Just Conjecturin', Part 2.5: Oh, Those UB Hand Histories
Not "The 56% Solution" this time out, since the UB situation continues its next stage of development rather independent of onlookers' more general commentary. It's good to see that UB, via new signee Joe Sebok, has finally unveiled a two-stage plan to get hand histories out to affected players. The first part of the plan will be a spreadsheet of hands played against cheating accounts sent to affected players; there's no reason to expect that these spreadsheets will show anything different from the tallies created to generate the $22 million in refunds already distributed.
A couple of weeks after that, the hand histories themselves are supposed to go out, which should be followed by a smattering of comments by players who make note of specific hands in either a pro- or anti- fashion regarding these hands' inclusion among the cheating counts.
All good if it comes to pass, since anything that increases the openness of the facts behind the scandal also increases the chance for its eventual, proper resolution.
There remains no excuse for UB to have sat on these hand histories for roughly two years, though I'll say now that I believe the early part of the delay was due to the lawsuit that went on between Blast-Off and Excapsa. While there are reasons to believe that much of the ownership on both sides is the same, the Blast-Off side includes the new ownership bloc (Joe Tokwiro Norton's interests), and also the new management. Forcing the filing of that lawsuit was the only way that Norton had to protect his new interests, and the lawsuit was very dependent on exactly the hand histories long withheld from the public. It also had to be done via a formal lawsuit, thanks to the planned liquidation of original holding company Excapsa and the unwillingness of the original liquidator to play footsie with the situation. For at least the first part of this past two years, not releasing the hand histories was likely done on the advice of lawyers, pending the resolution of that lawsuit. After that, from November 2008 on, there seems to be less good reason to have withheld the hand histories from players.
But all that is speculation in one direction, when the real reason for this post lies elsewhere. It's hilarious to think that a non-ownership, new endorser such as Joe Sebok could force the hand histories to be released, if such powerful UB player/owners as Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke didn't want it to happen. (Yes, there are public records strongly indicating ownership; it's not idle conjecture.) The question then is not what Seebs gets from the deal, but how does it benefit UB? The site didn't really need the introduction of a "white knight" to go ahead with releasing the hand histories, did it?
Given my inquisitive, Machiavellian nature, I think it's more part of an ongoing divide-and-conquer strategy to sway public sentiment and opinion about UltimateBet itself by compromising possible points of confrontation. PokerRoad was one of the largest "independent" voices out there, and the Sebok deal effectively neutralizes that site. It's not that Joe wouldn't speak his mind -- he will -- but the existence of the deal itself will now cast anything that appears on PokerRoad, pro or con, in a new light. It'll also likely put partial clamps on Barry Greenstein talking on the topic, which might be a political bonus for UB moving forward. Given Barry's outspoken nature, his interaction with these matters over the next few months will be interesting.