Poker Ensemble Discusses UB Developments since Black Friday

Posted by James Guill on May 10, 2011 Posted in Op-Ed, Poker Gossip, Poker Industry News | No Comments »

When the April 15th indictments hit, many in the poker world agreed that PokerStars and Full Tilt would honor their commitments and return player’s bankrolls. However, just as many felt that player could kiss their money on Absolute Poker and UB goodbye. In recent weeks, a combination of information released by Cereus as well as actions taken by the company have players convinced that the end is near for the beleaguered network.

Lately, I have solicited the opinions of pros, media members, and other poker personalities. I have included some of the best in the following ensemble discussion regarding the recent events involving UB/AP. First in the ensemble, we have Gary Wise, renown poker writer for ESPN. Gary also runs his own blog that touches on poker, MMA, Survivor, and life in general.

Next we have Shari Gellar, writer, attorney, and poker player. Shari writes for Poker Player Newspaper and is the co-host of the Keep Flopping Aces internet poker podcast with Lou Krieger. The third person on our ensemble is the keeper of all things poker knowledge, Kevin Mathers, aka Kevmath. He is a famous admin on TwoPlusTwo forums and writes for Bluff Magazine. Finally, we have the infamous AsianSpa. AsianSpa is a notorious truth speaker and commentator on all things poker.

I first asked our ensemble their take on the events since April 15th as they revolve around UB and Absolute Poker.

Shari Gellar: “It was telling that the other two sites went out of their way to put their US customers at ease… AP reaction was slower and less comforting. We soon discovered why as rumors of bankruptcy were followed by word of a raid, seizure or records and computer files and most recently the termination of poker pro contracts.”

Gary Wise: “I think we’ve seen UB’s true colors emerge. Prior to 4-15, there was little forcing UB’s hand. The DOJ’s demands of them were so lofty and the effect of 4-15 so drastic that it’s forced them into desperation mode. We’ve seen the results with the alleged firing of 95% of their staff, the lack of communication with their players, the discarding of their pro ranks. UB’s silence has been designed in part to camouflage their crumbling reality, but they don’t have the resources to maintain the veneer.”

Kevmath: ” As the #3 US site, the indictments appear to have finally put the nail in the coffin for the site. No matter how many people refused to play there because of previous scandals, there were still enough people who paid that made the site viable. That’s no longer the case.”

AsianSpa : ” UB has been the worst of the majors on everything and when they said they would be transparent it was a complete lie once again. UB are some shady fuckers and I felt as pokers known “TruthSpeaker” I had to let it be known… which I took to twitter..”

Next, I asked our ensemble if they thought that Blanca games was being truthful in their releases regarding the raids and not heading to bankruptcy. (Gary took a pass on this question as his focus was on other areas of interest in this matter.)

Kevmath: “Anything Blanca says needs to be taken with very large grains of salt. They’re obviously spinning the details when they call the raids a “visit” when there’s footage of the OIJ breaking down doors.”

Shari Gellar:  “What else are they going to say right now?”

AsianSpa: “Blanca games is a crooked ass thieving bunch of clowns.. they milked & bilked players and now they will run for the hills loot in hand.”

I shifted gears a bit and turned the focus towards the UB pros. UB released their stable of pros on Monday, and some are still reluctant to say anything regarding the matter. I asked our panel why the pros might still be leery of speaking out, even after their contracts were terminated.

AsianSpa: “All the non-speaking UB pros are either embarrassed or ashamed, both fit the bill.. Roothlus is spineless, Hollywood_Dave is just a shill wearing a patch for change & rakeback..  I’ve called them all out on twitter.. ”

Kevmath: “I assume their silence has been “bought” for the timebeing if their money is tied up, along with the other US players. I think people like Hollywood Dave and others will be more vocal in the coming days.”

Shari Gellar:   “I would say their (lack of) comments are not surprising. They either don’t know the true set of facts, or they do and don’t want to be inculpated. I’d assume mostly #1”

Gary Wise: “The reality is that sponsorship is poker’s equivalent of free agency. Professional athletes are often counseled to avoid speaking negatively of former teams because they need to attract future ones. The same goes for business. You didn’t hear Jeffrey Pollack saying anything negative about the WSOP; he knew that prospective business partners were watching and his refusal to trash a former employer was the prudent course. The same principles apply here.”

“I think some may also wonder what they have to gain personally. It’s a fair question, though granted, a somewhat greedy one.”

“Personally, I’d like to see them share their experiences for the good/healing of the poker community. Some, like Adam levy and Devo have shown a willingness to do that. It should be appreciated”

Joe Sebok released a blog on Monday shortly after the UB pro releases had been made public. I asked the panel if they thought Sebok was indeed naive or if he was performing spin control to save his rep?

Kevmath: “His rep was destroyed long ago, and I believe he was naive in regards to certain parts of UB. If he wasn’t making any progress, he should have bailed long ago.”

AsianSpa: ” his blog today was merely “ah shucks I’m fucked.” He posted playing stupid, he tried & tried.. I don’t fall for that BS.. To be honest I bet the big wigs at UB thought, this stupid idiot believes us.”

Shari Gellar: “Yeah, blah blah. Hard to say.  He seems like the kind of guy who would ask questions.  He seems very active and hands on, but I can’t really go beyond that without speculating.”

Gary Wise: I think he’s doing both. Joe built himself up to unrealistic expectations when he signed with UB, and the fall from those heights is a steep one. I don’t see how he ever expected to accomplish all he promised, so yeah, he had to be at least a little naive to make those promises at all. I do think Joe’s being unreasonable by calling his blog post his last statement on UB. He still got the money, and I think he has an obligation to face the firing squad. I’ll be writing about that at

There has been a ton of hatred thrown towards Sebok due to his involvement with I posed the question to the ensemble whether that hatred was warranted.

Gary Wise: “I’m writing a post about this Tuesday at that will go into much greater detail, but I understand the hate towards him and I think his blog will only add to it. He’s didn’t take full responsibility for his actions and didn’t answer the questions that so many still have. His exoneration requires greater accountability and greater transparency.”

Kevmath: ” Seebs has been the fall guy since he signed with UB. Those people gave him a very short leash, and weren’t surprised when he failed. Some of it is over the top, but it’s general frustration over not having access to their money.”

AsianSpa: “He was taking their stipend & trying to lure fellow players into the seedy UB world.. Hey Joe how about giving some of your $$ back..He has lost so much being all up in UB, his girlfriend is gone, his friends, his site is in the shitter and all he has left is his penis photo on the forums. Truly redemption..”

Shari Gellar: “..he went out of his way to vouch for the company after it had come under fire.  I feel like he did, whether he wanted to or not, put his reputation on the line by signing with them. It was a bold, risky move that has now blown up in his face. Whether it’s just a flesh wound, or something more permanent, depends of what kind of paper trail there is.”

“I understand the animosity because when everyone else was calling UB a bunch of cheats, he put his rep on the line to stand up for them. To say, that was the old UB, but we’re cleaning up our act. People relied on him as someone trustworthy. When he associated with them, for many people that was like a triple a rating. We thought by signing with them, he was vouching for them. Now we learn, he hoped and believed everything was on the up and up, but he couldn’t verify that.

I wonder how much money he kept in there and did he get it out.”

The final question posed to the ensemble is the basic question that everyone in the U.S. that still has money on the site is wonder. Will U.S. players get their money back?

Shari Gellar: “I doubt it, certainly nothing approaching 100 cents on the dollar.  If the company goes into bankruptcy,it’s for the court to allocate payments out of whatever assets there are.  And this is assuming funds were properly segregated and indexed…that we can figure out whose money is where.”

Gary Wise: “Probably not. There’s just so much pointing to a company that’s in massive financial and legal trouble and to say their history is “spotty” on an ethical ground would be kind. I just don’t see how players can expect a return at this point. After April 22nd, At my most optimistic, I put the chances at 25-30 %”

Kevmath: ” Will players get money back, yes. Will it be 100%, signs so far indicate that won’t be the case. They’ve done absolutely nothing to assure their players that all of their money is safe.”

AsianSpa: “For players on UB getting their rollz back, I doubt it and wouldn’t give .05 on the dollar for it.. ”

By reading the preceding comments, and other information around the poker world, one would come to the conclusion that UB/AP’s days are numbered. For years now, the site has always been viewed with disdain stemming from the superuser scandal a few years back and “less than transparent” operations from the company.

Personally, I found it very telling when the two major pros of the company bailed ship in December. Phil Hellmuth was viewed as being wildly loyal to his brands, and his jumping ship spoke volumes. Annie Duke has been considered a shrewd businesswoman and some thought she was getting out while the getting was good.

There are a lot of unanswered issues remaining with the companies and as time passes, the less likely it seems that any type of positive resolution will emerge for players.

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