Skepticism Raised with

June 3, 2013

The 2008 Russ Hamilton scandal has erupted again, this time ensnaring the new Hamilton, the former poker champion and consultant to, cheated players out of millions of dollars using software that allowed him to peek at the hands of other players. Officials of the Kahnawake-licensed and Costa Rica-based poker site Ultimate Bet said Hamilton had been acting alone, and his reputation ended up ruined. opened for business at the end of April in Nevada and calls itself as “America’s first and only regulated online real money poker site.” This is true only since the Black Friday, when the Department of Justice crashed the few online poker sites that were still operating within the U.S. borders. Unfortunately, hardly two weeks after the poker site’s launch, the five-year-old online poker scandal re-emerged to remind everyone that the industry can be shady even as operators bill themselves as legitimate businesses with no intentions of shutting down abruptly and taking off with players’ money.

Two weeks ago, Travis Makar, a former Ultimate Bet employee, posted secret recordings on an online poker forum that show the scandal was on an even larger scale than originally imagined. These recordings have confirmed Hamilton as the primary actor, with him bluntly saying, “I did take this money and I’m not trying to make it right, so let’s get that out of the way.”

However, the tapes have also shown that there were other officials at Ultimate Bet who knew of the scheme, such as the founder Greg Pierson who is heard talking of ways of containing and covering up the scandal. Pierson currently runs Iovation, an online security company, and as was noted by poker writer John Mehaffey, “The tapes imply that Iovation may have even been founded and floated with money stolen in the cheating scandal by Hamilton and others. Iovation was Ultimate Bet’s software company and provided Hamilton and others with the ability to see player’s hole cards in real time.”

This gets messy for Ultimate Poker because at the time of its launch in April, the poker site was using Iovation’s software to verify the identities of the players. As soon as the Makar tapes went public, though, the site dumped Iovation.

As much as Ultimate Poker claims its games are wholly legitimate, using Iovation, whose co-founder seems complicit to one of the world’s biggest online gambling scandals, is inexcusable, and in the least raises skepticism.


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