The Brad Booth scandal is the kind of horror scenario that many naysayers about online gambling fretted about when the adaptability of the Internet for gaming first became known. The fact that Yukon Brad appears to have been adversely affected by the scam played on his (and so many others) by the Ultimate Bet poker site only adds to the poignancy of the story.
By one account, Bradley Booth has lost roughly $4.2 million at the poker table in the years since he was cheated by the people of UltimateBet. I'll discuss in this article who Yukon Brad is, how he and others were cheated, and what has happened since.
At one time in the early 2000's, the Canadian poker player was one of the most successful cash game players of the first decade of the 21st century. Though the native of Vancouver, British Columbia may not have been known by the poker viewing audience who watched television poker events, he was respected by many of the best players due to his prowess at high-limit ring games (cash games held in select casinos).
Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth Jr. each rated the Canadian one of the top cash game specialists, while Phil "The Unabomber" Laak described him as a poker savant.
Brad Booth became known to the wider community of poker players when he began appearance on GSN's popular Texas hold'em show, High Stakes Poker. In a time when most televised gambling involved no-limit holdem tournaments where contestants paid an entry fee, then made their way through a large field to a final table and huge 1st place prize, HighStakesPoker presented a different view of the professional card player world.
High Stakes Poker gathered together the best cash game gamblers, who staked themselves. The minimum buy-in fee was $100,000, though Yukon Brad was famous for buying in at a "cool million" dollars. He became a fan favorite and cultivated the image of a poker wonk. In the 3rd season of the GSN show, he had not let one day pass in 14 years without playing cards for money. Like some frontier dweller of the past, his gambling lifestyle saw him in Vancouver, but he eventually drifted into Calgary, Alberta and, eventually, up north and west to the Yukon Territory.
These sessions weren't his only tv appearances, though. He holds the distinction for the longest game played on NBC's Poker After Dark, which also took the format of a cash game. During the International Week competition in season 2 of PokerAfterDark, he played a record-length match against Patrick Antonius.
The 3rd season of High Stakes Poker aired in early 2007, which would have been square in the middle of the time Ultimate Bet Casino was cheating people. Ultimate Bet was part of the wave of betting scandals which rocked the online gambling world in late 2007 and early 2008.
Statements later released by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission indicate, from May 2005 until January, UltimateBet employees used code similar to the "superuser" account in the Absolute Poker scandal of the previous year. This code allowed allowed a player to see the hole cards of other players at the table. This advantage would allow a card player to know exactly when to bet and when to lay down cards. Except when the river card threw the hand to the opponent, the cheating player would never waste money. Also, they would know when to bluff, along with when to call bluffs (or lay down cards).
This activity continued for over three-and-a-half years before the AbsolutePoker scandal required an industry-wide examination of the software security on online gambling websites. A few months after this survey began, Ultimate Bet released statements they had been targeted by their own trusted employees. The main culprit was a man named Russ Hamilton.
The licensing authority for UltimateBet, the Kahnawake Gaming Commissioner (near Montreal), had opened an investigation into the charges made by poker players and experts about Absolute Poker. In that instance, the infamous Potripper tournament led to overwhelming evidence that a superuser account was used to cheat tournament players. In that instance, the cheating went on from early 2005 until December 2007.
Since the Kahnawake Gaming Commission had just ended an investigation of one of its licensed casinos, it's clear that UltimateBet's executives knew a full review was coming of other sites. By releasing their own study, UltimateBet was able to stave off some of the bad publicity that Absolute Poker had. Ironically, both sites are now owned by the Cereus Poker Network, which disavows any hand in the poker scandal.
When Ultimate Bet claimed an internal investigation had turned up that a "trusted employee" had devised a program to view other players' card through the UltimateBet servers, they claimed at the time their security had been compromised, but measures had been taken to end the troubles.
The announcement stated they would pay back everyone who was cheated, while repaying those players who were affected by the scam. With the Kahnawake Gaming Commission fining Absolute Poker $500,000 in its scandal and the Quebec provincial police opening an investigation into wrongdoing, it was wise to be proactive. This damage control may not have been entirely accurate (or forthcoming), as the Gaming Commission announced in September 2008 it had "clear and convincing evidence" that wrongdoing had transpired between May 2004 and January 2008, mainly perpetrated by an employee named Russ Hamilton.
Ultimate Bet blamed the employees and, having been sold in the meantime, blamed the previous owners: Excapsa Software.
In a later interview with the Mediocre Poker Radio show, Brad Booth guessed that he had lost upward of $2,000,000 due to the cheating software. That's not the end of the story, though. It would seem that Yukon Brad has continued losing since 2008. In one published report, he was thought to have lost approximately $4.2 million playing poker-for-cash from 2008 until the present.
Here in 2012, the former great card player admitted in an interview that he had failed to pay back $28,000 in gambling debts to fellow player Douglas Polk, with whom he had a cash-for-online casino funds bargain with. It would seem that Yukon Brad is having a long drought.
While I only speculate his losing streak has anything to do with the scandal which proceeded it, card players are known for their psychological toughness, along with their ability to sense weakness and indecision of others. Being cheated in online Texas holdem must play havoc with a person's confidence. Poker is about mind games, about playing "the other person, not the cards". You could say the Brad Booth scandal is the ultimate mind game when it comes to online cards.