could enable one to conclude Lock Poker is a safe and reputable brand to endorse are greed and stupidity. Each of Lock Poker's pros is guilty of one or both of these things in their decision to mislead their fans and themselves into believing their money at Lock Poker is safe.
Each of Lock Poker's remaining pros owe it to the poker world and themselves to follow in Moorman and Volpe's footsteps by disassociating themselves from the site immediately. They were fools for getting on board in the first place.
Only Up From Here... Right?
It's hard to imagine how poker's image could be tarnished any further from it's current standing. Indeed, at the crucial moment of poker launching its first legal, real-money activity in the U.S., it is revealed that the very individuals behind the creation of the UB cheating software play a pivotal role in cultivating that market. Ultimate Poker, the first legal online cardroom to launch in Nevada, was right in immediately discontinuing the use of services from Greg Pierson's Iovation.
Jon Friedberg sought to reassure those carefully watching Nevada's new online poker scene following this disconcerting start in saying, "As a Nevada online gaming licensee, I can say with certainty that the new regulated environment will eliminate any chance of history repeating. We won't see casino operators, affiliates or players manipulating or stealing from others without liability, & our money will be safe."
The rest of the U.S. is watching online poker get up and dust itself off in Nevada. For the game to enjoy well-regarded, legal status in other parts of the country, Nevada operators must avoid associating with poker's many unreputable characters. A good starting point would be to distance themselves from anyone with current or previous ties to UB or Lock Poker.