Joe Sebok spills the beans on the real story behind

Can UltimateBet ever escape its superuser scandal? Michael Kaplan talks to Joe Sebok – the site’s latest signing – about why he is trying to restore UB’s reputation

UltimateBet is a tough sell – NO question about that. In a world where there are more than enough sites to keep all of us in action, why would anybody play there? Considering it served as ground zero for online poker’s biggest ever cheating scandal – where scam artists capitalised on cracks in the software to view opponents’ hole cards and swindle them out of millions – it’s a wonder anybody ever antes up at UB.

Surprisingly, though, on September 29 at 2.10 am, London time, the site boasted 28,667 players logged in. The number, of course, is nothing compared to Full Tilt or PokerStars, but still… And for all its troubles, UltimateBet has no shortage of sponsored players, including Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth, 2008 WSOP sensation Tiffany ‘Hot Chips’ Michelle, and now Joe Sebok, who’s been given the vague sounding title of ‘media and operations consultant’.

Well-regarded Sebok – stepson of Barry Greenstein, winner of more than $1.7m in tournaments since 2006, and president of the respected – comes to the tainted site with a perspective UB’s other pros cannot possibly share. Annie Duke has told me that she considered leaving due to the cheating fiasco (apparently, COO Paul Leggett convinced her to stay on), Hellmuth has seemingly ignored the controversy altogether, and Michelle joined UB while its troubles were in full flare. Sebok, on the other hand, watched it go down as an outsider but also as an influential voice in the poker community. In fact, he and Greenstein (PokerRoad’s co-founder) conducted the only post-scandal interview with poker pro Russ Hamilton, who had been accused of masterminding the cheating.

Road To Redemption

Sebok maintains he’s coming on board to help restore UltimateBet’s reputation and to make scammed players whole again. Part of that will entail the releasing of names associated with cheating accounts. Thus far, beyond Hamilton, nobody has been singled out in what was clearly a multi-person spree of deception.

As you might expect, Sebok’s alignment with UltimateBet has been greeted with a fair bit of scepticism. Online there are rumblings that he signed up purely for the money. Even stepdad Greenstein seems unsure about it all. ‘[Joe] intends to show that he didn’t sell out, but is instead doing something beneficial for the poker community,’ Greenstein commented at ‘I don’t feel good about it, but I will sit back and see if he can do it.’

Though Greenstein has refused to run UltimateBet ads on PokerRoad, Sebok now seems upbeat about the site. ‘I believe the current leadership at UB is ready to make amends and understands that they have made a lot of mistakes,’ he explains to me. ‘It’s not very often that an individual has a shot to do some good in this life and I liked that.’

To its credit, UB has released the hand histories and on-site usernames associated with the cheating accounts. Sebok describes himself as providing the spark for this move. However, he acknowledges that a more ambitious goal of his – exposing the actual names associated with each cheating account – will be tougher to achieve. ‘Several names on that list will doubtless turn out to be innocent,’ believes Sebok. ‘Once those names are out, it opens up UB to possibly be sued by the innocent, to say nothing of the damage it will cause to those individuals’ lives. And even if we were to release all the names, the community would then clamour for a legal prosecution, and we have no way of making that happen.’


Sebok seems to have his heart in the right place, but he’s failing to impress at least one high stakes pro who contributed heavily to the original player-led investigation of UltimateBet. ‘It’s a tremendous scandal and there has been no blowback; Phil Hellmuth still walks around, promoting UB as if nothing happened,’ says the player. ‘UltimateBet compensated us for money lost, but they received those funds in a settlement with the previous owners. We were paid no interest and nothing extra for all that we went through. Freerolls in $200 buy-in tournaments and rakeback for a period of time would begin to show goodwill.’

This player, who’s avoided UltimateBet since the scandal broke, clearly feels the site needs to do a lot more to make amends. ‘They think they can pay us back what we were cheated and we will feel fully compensated? It almost seems as if UltimateBet doesn’t realise how badit was.’

PokerPlayer magazine brings you behind the scenes articles just like this every month

Pin It

Comments are closed.