Scott Bell talks about forthcoming Ultimate Bet documentary
During the 2012 World Series of Poker, Scott Bell appeared on the QuadJacks.com podcast to discuss a full-length, documentary film he is working on detailing the Ultimate Bet Super-User scandal. The film has a working title of UltimateBeat: Too Much to Lose.
Scott Bell, better known by his poker forum handle “ElevenGrover” has been investigating the Super-User scandals at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet since they first broke (posting his findings on his blog as well as on poker forums), and his investigations have led to a number of eye-opening revelations coming to light over the years. Despite this, there are still plenty of unanswered questions remaining and as far the poker community is concerned, deserved punishments to be meted out.
We recently spoke with Scott to get his thoughts on the upcoming film, and to find out what information he will be exposing… And from his answers it appears the film will not only cover the known parts of the scandal, but will also break new ground with first-time disclosures as well.
PokerNewsBoy.com: You are currently working on a full-length documentary film detailing the Ultimate Bet Super-User scandal, what was the genesis for the idea to turn your investigation into a documentary?
Scott Bell: After reaching what we felt was a conclusion after Black Friday, I closed a blog dedicated to the case. Yet, it continued to gnaw at me that so many folks had misconceptions about the case. Partly due to other media reports, partly due to the length and complexity. Somewhere in the winter it hit me that we needed to make a movie and my background in digital video was uniquely suited to making it happen.
You can get more detail here about the origin of finding funding http://www.doubleheadpictures.com/2012/07/26/project-genesis/
PNB: Are there any other people involved in the project with you poker players may be familiar with?
SB: Brad Booth is a co-producer, see link above. Michael “mookman5” Corriveau is a co-producer.
PNB: From the outset you have been one of the driving forces in the investigation of the Super-User scandals at Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker; what was it that made you decide to spend so much of your time and energy investigating these scandals?
SB: I had built a successful computer company that hit a perfect storm of events between 2003-2005 and my world was turned upside down. I have played poker since childhood (I’m 51) and had played online starting in the 90s with IRC poker, moving to Planet, then Paradise, then Party. In 2004, [I] binked a 2nd in a Party million for $123K and decided to just play cards and see how that might work. It did, for awhile though I didn’t keep pace with the improvement of players and went back to school in 2009. Maybe it was harbored anger about my company failure; maybe there is some frustration with giant corporations on Wall Street getting away with billions using criminal strategies. Whatever it was, I started and haven’t been able to stop. It has been an amazing education of what someone can find out using simple online search strategies.
PNB: There are basically two schools of thought as to how deep, and who was in the know, the Super-User cheating that occurred at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Poker really went, could you layout to our readers the basics of how you feel the cheating occurred and some of the peopled that may have been in the know?
SB: The story rests uneasily on Russ Hamilton and Greg Pierson’s shoulders. It has been presented they and a few unwitting accomplices scammed players for years and that it all started almost accidently. Our view is this was clearly an organized skim operation for very definite purposes that included some 20-30 individuals who assisted, enabled or otherwise failed to prevent the fraud. We will name these and touch on their roles in the film.
PNB: Could you give my readers a sneak-peak at one of the bigger, perhaps unknown, revelations you will be unveiling in the film?
SB: Players left a ton of money on the table after Paul Leggett was able to sell a fairly amateurish cover story. We will walk through all the places where money was likely stolen and not included in paybacks as well as a major strategy showing how the company could show the KGC they paid out, while never letting the money leave the site.
PNB: Why do you think Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker were able to not only survive these scandals, but actually thrive in the aftermath, and where do you think the poker community went wrong when it came to warning players about the inequities of these sites and their track-records?
SB: Prior to discovery, players were the sites’ chief supporters against “rigtards”. The mantra was they had ‘Too Much to Lose’ (the subtitle of our film btw). After discovery, players had nobody to turn to. No regulatory agency, no law enforcement agency, no industry leaders, no unconflicted poker media (this is changing thanks to sites like yours). Worse, UB was run partially by long time poker people with connections that run deep in the community. The economy had not yet melted down and the boom was still on. Many players took it in stride like they do bad beats. This was a huge mistake as we saw they just keep coming back worse as in the case of Annie Duke. The rationale is that each player has to make their own +EV decisions and after a lot of pros leave, the sites became very soft.
PNB: A hypothetical question: If you could put any one individual involved in the UB scandal under sodium pentathol who would it be?
SB: Daniel Cunningham or Carolyn Heick – It’s a tossup but both will be extensively covered in our film. Most have not heard of the first and know very little about the second.
PNB: And finally, what would you like the end-game to be for the perpetrators of these crimes?
SB: I think that many of the original founders, people who appear to have profited handsomely from this situation, need to be held publicly accountable. If you view the crime as a knock-around scam by one longtime Vegas hustler, then James Ryan missing the exploit for his tenure as CEO of Excapsa seems plausible. When you realize tens of millions were stolen and plenty of folks had to have at least some knowledge, we deserve to know why his top Lieutenants, Uri Kozai and Jon Kemp never saw the absurd winrates, the coincident logins, the account changes, etc etc. To give him access to the American market via a Nevada Gaming Commission approval is absurd.
Greg Pierson’s company iovation appears to be held by many of the same individuals who started ieLogic and Excapsa. This company is gearing up for big growth, primarily serving online gambling and some big porn companies with anti-fraud technology. His stated purpose is to sell the firm for several hundred million dollars, yet the company was started with the likely benefit of cheating receipts. That guys like Hamilton might be in line for another huge payday on this is obscene.
Phil Hellmuth is interesting because his role is partially exactly as described and partially much more. Did Phil actively cheat using his screen-name or others? Probably not. His role as celebrity spokesman would have demanded a plausible deniability in case of discovery. But Phil knew Russ for over 20 years, you have to believe he understands the DNA of Hamilton, Matloubi, Weum, all Vegas hustlers who scraped out a living before there was big money in the game. He stood in an elevator at Binions in the early 2000s and pitched his new company to others, one in particular invited to throw $50k at ieLogic. We have another source who says Phil was gifted his original stake for being a promoter and finding investors in Nevada and Wisconsin. So, does that make him guilty? Of course not. But in 2007, two of the folks who showed up at his HoF induction were Greg and Russ, announced as his “best friends”.
If upon discovering the financial destruction these two buddies (one nearly a lifelong friend) wrought on his company, he had said he wouldn’t stand for players being looted and would not rest until people were certain every cent was paid back, he would be golden. Instead, he signed off on the Paul Leggett strategy and looked the other way while the company figured out how to pay back as little as possible. He is a shameless hustler who had his moment staring into the abyss and the result was to allow the players to fall over. That he was willing to cash some apparent shareholder payouts this year (along with all the other founder/owners) is… I don’t have the word and I’m not usually lost for words.
Tags: Absolute Poker, Black Friday, Disclosures, Documentary Film, Full Length, Length Documentary, Misconceptions, New Ground, PNB, Poker Forum, poker players, Project Genesis, Punishments, Revelations, Scandals, Scott Bell, Ultimate Bet, Unanswered Questions, Upcoming Film, World Series of Poker
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