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Annie Duke Releases Official Statement on UB Tapes

After Travis Makar’s decision to release some five-hours of secretly recorded audio tapes where the principles involved with the cheating and/or cover-up that took place during the Super-User scandal were caught red-handed talking about their indiscretions, several other periphery people that were involved with Ultimate Bet during that time-frame, namely UB pros Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth, have gone into damage control after being mentioned on the tapes – it should be noted that both Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth were not identified as having cheated players or been part of the cover-up.

Shortly after the tapes came to light Phil Hellmuth released a statement via his agent Brian Balsbaugh, and now over a week later Annie Duke has decided to do the same, posting an exceptionally long statement on her Facebook page, along with statements from John Vorhaus (who assisted Duke in commentating for several tournaments at UB) and former UB Pro Relations Manager Joanne Priam.

Unlike Hellmuth, whose name was brought up on the tapes as someone that the truth must be hidden from, Duke’s name was brought up in a way that indicated she knew of the “AuditMonster” program that allowed Russ Hamilton and co. to cheat players. According to Russ, and now corroborated by Duke herself, she did use the program (which was on a 15-minute delay) when she commentated for several Ultimate Bet tournaments. Get special treatment with your poker play if your a Club Titan VIP!

Because of this, and because of other issues in her past such as the Epic Poker League, Duke has come under heavy fire from the poker community, which led to the following statement being released:

Statement from Annie Duke: https://www.facebook.com/notes/annie-duke/statement-from-annie-duke-john-vorhaus-and-joanne-priam/568062933233804

Listening to the leaked audio that describes an elaborate attempt by some of UltimateBet.com’s founders, including Russ Hamilton and Greg Pierson, to cover up cheating reminds me once again how much I regret having been associated with the people that were involved in this conspiracy. The release of this audio has spurred accusations and I want to make it clear that I have never used a tool on a delay or otherwise that gave me or anyone else access to hole cards for use during real money play nor was I aware that such a tool existed until the scandal broke. 

Knowing what I know today, I would have never encouraged anyone to play on the UltimateBet.com site under that management. I’m horrified at the lengths to which these people went to try to cover up their actions, and I am very sorry that I ever agreed to work with them. I remain very upset that people were cheated and that, partly because of the actions of the people on this tape, it took far too long to pay back the $23 million that was owed to the victims, and that hand history information was never fully provided to the public.

However, the audio recordings and the data dump from Travis Makar and others also make it completely clear who the perpetrators of the UltimateBet.com cheating were, and that I was not involved in their scheme in any way. For those who have not taken the time to listen to the full audio, at one point Russ Hamilton mischaracterizes my legitimate role as a commentator as he tries to concoct a cover story for his scheme. I can only assume that he is referring to the several times that I commentated on tournaments in which a delayed broadcast was provided to the public, as this was the only delay that I was ever aware of. 

In the audio Dan Friedberg says, “I think for the public, it just has to be former consultant to the company, ah, took advantage of a server flaw by hacking into the client…” (This can be heard at 47:01 on the audio). Then Russ Hamilton adds, “And what you could also say is that the tool was originally set for a 15 minute delay and he [Makar] hacked it to a, uh, yeah, to a real time…” (47:29 on the audio). Then Russ continues, ‘Annie Duke used it on a 15 minute delay quite a few times.’ (47:41 on the audio). It is clear that they are trying to concoct a story to cover up what they did by suggesting that a third party hacked a legitimate delayed broadcast tool to create a cheating tool. 

The facts are that during commentary, what I saw as the hands were being played wasexactly what every other spectator of the table was able to see. I and other co-commentators were providing commentary as we watched live play, and the broadcast of our comments was delayed as is standard practice to avoid affecting play. The screen that I saw was captured and streamed onto the internet along with my commentary so anyone who tuned into the broadcast saw exactly the same screen that I saw. The broadcast delay was designed to protect the integrity of the game by making sure that the hands my co-commentators and I were commenting on would be finished BEFORE our commentary was broadcast on the Internet. The existence of the delay was made public during the broadcasts. And we were never shown any non-public hole card information, during or after hands. Delayed commentary on tournaments was and still is standard practice for semi-live broadcasts of events, including the World Series of Poker Main Event.  

At a separate point on the tape Dan Friedberg and Russ Hamilton discuss Houston Curtis’ account on UltimateBet.com. (This can be heard beginning at 59:55 on the audio). Dan says ‘we don’t want to come and ever mention that name [h_curtis], obviously’ and Russ adds (at 1:00:11):   ‘you can’t, ‘cause a lot of people know him, that’s his name, Hellmuth knows him, Annie knows him, and they know the name on the screen.’ 

Russ is saying they can’t include Houston’s name on any cheating accounts list provided to the public, because I know Houston. Russ knew that if I heard that cheating had been detected on that account that I would have immediately called Houston to ask him what had happened.  Russ also knew that Houston would have then told me that the only other person who had access to the login for this account was Russ himself and that would have opened Russ up to suspicion.  This highlights the fact that I was unaware of Russ’s involvement in the cheating and that they were actively trying to hide it from me.

These tapes make it clear that the perpetrators went to great lengths to lie, concoct multiple stories and conspire to cover-up their cheating. They tried to minimize their exposure in part by pawning off responsibility to Absolute Poker, the new owners. Absolute Poker did eventually, through an arduous audit process, working closely with the KGC, refund more than $23 million to players who were affected by the cheating. I stand by my decision at the time the scandal broke to try to work with Absolute to help facilitate that process.

Statement from Co-Commentator JohnVorhaus:

I worked alongside Annie Duke doing play-by-play and color commentary on UltimateBetonline poker tournaments during the mid-2000s. The use of a delay function during those broadcasts was for the express purpose of ensuring that our commentary didn’t inadvertently give information to the tournament players and had no connection whatsoever with the so-called ‘super-user scandal.’ Those who attempt to tar Annie with this brush are saying, essentially, ‘Person A used a hammer to build a treehouse, then Person B used a similar hammer to bludgeon a victim; therefore, Person A is guilty.’ The logic of this doesn’t hold up to the merest application of common sense.

Statement from Joanne Priam:

I am the former Pro Relations Manager for UB and was part of the team that helped organize the commentating of online tournaments. Annie agreed to participate as a commentator only if we could ensure that there was enough of a small delay in the broadcast so that we could avoid any live commentating affecting players’ behavior in the event they were listening. After it was confirmed the delay was feasible she agreed to commentate. It is my understanding that during the tournament, Annie was isolated in a recording studio with only a screen in which to report on and that she did not have access to a computer in which to log on to UB, view hole cards or interact in any way with players. I am disgusted by the actions of the criminals that cheated people out of millions of dollars, and wish they could be thrown in jail, but I can assure you that during the few times that Annie Duke was commentating it was impossible for her to do anything more than view a screen and commentate as requested.


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