Duke Denies Knowledge or Use of UltimateBet Cheating Tool
As expected, former UltimateBet sponsored pro and spokesperson Annie Duke has issued a statement in response to suggestions on audio recordings made by Russ Hamilton that Duke had access to versions of the so-called “AuditMonster” program enabling users to view players’ hole cards. In her statement, Duke denies ever having had access to such a program, adding further that she had no knowledge that there was such a tool until after the scandal broke in early 2008.
The recordings were made public by Hamilton’s former assistant, Travis Makar, on May 10, and feature Hamilton, UltimateBet founder and iovation CEO Greg Pierson, and attorneys Daniel Friedberg and Sanford “Sandy” Millar openly discussing the method of cheating and formulating strategies for both covering up the scandal and minimizing the amount needed to refund to affected players.
The first three-hour recording was made early in 2008 following the initial findings by Two Plus Two posters regarding cheating suspicions and before Ultimate Bet issued an initial “interim statement” regarding the matter on March 7. The second two-hour recording was made in July, with references to Barry Greenstein’s Poker Road radio appearance (on 7/16/08) and the ongoing British Open (played 7/17-7/20) helping show that meeting likely took place on July 20.
On both recordings, Hamilton makes statements suggesting Duke had access to a version of the “AuditMonster” program he used to see opponents’ hole cards in real time and cheat them.
On the first recording, Hamilton states “Annie Duke used it on a 15-minute delay. Quite a few times.” No further explanation for the context of such use is offered, nor do others on the recording comment.
The second recording was made months later — that is, after the scandal had broken, after UltimateBet had issued an “interim statement” (March 2008) acknowledging the cheating, after an allegedly “third party” investigation inaccurately determined cheating only to have occurred from 2006-07 (May 2008), and after repayment plans to refund certain players had begun to be formulated (May 2008).
The second recording was also made after Duke herself had appeared in a video interview with John Caldwell of PokerNews (dated 6/26/08) to state multiple times that the matter had been “handled very gracefully… and with integrity” by UltimateBet “and they stepped up to the plate in a way much more than they really had to by any letter of the law.”
At that second meeting Hamilton again references Duke’s possession and use of the Auditmonster program, noting that she “even had a copy of it with a five-minute delay.” Friedberg responds to that statement by saying “right,” although his response sounds more likely to be simply a verbalized nodding in response to Hamilton and not a confirmation.
As noted here a week ago in a discussion of Hamilton’s comments regarding Duke, all of his statements must be considered with the knowledge that he alone was aware of the recording, with his credibility as an acceptable witness to any claims about Duke (or anyone or anything else) necessarily to be viewed with skepticism.
As reported last week, Duke initially responded to the release of the audio recordings with three short tweets acknowledging that she “had access to the delayed viewing of cards only for a few UB tournament events where [she] was a radio commentator,” attempting to contextualize those incidents within a suggestion that such was “standard practice” for such commentary.
However, Duke’s fuller statement (issued Saturday via her Facebook page) more explicitly distances herself from the Auditmonster program with which Hamilton and others cheated.
“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,” writes Duke. She goes on to clarify that when doing commentary for UB tournaments “what I saw as the hands were being played was exactly what every other spectator of the table was able to see,” with the broadcast of the commentary being shown on a delay.
As noted here last week, Duke’s description of the commentary more closely resembles that which has been done with other events, both live and online, with a delayed broadcast and no special knowledge of players’ hole cards. Both John Vorhaus, who participated as a co-commentator with Duke, and Joanne Priam, former Pro Relations Manager for UB, echo Duke’s description of the shows in statements appended to Duke’s.
While some continue to seize upon an apparent contradiction between Duke’s earlier suggestion that she “had access to the delayed viewing of cards” when commentating and her new statement denying ever having “access to hole cards,” it appears the confusion largely stemmed from the non-specificity of Duke’s initial tweeted response.
Duke only refers to the first reference by Hamilton (from the first recording), speculating that his doing so is part of the larger effort “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.”
Meanwhile, some have found reason to continue to dispute other points made in Duke’s new statement, including her expression of “once again” regretting her association with UB, which like Phil Hellmuth’s “I made a horrible read” statement from a week ago struck most as much different from earlier statements by Duke about the site and those associated with it.
Duke’s repeated references to the paying back of “the $23 million that was owed to the victims” in her statement has inspired critical response as well from those who understand the actual amount of stolen funds to have been much higher. Nor does Duke acknowledge the failure of Cereus to refund player funds following Black Friday, a total estimated by some to total approximately $55 million.
For more on the statements made by both Duke and Hellmuth, see Haley Hintze’s analysis, “The Annie Duke & Phil Hellmuth Statements: Technically True, Intellectually Dishonest.”