Earlier this month, Travis Makar surprised the poker community by releasing a group of computer files related to the UltimateBet (UB) player cheating scandal uncovered in 2008. Makar was a one-time business associate of Russ Hamilton, the main culprit implicated in the theft of tens of millions of dollars from online poker players on UB through the use of a software hack, termed “god-mode”, which allowed Hamilton and other culprits to see all the cards of other players while playing in the game.
The released files included images of e-mails and account records related to the cheating, as well as two audio files, secretly recorded by Hamilton, of meetings which included Hamilton, Greg Pierson (a UB founder, now CEO of UB offshoot company Iovation), Daniel Friedberg (legal counsel to ieLogic, which became Iovation, and later an executive of Excapsa, which became the corporate owner of UltimateBet) and Sanford Millar (business partner of Hamilton and a lawyer specializing in offshore wealth management). In the recordings, the four men discuss the best options to cover up the full extent of the cheating and to minimize the damage to UB. Hamilton admits to the thefts and Pierson is implicated as well.
Below is Q&A interview with Makar about the release of the files and his involvement with UB and Hamilton:
PokerXanadu: When and how did you first become involved with UltimateBet?
Makar: I was never directly involved with UB. I had my own computer company before UB even got started. I was doing service calls for Russ and his group that did sports betting.
PokerXanadu: When and how did you first become aware of the “god-mode” in the UB software?
Makar: 2003. It was called a security program used to catch cheats.
PokerXanadu: Do you know why the “god-mode” was originally created?
Makar: I don’t have a clue other than for security.
PokerXanadu: To your knowledge, when was “god-mode” first used for cheating on UB and by whom?
Makar: I can only assume from the start. I did not know it was for cheating until the scandal broke.
PokerXanadu: Were you posting as “brainwashdodo” on the 2+2 forum? Were you any of the other anonymous leaks?
Makar: I am not brainwashdodo. He worked in the Costa Rica call center.
PokerXanadu: Why did you wait years to make available the audio files recorded by Russ Hamilton of his meetings with Greg Pierson, Daniel Friedberg and Sanford Millar?
Makar: It was my insurance policy to make sure nothing would happen to my family or myself.
PokerXanadu: Were you present at these meetings?
PokerXanadu: How did you come into possession of these audio files and the other documents you recently made available?
Makar: I copied the audio files from the device Russ used. Some files I copied from brainwashdodo, without Russ or his knowledge. Other items I will not say.
PokerXanadu: On the audio files, Russ Hamilton proposes that in order to control the damage to UB, you would be willing to take the fall. Were you aware of this at the time and did you agree to that role?
PokerXanadu: Did you actually do anything to help cover up the full extent of the cheating?
Makar: Other than not releasing the stuff earlier, no.
PokerXanadu: Did you ever do anything to help facilitate the use of the “god-mode” for cheating?
Makar: Greg would email it to me to install on Russ’s machine, but again I was told it was for security and seeing how it was mailed from Greg’s Iovation account why would I think otherwise.
PokerXanadu: Were you a player on UB and did you ever use the “god-mode” yourself?
Makar: I had an account, so did my wife, for testing reasons. No, never used god mode.
PokerXanadu: To your knowledge, was Greg Pierson or Jon Karl ever aware that the “god-mode” was being used to cheat players during the period that the cheating took place, or was it only after the fact?
Makar: I don’t know Jon Karl but Greg always emailed it to me as you can see by the email files I uploaded. So I am sure Greg knew. I even had to call him for support a few times when it would not load.
PokerXanadu: To your knowledge, did Greg Pierson or Jon Karl ever use the “god-mode” themselves to cheat any players, or purposely make it available to someone else for that use?
Makar: On the emails he CCed it to Mansour. I remember Russ complaining that Greg was logged in at the same time and he said Greg wouldn’t be able to spot a cheater.
PokerXanadu: Do you know if Paul Leggett was a participant at any time in efforts to cover up the full extent of the cheating?
Makar: I couldn’t say for sure.
PokerXanadu: On the audio files, they discuss ways to cover up or minimize the impact of the cheating scandal. Do you believe that the full extent of the cheating was eventually discovered and released by the Kahnawakee Gaming Commission investigation, or was more money stolen from players than the approximately $22 million dollars refunded to players?
Makar: I don’t think they really have a clue how much was stolen.
PokerXanadu: There is much speculation as to whether or not some of the pro players like Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth and Freddy Deeb were aware of or participated in the cheating that took place. As far as you know, did any of them at any time know that money they received from UB came from money that was obtained from players through cheating?
Makar: I am not sure.
PokerXanadu: Was anyone else not yet implicated in the cheating or the cover-up efforts take part?
Makar: There were people used as pawns but they did not cheat.
PokerXanadu: Do you have more files to release which you know will give more evidence to facts not yet known?
Makar: I have a lot of files but I think it’s pretty clear who the main cheaters are.
PokerXanadu: Do you still have a work relationship with Russ Hamilton or any of the other participants in the UB cheating or cover-up efforts?
Makar: No. Russ did just try to get ahold of me but I wouldn’t take his call.
PokerXanadu: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Makar: I think there are people out there that act like they care but are getting paid off to handle damage control for the ones that cheated.