Phil Hellmuth Speaks Out on Bad Poker Hand Payout Scandal

Written by:
C Costigan
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Some of you may have been away for the holidays and off line a bit, which is good for Phil Hellmuth and the folks at Cereus, which is the new software platform for Absolute Poker and  These folks are just praying 2008 ends quickly.  To say it's been a bad year for them would be a major understatement.

First, the company gets embroiled in an internal cheating scandal that makes it to a segment of 60 Minutes (though somehow Absolute Poker/UltimateBet wasn't made to look all that bad).  The group paid out anyone who might have been affected by the cheating, allegedly manufactured by World Series of Poker winner Russ Hamilton. 

Then over the the past two weeks, the company has come under fire once again.  The controversy involved its spokesperson, poker pro Phil Hellmuth, who was discovered winning a lot of money via a losing hand.  The otherwise slow holiday season (in terms of Internet usage) hasn't stopped this story from being the most talked about over at Two Plus Two.  The discussion thread is about to move past 100 pages on Tuesday.

It's been widely accepted that the payout was the result of a software glitch.  Cereus appears to have rushed its debut.  The company released a statement last week explaining what had occurred. 

It now appears that the poker community is shifting their angst away from Cereus and onto Phil Hellmuth following his own statement about the situation.

A poster by the name of Pedantic Fish provided a summary of the Phil Hellmuth podcast.

Phil begins with a general discussion of how much he has been winning at limit hold'em (which is, after all, the most interesting thing about the hand). Then he starts explaining what happened.

"This hand will sound crazy because of the speed that was involved in it." (Context makes clear that Hellmuth is talking about how he played the hand, and the speed with which online players make decisions. Again, Hellmuth has zeroed in on what is most significant about the hand.)

"Probably in my online career, there's probably been a hundred pots that have been shipped, maybe 50 the wrong way to them and 50 the wrong way to me." (Oh really? If this is true, and since you play on UB, can we assume that all of them happened on UB?)

"What I like about Ultimate Bet is that they realized their mistake immediately." (False. The other player noticed the mistake and contacted them, demanding a refund.)

"Apparently, since we were heads up, somehow my opponent left the table, right before the pot -- right as the pot was being awarded." (False. Your opponent was disconnected from the table.)

"And, because he left the table -- and it may have been, I don't think it was his fault -- it may have been his fault in the official investigation -- but I don't think so -- but he for whatever reason he left the table and the pot was awarded to me." (The official name of this rhetorical device is "apophasis" -- suggesting the truth of something by pointedly denying it. In this case, Hellmuth encourages the listener to think it this was all the other player's fault by saying that he doesn't think it is.)

"And, you know, neither one of us noticed it." (Makes sense that Hellmuth didn't notice. After all, he has a reputation as a very unobservant player who doesn't care at all about whether he wins or loses.)

"And so I went back and I looked and I said, 'No, I'm only in $4,000.' And I think that prompted him to check to see what happened during the KQ hand." (So the other player should really thank Hellmuth for "prompting" him to check the hand. As the transcripts of their chat in posts #5 and #12 shows, Hellmuth just kept bringing the issue up again and again until the other player checked. Sarcasm here obvious, I hope.)

Hellmuth then discusses why he played the hand the way he did. (Thank God he finally got off the peripheral issue of who was awarded the pot!) He explains his river play as follows:

"The river was like a 4." (It was a 9.)

"He bet, I called. And, uh, right then and there, I could see he was having some connectivity problems. He probably connected and re-connected. He just kept popping off and popping back on. It was really weird." (So you were paying attention to his connectivity, but not to the fact that the pot was awarded to you.)

"And apparently he popped off at that exact millisecond. And the pot was rewarded [sic] to me. And then this controversy, but that's just online poker." (No. That is just online poker at Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker.)

"It's because of the Ultimate Bet and 60 Minutes and all this other BS." (Yeah, people being swindled out of their money is just a bunch of BS.)

Annie Duke, who was also on the show, now offered her opinion:

"Obviously, this is brand new software, and it just wasn't thought about ahead, what if someone wins a pot but they get up from the table before the pot is actually put into their stack." (Again, the other player did not "get up" or "leave" the table. He was disconnected. And anyone designing internet poker software should be thinking carefully about how disconnects are to be handled.)

Now Hellmuth asks listeners to look on the bright side:

"The great thing was that he was actually -- he did say he was very pleased that he was rewarded [sic] the pot within minutes." (False. The player had apparently contacted UB before 5:12 AM, see post #12. Then he posted that he was "on hold" with customer support at 5:27 AM. At 5:41, he posted that they had given him less than half the pot, with a promise to give him the rest "in a few hours." I guess the CEO of UB had to go hock a few things to get the rest of the money.)

"I think it's safe to say I've had a perfect reputation for honor, ethics and integrity in this business." (True, as long as we do not count publicly humiliating amateurs in order to get an edge on them in tournaments, blaming dealers for bad hands, and accusing half the people who beat you of slow-rolling you as lapses of honor, ethics or integrity.)

Christopher Costigan, Publisher         

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