Greg Pierson, the former UltimateBet (UB) senior executive, whose cybersecurity company Iovation was granted a Class II gaming license by the Nevada Gaming Control Board last week, has spoken to Gaming Intelligence about the events surrounding the UB cheating scandal and his relationship with disgraced former WSOP champ, Russ Hamilton.
It’s the first time that Pierson has spoken publicly about events that he told GI were “devastating” and “excruciatingly painful.”
In 2008, players on poker forums began spotting abnormally high winning statistics for at least one UB account and began to suspect foul play. The Absolute Poker scandal had recently broken, and the players believed that a super-user might also be involved at UB, but few could have predicted just how deep the fraud reached into the company’s upper echelons.
A subsequent report by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission pointed towards Hamilton, a major shareholder in UB since the early days, as the main perpetrator of the cheating. Hamilton, their investigation determined, had defrauded his fellow players out of over $20 million from 2005 up through to 2008.
Pierson was a co-founder of UB, whose original company ieLogic had supplied the software for the online poker site and created the so-called “God-Mode,” known internally as “Audit Monster.”
Iovation was formed from the ashes of ieLogic when that company was bought out by Jim Ryan’s Escapsa. The latter owned UB until 2006 when it was sold to Tokwiro Enterprises. Pierson retained shares and a senior executive position within UB.
Throughout the cheating period, Pierson was one of very few people who had access to Audit Monster, although there is no real, hard evidence he actively or directly took part in the cheating.
In tapes released in 2013 by one of Hamilton’s assistants, Travis Makar, Pierson is heard discussing with Hamilton and others shortly after the scandal broke how the company can limit the damage to its reputation and get away with paying as little money as possible back to the defrauded players.
The GI interview is surprisingly sympathetic to Pierson and devotes just one line to those tapes. This, even though Pierson appeared to implicate himself in the biggest online poker cheating scandal in history.
In fact, in eliciting an explanation, GI doesn’t even quote him directly.
“Actually, Pierson was trying to calm a paranoid Hamilton and was pleading with him to come clean and admit his wrongdoing,” GI assures us in the piece, before moving swiftly on.
Pierson, meanwhile, reveals that one member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board was extremely reluctant to give him a gaming license, and was deeply uncomfortable with his close relationship with Hamilton.
The board member, Shaun Reid, also asked why Pierson had never attempted to defend himself against the various accusations of the “poker bloggers” out there.
This was Pierson’s own account of the licensing procedure, remember, and yet, again, GI fails to press him on that very question. Why hasn’t he?
Now would seem like the perfect opportunity, but faced with a very soft interview, he gives away almost nothing at all. And we are left still wondering and wanting answers.