The UltimateBet scandal was first brought to light by posting members of a popular internet poker forum in early January 2008. UltimateBet did not acknowledge that any wrongdoing occurred until March 6th, when the site’s management released a statement about an ongoing investigation. Since then, there has been nothing but an eerie silence from UltimateBet and its owner Tokwiro Enterprises.
A number of players and interested parties noticed that a player with the online moniker “NioNio” had been winning at an abnormal and suspicious rate. Accusations and inquiries spread about the possibility of a superuser account similar to that found in the Absolute Poker scandal.
The UltimateBet statement dated March 6th read, in part:
“On January 12, 2008, UltimateBet was alerted to allegations that a player with the online handle “NioNio” exhibited abnormally high winning statistics and was accused of having an unfair advantage during play… We immediately launched an extensive inquiry involving an independent third-party expert to review hundreds of thousands of hand histories, all of which were promptly locked down and made available to this expert…
“UltimateBet is determined to complete a full and thorough investigation. We pride ourselves on providing a safe, secure playing environment for our customers. The investigation has proven to be extremely complex and, therefore, has been more extensive and taken much longer than initially expected. We continue to aggressively pursue the matter and will communicate the findings of our full investigation to our regulatory authority and to our customer base as soon as possible.”
Several pieces of the puzzle seemed oddly coincidental. First, the date that UltimateBet claims to have been alerted to the suspicious activity was exactly one day after the Absolute Poker scandal was officially resolved with a decision from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Second, not only does the Kahnawake Gaming Commission hold licenses for both companies, but both are also owned by Tokwiro Enterprises whose principal owner is former Mohawk Grand Chief Joe Norton.
The poker community settled down for some time after the UltimateBet statement in March, opting to give the site and its management a fair chance at resolving the issue. Midway through May, that patience has been exhausted, and the issue is again at the forefront of forum discussions and blogs. Enough time has passed, and poker players want answers.
On May 2, there was a post on PocketFives by Nat Arem, one of the players now famous for being one of the leading rogue investigators of the Absolute Poker scandal. His post regarding UltimateBet, in part, read:
“I’ve spoken with the guy who is, basically, leading the investigation at UB. I guarantee that he is working on it. I am 100% confident that it is a priority in his mind… While I can’t tell you a lot of what he’s told me, I can tell you that UB is not ignoring it internally. In fact, the delay in resolution is not at UB itself. They’ve done a very thorough investigation and they’re committing some very significant resources to make sure that it never happens again at AP or UB.
“If I were you, I probably wouldn’t play at UB or AP right now either… Make no mistake about it – there was blatant cheating on both AP and UB in 2007 and if the players never spoke up, nothing would have ever gotten refunded or fixed… I believe in the current management at AP/UB. I think they want to do the right things. However they’re still cleaning up an enormous mess left by previous management/ownership.”
Arem, apparently the only source with inside information into the current UltimateBet scandal, asserts that there is new management and ownership in place, though the site itself has not made that known or the information available in any way to the public.
In the midst of so much uncertainty about UltimateBet, another suspicious situation reared its head in April. One player on the site hit the Bad Beat Jackpot – twice - in a span of only one and a half months. The first jackpot was awarded on March 25 for $171,498.31 to the player by the online name of “dhc2lovr,” and the second was even more outstanding on May 6 for $448,920.71. While this seemed an unlikely feat in itself, it was the pending and unresolved superuser scandal that made the poker community extremely uneasy about the player who won the Bad Beat Jackpot twice.
With UltimateBet staying so quiet about the ongoing investigation into the previous scandal, it seemed odd but the site did respond quickly (and uncharacteristically) to the Bad Beat Jackpot winner, noting that the player “defied the odds” by hitting it twice. The press release said, “According to a standard security review undertaken by UltimateBet’s fraud department, dhc2lovr has been a frequent player at the online poker site’s Texas Hold’em tables since December 2005 and holds an Ultimate Legend status, one of the top tiers of RAI$E, UltimateBet’s lucrative loyalty program.” The company’s spokesperson added that players who compete at Bad Beat Jackpot eligible tables more often will have more of an opportunity to cash in on the jackpots.
The current management seems to have been able to investigate the Bad Beat Jackpot winner and his/her play at the tables quite quickly and respond thusly. However, the superuser scandal that has been going on since January 12th – as far as we know – is still being investigated.
According to a PocketFives posting by Annie Duke – one of the two players, along with Phil Hellmuth, who works closely with UB on numerous projects – on May 6, UB will be releasing its findings and a statement by the end of May, or at least that is what she is being told. She claims to have been very skeptical of entering into a business deal, the one that currently has her in charge of the tournament schedule and revamping the UB brand, and participated in lengthy and “super frank” discussions with management prior to doing so.
Duke wrote in her post, “I came away satisfied with both the intent of the management team to deal honestly with the allegations, as well as with the integrity of the management team itself. That is coming from someone who was as skeptical as could be… I want to see the results of this investigation and UB’s final report as quickly as possible, and as quickly and badly as all of you do. I know that the management team is eager to make its findings public within the month… Until then, I will continue to promote the UB brand because it is a brand I believe in and love and am deeply emotionally invested in.”
While there is not much doubt that Duke has been extremely diligent in her questioning of UltimateBet before accepting her latest responsibilities, the fact remains that the site’s management continues to delay any official correspondence with the public and its customer base about the investigation. Therefore, waiting for a statement is all the public is left to do, with the exception of applying pressure to the company to do so with as much expediency as it can muster.