Eight Players Have Sued Old Poker Site Ultimate Bet

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UB.comThis bit of poker news has the poker world simply saying that it’s “about time”.  After Black Friday hit and some of the largest online poker sites found themselves either not allowing online poker players from the United States, or not having enough players to be able to continue to run games; a large number of those players were searching for ways to get their money back.  This was the the story for players on the old site Ultimate Bet, and it seems that as we approach 9 months after the fact, that the players on UB are now fed up.  This is also paired with a pretty big cheating scandal that occurred back in 2008, and this is where our story comes in.

This led to eight of the bigger professional poker players who played on the site deciding to file a lawsuit against the controlling company of the ex-poker site.  The company is called Excapsa Software, Inc, and the players will be seeking damages for their role in the cheating scandal that came out back in 2008.  The players who are involved are Brad Booth, Thomas Koral, Daniel Ashman, Dave Lizmi, Greg Laverly, Joseph Sanders, Daniel Smith, and Dustin Woolf.  All of them listed specific amounts that they are filing for in their damage claims, which range between $20k for Smith and Koral, all the way to $500k for Booth and Lizmi.  All other players are in between those two numbers.

The scandal that is being mentioned here related to the the site and their controlling companies inside players using software to see players’ hole cards.  This led to them winning millions of dollars, and before long they were caught.  There are eight different Causes of Action in this suit, ranging from conspiracy and conversion, to things like fraud and negligence as well.  The players above are hopoing to get both “monetary relief” and “equitable relief”

While these players are definitely hoping that the site and their controlling company are punished for what they’ve done, they definitely want to get back the money that they lost from this situation as well.  It had to have taken a good amount of time for these players to put together the numbers that they feel they are owed, so we will see what the outcome of this lawsuit is.

Scandal Arises from Ultimate Bet

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poker hackerEvery poker player out there has heard of the online poker site Ultimate Bet.  The site was surrounded by scandal, and eventually was done in after Black Friday.  While the bulk of the attention went towards Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, Ultimate Bet wasn’t far behind in terms of a scandal.  While Full Tilt and Stars owed their players quite a bit of money, Ultimate Bet owed money as well, but at this point players have essentially given up on any chances of getting that money back.  Once Black Friday had come and gone, players on UB had hoped that this was the end of the bad news.  Unfortunately it hasn’t come to an end just yet, as their was recently a new scandal that has come out of the wood works about the site.

It seems that someone went on to the large poker forum Two Plus Two, and released a large amount of personal data that related to different players’ accounts on Ultimate Bet.  The data was deleted with the post around 8 minutes after all was said and done, but players who clicked the link could get all of the information and store it to their computer within that time frame.  The list of things included that were given as far as personal information were things such as their Ultimate Bet screen name, full name, email address, mailing address, phone number, account balance, IP address, deposit methods used on the site, birth date, account number on Ultimate Bet (not bank accounts or credit cards), VIP status, affiliate status, and blacklist status.

It’s obviously very fortunate that this information did not include any type of bank account or credit/debit card number, and also that there were no social security numbers listed.  If this information was given it could cause some serious issues, and you can bet that the scandal would be quite a bit worse than it is right now.

Ultimate Bet has faltered quite a bit, and is actually pretty fortunate that the scandal around Full Tilt Poker has overshadowed their site.  The total list of accounts and information that were released topped 3.5 million, and over 2 million of those accounts came from the United States.

US Online Poker Players – File Your Claim

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The Poker Players Alliance just posted a guide to what poker players might try, to get their money back from Full-Tilt, Absolute and the other operators who won’t, or can’t, return deposits.  Although I don’t agree with everything the PPA’s say – for example, I think many U.S. courts would throw out claims by players as debts associated with gambling – they raise the important and immediate point:  If you are going to file a claim for part of the millions of dollars seized by the U.S. federal government in bank accounts around the world on April 15th, you only have until July 15, 2011.

The paper is:  “The Legal Rights of Players with Unpaid Account Balances – A PPA Information Guide” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/59876348/PPA-Players-Funds-Legal-Guide.  The PPA even included the claim form.  It’s the last two pages of the paper.

You don’t need a lawyer to file, but you should get one.  The PPA’s lawyers were worried that a player might be hit with fines if the court decides the claims are frivolous.  I’m more concerned that you have to file the claim form under oath, swearing that you have an ownership interest in an account you may not have even known existed.  Perjury is a real crime, with real penalties.  And both I and the PPA attorneys agree that the additional papers you will have to file within 21 day after filing the claim form, should be written by a lawyer.

The reason you might have the right to file a claim is that the Department of Justice decided that at least some of the bank accounts would be seized under what is known as a civil forfeiture.  Criminal cases are limited to the government and the defendants.  Civil cases involving the seizure of the poker operators’ and payment processors’ bank accounts are open to anyone who has a good faith claim on the money.

But there is a tight time limit.  The DoJ published its notice of intent to seize the online poker funds on May 16, 2011.  Claimants have only 60 days to file their verified (meaning under oath) claim with the U.S. District Court Clerk in Manhattan; that means before the end of the day on Friday, July 15, 2011.  You can file electronically.

Extensions are possible, but they would require either getting a court order or an agreement with the prosecutors.  In fact, the PokerStars companies, Absolute and Full-Tilt all were given until September 30, 2011, to file their claims.  But I doubt either the DoJ or federal Judge Leonard B. Sand would agree to give more time to a mere player.

Some claims have already been filed.  The first was by Chad Elie, who claims an ownership or possessory interest in a third of the accounts seized.  Chad is the Las Vegas defendant who married former Playmate Destiny Davis the day after he was arrested in connection with Black Friday.  He is out on $250,000 bail.

Other claims have been filed.  The second was by LST Financial, Inc., which calls itself “a full-service, third-party financial processor and service bureau.”  It is claiming an interest in five bank accounts in Texas and North Carolina seized from Four Oaks Bank and Trust.  MAS, Inc., claims money seized from Hawaii National Bank.  And, Ultra Safe Pay says it is the owner of the funds seized from Umpqua Bank in Roseburg, Oregon.

Should you file a claim?  You probably don’t have much chance of success, unless you have a communication that mentions one of the bank accounts listed in the Complaint.  They are on the pages immediately preceding the claim form in the PPA paper.  You want to find a name or number that matches an email from a payment processor or online poker operator.

Even then, there are some risks.  I don’t think the judge would punish a player if the claim failed.  But the DoJ will now have your name and identifying information.  There is no federal crime against playing poker online.  But you can be sure that if you are claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars that you will have your taxes audited.

Republished with permission © Copyright 2011, I. Nelson Rose, Prof. Rose is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on gambling law, and is a consultant and expert witness for governments and industry.  His latest books, Internet Gaming Law (1st and 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials, are available through his website, www.GamblingAndTheLaw.com.

Absolute Poker has reached an agreement with the US DOJ

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St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (May 10, 2011) — Absolute Poker, including the UB (formerly Ultimate Bet) brand, hereafter “Absolute Poker”, issued the following statement today in relation to civil and criminal matters filed in federal court in Manhattan and made public on April 15, 2011:

Absolute Poker has reached an agreement with the United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”).  Under the agreement, the US Attorney’s Office has agreed to provide all necessary assurances that third parties may work with Absolute Poker to facilitate the return of funds, currently held by third party processors, to players located in the US. This provision is an important step to returning US player funds.

The Company has also notified the SDNY that it has closed its US-facing operations, and it has agreed to the cessation of real money poker play in the US.  As such, Absolute Poker has not requested the return of its worldwide domain names, www.AbsolutePoker.com, www.UltimateBet.com and www.UB.com, and today’s agreement does not provide for their return. The agreement also provides for the appointment of Monitor, approved by the US Attorney’s Office, to assess the Company’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Absolute Poker’s top priority has always been, and remains, the refund of account balances to its U.S. players.  Unfortunately, the Company still faces several legal issues which must be navigated before funds can be paid out to US players. The Company’s US attorneys, Blank Rome LLP, continue to work diligently to resolve these issues, which is a necessary further step to facilitate the return of funds to players.  Player funds, therefore, will not become immediately available for withdrawal as a result of today’s agreement with the DOJ.

A Company spokesperson said: “Today’s signing of the agreement with the DOJ is an important step towards the safe and efficient return of funds to our US players.  We can now move as expeditiously as possible to collect player monies from third party processors as a prelude to establishing proper mechanisms for the return of funds to our US players.  As previously announced, we have already taken specific actions to exit the US market by closing our US-facing operations.  Blank Rome LLP will continue to engage in discussions with the SDNY in order to complete the necessary agreements for the final transfer of frozen fund balances to our US players.  This remains our highest priority.  We will continue to update our players and the poker community, as we move forward to resolve outstanding issues.”

Absolute Poker and UB Drop Poker Pros

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Earlier today Absolute Poker and UB decided to let go of all their sponsored pros. Joe Sebok who was an outspoken front man for the company immediately posted to his blog claiming among other things “The pro’s monies are still tied up on the site as well, so on that level we are all in the same situation as the general poker public.” The poker community at large, especially those on the 2+2 poker forums, have little sympathy for Sebok who used his status with the company and the poker community to make players believe that Absolute Poker and UB were safe places to play. Below is the Press release in it’s entirety.


Absolute Poker and UB Part Ways with Poker Pros to Focus on Non-U.S. Market
St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (May 9, 2011) — Blanca Games Inc. (“Blanca”), operator of online poker rooms Absolute Poker and UB, issued the following statement today:

“Recently, Absolute Poker and UB ceased their U.S.-facing operations due to legal developments in the United States. To ensure the on-going viability of the business, it has been necessary to downsize certain aspects of Absolute Poker’s and UB’s operations.  These efficiency measures have been taken to enable the brands to continue to operate their non-U.S.-facing business.

“These actions are the result of the severe impact of ‘Black Friday’ on the business, and these efficiency measures have negatively affected not only the financial position of the brands, but also their staff and personnel.  Regrettably, the negative effect of ‘Black Friday’ has extended to the Company’s highest profile group of poker professionals, known as ‘Team UB’.  Consequently, Blanca’s executive management team today informed its roster of sponsored pros that, in accordance with the provisions of their agreements, their contracts have been terminated. Each of the ten Team UB pros, plus one player representing Absolute Poker, has received personal notification that their sponsorship arrangement with Blanca’s respective online poker room is now invalid.

“This was a difficult task for Blanca’s management, and we are very disappointed that we have been compelled to sever ties with our sponsored pros.  Over the years, the Company has been successful in gathering a group of young, extraordinarily talented and brand-appropriate poker professionals who have proudly sported its logos.  We are truly saddened that circumstances have dictated this course of action, and we regret that we are no longer in a position to partner with our sponsored pros, or to provide them with a source of income for playing the game that they love. We appreciate their significant time and dedication shared with us, and we thank them for the loyalty and patience they have continued to show us even during the unsettling events of the past few weeks. We respect and admire them for their many accomplishments, both at the poker tables and away from them, and we will always be grateful for their valuable contributions to building the UB and Absolute Poker brands and to creating a rock-solid community at the pair of online poker rooms.”

The full list of affected pros is as follows: Joe Sebok, Prahlad Friedman, Eric “Basebaldy” Baldwin, Maria Ho, Brandon Cantu, Tiffany Michelle, Scott Ian, “Hollywood” Dave Stann, Adam “Roothlus” Levy, Bryan Devonshire and Trishelle Cannatella.

Today’s layoff of all 11 American-based poker pros follows last week’s announcement by Blanca that its workforce had been significantly reduced. Both actions form part of a strategic restructuring of the company that will enable the business to focus its resources on consolidating its non-U.S., rest-of-the-world operation and software business. Absolute Poker and UB continue to operate their non-U.S. facing business around the world.
The company’s legal counsel continues to move forward in ongoing discussion with the U.S. Attorney’s office with the ultimate objective of reaching an agreement with the Department of Justice that would facilitate the return of funds to U.S. players.

Blanca Games Issues Statement on Raids

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UB.comST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA and BARBUDA–(Marketwire – May 7, 2011) – Blanca Games Inc. (“Blanca”), operator of online poker rooms Absolute Poker and UB, issued the following statement today:

Blanca can confirm that Costa Rican officials visited the office of Innovative Data Solutions (“IDS”), the former customer service centre of Absolute Poker and UB in Costa Rica. The Organismo de Investigaciones Judiciales (“OIJ”) took action yesterday to further their investigation of Olman Rimola, the owner of IDS, Scott Tom, who was also recently named in the indictment list issued by the Department of Justice on April 15th, and a third lesser known party, Oldemar Vargas. The reported OIJ ‘raids’ of IDS and various associated private residential addresses were in relation to their search for Rimola, Tom and Vargas, and do not involve Blanca or the operations of Absolute Poker or UB.

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A company spokesperson said: “We want to correct the rumors being reported in poker circles and the wider community that yesterday’s events are related to the recent Department of Justice indictments. Our understanding is that this is not the case, and that they were driven by local investigations of a separate matter in Costa Rica that involves a concerted effort to locate and apprehend Rimola, Tom and Vargas for questioning in relation to a money laundering investigation.”

Blanca has terminated its supplier contract with IDS after discovering that Rimola has misappropriated millions in IDS severance payments. The company is currently exploring all legal options available to recover the lost funds. Furthermore, Blanca is cooperating fully with the local Ministerio de Trabajo (Department of Labor Officials) in Costa Rica in order to coordinate an alternative method to remit all severance payments to IDS employees, thereby bypassing the facilities of IDS and Rimola to ensure that all obligations to former employees are fulfilled.

As stated previously, Absolute Poker and UB continue to operate their non-U.S. facing business around the world. The company is engaged in ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s office regarding an agreement that will facilitate the return of funds to U.S. players.

Raid on Pokerstars Costa Rican Offices a Mistake

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Following up on our earlier story about raids on the offices of Pokerstars, Absolute Poker and UB we have learned from our source in Costa Rica that today’s raid on the Pokerstars office was a mistake. They were apparently led to the wrong offices by a reporter who is know for sensationalistic news coverage.

Dr Pauly also confirms this from his sources on Tao of Poker. According to Pauly the police officers looked around, had some coffee and left with taking anything.

We’ve also learned that the Costa Rican authorities are chasing down 3 owners of Absolute Poker and UB. Olman Rimola, Scott Tom, and Brent Beckley have been hiding from authorities since they were named in a US DOJ indictment on April 15th.

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We’re sure there is much more going on here that we don’t know yet and will keep you posted on everything we learn including a post we came across on 2+2 that claims there was a group of investors that made an offer to take over  Absolute Poker and UB.

Absolute Poker, UB and Pokerstars Offices Raided by Police

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According to our sources in Costa Rica and several web reports from @KevMath and  @TaoPauly we’ve learned that the Costa Rican offices of Pokerstars, Absolute Poker and UB were raided earlier today by the OIJ, which is similar to the FBI in the U.S.. Police also raided several homes that are linked to the owners of Absolute Poker and UB.

Pokerstars VIP Manager Steve posted this on 2+2 a couple of hours ago,  “PokerStars continues to operate the world’s largest poker room, business as usual. It is true that the OIJ is currently at the PokerStars Costa Rican office and has sent employees home temporarily, but employees will be able to return in a few hours. PokerStars expects the office to return to business as usual in short order as this action was most likely taken as a response to problems experienced by other local companies in the same industry.” He’s of course referring to Absolute Poker and UB. Police left the Pokerstars offices shortly after arriving. Pokerstars is based on the Isle of Man and only have a small support staff in Costa Rica

Absolute Poker and UB seem to be the main focus of today’s raids of the OIJ. The Absolute Poker and UB employees went to the “Ministry of Work” fearing they wouldn’t be paid by Absolute Poker/UB COO Paul Leggett. Most of today’s action seems to have been spurned on by this and Costa Rica’s very strict labor laws.

We’ll stay on top of this story and continue to bring you the latest.

Absolute Poker and UB Filing for Bankruptcy

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Earlier today the parent company, Blanca Gaming, of the Cereus Network which owns Absolute Poker and UB sent out and email to their shareholders letting them know that they will most likely be filing for bankruptcy. Absolute Poker and UB ran their operations from a four story building in Costa Rica that as of this moment is closed and empty. Everything was removed and 95% of their workforce was let go.

Since Black Friday we have not heard much of anything from either poker site even though they continued to allow US players to play. Still the Network lost 70% of it’s traffic and has become an insignificant poker network. Players still cannot withdraw and many are starting to think they never will unless the U.S. DoJ releases the frozen funds. Currently non US players are allowed to withdraw a maximum of $250 every two weeks.

Things do not look good and as a result we’ve removed Absolute Poker and UB from Holdem Poker Chat. They had a great chance to do the right thing and make up for their past mistakes but as of right now it’s not looking like they will.

Below is a copy of the email that was sent to shareholders:

Dear Madeira Fjord, AS Shareholder,

Since the last meeting of shareholders, there have been a number of developments that affect our Company.

Most importantly, Blanca Gaming has provided notice to our subsidiary Avoine that it is currently unable to make any payments toward its debt obligations. Additionally, Blanca has further advised that there will be no future payments.

Over the past 60 days, the Company has accumulated current debts in excess of $250,000 which are increasing at $100,000+ per month. These obligations are primarily legal and professional fees in Norway.

With no cash on hand and no prospects for any cash flow for the foreseeable future, the Board of Directors is required by Norwegian law to enter the bankruptcy process. The Oslo court will appoint a Receiver who will review the affairs of the Company including the assets, liabilities, and its recent transactions. After a full assessment, the Receiver will make a determination how to enforce any applicable rights, obligations, and obtain the maximum value for its assets in the best interest of the Company.

As the Receiver is a court appointed 3rd party, we can be assured that the Receiver will evaluate all relevant options including any applicable soliciting proposals from interested parties related to the assets of the Company. Funds accumulated through the Receivers’ efforts will be disbursed according to Norwegian law.

As of the date of the filing, the Board of Directors is relieved of duty, and all future matters are in the sole control of the Receiver.

Madeira Fjord, AS Board of Directors

Update: Absolute Poker and UB have ceased all US operations and will focus on non US players. A company spokesperson said: “We regret that we have been compelled to take these actions.  We have worked tirelessly to create a truly amazing company that is filled with extraordinary people. We have always been and still remain fully committed to our employees and players. At the same time, we are confident that this restructuring will strengthen the company and its future.”

Update May 5, 2011: Blanca Gaming officially filed for bankruptcy in Norway this morning.

Blanca Gaming Issues Statement

Black Friday 2 Weeks Later

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It’s been 2 weeks since the online poker world was shocked by the indictments handed down by the US DoJ on four of the largest online poker sites in the world. Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker immediately stopped allowing US players to play for real money on their websites. Absolute Poker and UB seem to have decided to ignore the DoJ and continue on almost as if nothing happened. Players on Absolute Poker and UB cannot, however, deposit or cashout at the moment.

Much has happened in the last two weeks. Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker have regained the use of their .com domains to facilitate cash outs for US based players. Pokerstars surprised many this week as they began cash outs for US players. Some have already received their bank direct transfers. Given the circumstances this is quite fast. Pokerstars still does not know how it will pay out FPP’s. Tournament Dollars and tickets are being converted into cash at 100%.

Full Tilt Poker on the other hand is having major banking issues not only for it’s US based poker players but also for Non US players. Many European Full Tilt Poker players have been waiting well over a week for Moneybookers and Neteller withdrawals and some have even questioned if Full Tilt Poker is now bankrupt. Full Tilt Poker has issued a statement claiming that they are “Not Bankrupt”.

Meanwhile smaller poker sites have seen tremendous growth over the last couple of weeks. The Merge Poker Network with includes such poker sites as Lock Poker and Carbon Poker have led the way and even climbed into a top 10 position overall for global poker traffic. Bodog Poker is not far behind as they too have experienced growth. All in all, any poker site still accepting US players has had a spike in traffic.

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