Virtual Felt

Virtual Felt

Friday, 21 June 2013

Snoopy on UltimateBet, big wins for Isildur1 and Moorman1.

Ultimate Scandal

Five years ago the online community had its gast flabbered when it emerged that former employees of popular cardroom Ultimate Bet had been using illicit software – internally labelled “AuditMonster” – to view opponents’ cards and consequently steal over tens of millions of dollars from unwitting customers including Brad Booth, Prahlad Friedman and Mike Matusow.

Although UB ultimately (ahem) refunded $22.1 million, a rumoured shortfall remained and major shareholder and former WSOP Champion Russ Hamilton, who the Kahnawake Gaming Commission identified as the main perpetrator and beneficiary, walked away relatively scot free.

Given the timeframe, it was thus something of a surprise when yet more evidence of horseplay was unveiled in 2013 via tapes recorded by Hamilton and released to the public by his assistant Travis Makar. In the audio, not only does Hamilton confess to the cheating, but he also brainstorms ways of minimising the damage with founder Greg Pierson and UB lawyers Sanford Millar and Daniel Friedberg, the latter suggesting, “I think, for the public, it just has to be former consultant to the company… took advantage of a server flaw by hacking into the client.”

These latest revelations have also shone the spotlight back on Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke, both of whom were prominent figureheads for the company until their inevitable departure in late 2010. While Hellmuth’s innocence and cries of a “horrible read” appear to be true (Frieberg: “He can be controlled.”), Duke's culpability is still debatable, with the audio suggesting she had access to the software and was directly involved in the scandal.

Duke, meanwhile, swiftly leapt to her own defence via Twitter and Facebook, claiming that while she “had access to the delayed viewing of cards” for commentary purposes, she was unaware of the existence of “AuditMonster” and believes claims to the contrary are merely suggestions for a cover-up story. The fact that her then boyfriend, an inexperienced Joe Reitman, won $266K in a tournament that Duke was commentating on at the time has fuelled suspicion further, while the 50 per cent stake she owned has raised more eyebrows than a Roger Moore filmography.

VF July Duke

This is, of course, speculation, but what can’t be disputed is that both Hellmuth and Duke had vested interests in the company, and continued to defend and represent the brand two years after the scandal had been exposed. While they may be innocent in their direct involvement, you have to question their moral stance and conclude that their recent statements regarding their dismay and regret for what occurred are merely a case of too little too late.

With UB executives evading prosecution, the sentence was instead given to online poker, which suffered irreparable damage, and finally gave substance to those previously mocked cries of “online poker is rigged”.

Thankfully, the top sites and networks (PokerStars, Full Tilt, iPoker and co) are now operating legally and have worked hard to rebuild the reputation of the industry in the eyes of the general public with an increased sense of security and safety to online procedures. At the same time, the poker community is more alert to any breaches, with forums, independent news sites, and computer whizzes quick to uncover any wrongdoing and potentially bring down a site that commits the mistake of participating in any kind of dishonest conduct or foul play.

It’s only recently – and despite the Full Tilt saga – that poker has shown these elements of a recovery, with the emergence of regulated poker in Nevada paving the way for a more reputable future not just in the States, but the poker world as a whole. The political cogs are slow to turn and require constant oiling, but it finally appears that we are making some serious headway.

VF July Hellmuth

Isildur Scoops

The SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker) returned this May for its gazillionth outing with PokerStars serving up the usual feast of poker delights with a mere 132 events and over $75 million in prize money, thus making it the richest online poker series in history. Once again, players were treated to a three-course meal with the tiered low, medium and high buy-ins for each event, and a range of tournaments that would make even the most die-hard of mixed game enthusiasts foam at the mouth with excitement.

The Main Event was a two-day affair that witnessed a familiar moniker top the 580-strong field, Swedish prodigy

Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom turning his $10,300 into $1,096,200 after a near 60-minute heads-up battle with Dutchman Noah Boeken. In third was 'cmontopdeck' of the United Kingdom while Cypriot 'munchenHB' picked up fourth.

The dominant nation was Canada which took away the most bacon – most notably Daniel Negreanu with his first major SCOOP victory – but the Brits gave it plenty of welly too, with four high-buy-in titles courtesy of 'JIZOINT', 'Crazy Elior', 'stevie4444' and 'ana marquez'. Meanwhile, the Godfather of Norwegian Poker, Thor Hansen, collected his first gold medal in the $2,100 Stud event after being tragically diagnosed with cancer last year.

The poker statisticians may argue that poker is on the decline, but PokerStars suggests otherwise with a sea of players from around the globe ambushing the site over the two-week period. And for those eager for dessert, Full Tilt Poker has announced the inaugural
Micro Turbo Online Poker Series (MTOPS), coming your way this June.

Who needs WSOP, eh?

VF July Blom

Round 1

When seeking a break from the world of poker I like nothing more than to replenish my masculinity levels by grabbing a beer, locking the bedroom door and watching sweaty men sitting on each other for three rounds in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). So, imagine my surprise when following an advert for America’s first regulated site, Ultimate Poker, front man
Antonio Esfandiari popped onto my screen for a quick chat with UFC host Mike Goldberg.

Oozing with confidence and the self-satisfaction of a man who won $18.3 million in one tournament, Esfandiari proceeded to promote Ultimate Poker, highlighting its opening-week success and doing his utmost to dangle the poker carrot in front of the Vegas-centric UFC audience.

While Ultimate Poker hardly made the earth shimmer, the early signs have been promising, with 368,500 hands played in the opening week and thousands of players already signed up and ready to go. Traffic on the opening day peaked at 136, with the first hand being won in a $4.55+0.55 SNG by 'chazman'. Meanwhile, the opening $10K GTD Sunday Major reached its cap of 200 (since expanded to 400) with 'd4heals' collecting the $4,173 first prize.

With MMA fighter and poker pro Terrence Chan also on board, it appears as though UP are heading straight for the UFC demography, which may well be an untapped and appropriate market for the relaunch of online poker. However, with limited software, a few early niggles and the pending competition from the likes of, it may be a demographic they’re going to be forced to share.

The Grass Is Always Greener…

This month Black Belt Poker drove Green Belt into the pit stop for refueling and a new set of tyres. The biggest change is that Green Belt now requires just 4,500 Belt Points to acquire and maintain, with players receiving six points for every dollar raked. What's more, not only will Green Belts be eligible for the same fantastic freerolls and promotions as Orange and Purple, but Black Belt Poker is also giving us a whopping 40 per cent off all live tournament packages and vouchers in the Black Belt Poker Store.

In other news, congratulations to 40-year old amateur Nik Stylianou who captured first place at East End Live II at Aspers, Stratford. He took away a $9,000 first prize as well as bragging rights for the rest of the year. A week or two later, we also crowned a new Samurai Champion: Owen 'Ruaction' Robinson, while Timothy 'HammerHorror' O'Mahoney triumphed in the latest Black Belt Poker League.

To get involved in any Black Belt tournaments and learn more about Green Belt offers, visit the site now at

No More Man

When an online cardroom is under fire, the sudden departure of sponsored players is often a sign of worse to come. And so, Lock Poker's woes continued in emphatic style with the loss of a handful of pros, most notably the UK’s Chris Moorman.

A respected online pro with over $10 million in winnings at the cyber felt, Moorman announced his decision via Twitter, confirming: “I have decided not to renew my contract with Lock. I sincerely hope Lock is able to overcome its current problems and for the sake of online poker their situation is resolved.”

While several players have remained on board amid the current flood of controversy, the continued transfer confusion and withdrawal issues suggest that others may soon follow, particularly given recent news that pros and executives alike were enjoying a lavish party in Portugal with the very money that is currently owed to those patiently waiting to receive their spondoolies.

Tags: Viktor Blom, Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth, BlackBeltPoker, Chris Moorman, SCOOP