Russ Hamilton Bio
Russ Hamilton played both blackjack and poker for a very long time, having won the World Series of Poker main event back in 1994. Throughout his career, Hamilton has accumulated over $1.5 million dollars in live tournament wins alone, placing him in the one-hundredth spot on Nevada's All Time Money List.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Hamilton will probably always be known as a cheat for his part in the Ultimate Bet Scandal, which resulted in the loss of millions of dollars for the loyal players on the site. He's considered one of the most highly disregarded players among the gambling community today.
How It All Started
Hamilton was attending a local community college near Detroit, Michigan, when one of his professors told him that he'd probably be an excellent poker player because of his unique thought process and mathematical approach to life.
Although he was pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering and had only played poker a few times prior to that conversation, Hamilton decided to take a risk on poker. He dropped out of college and started playing poker in underground bars around the Detroit area. He was actually very good at it and in no time he was able to build up his bankroll and move to Las Vegas.
This is when Hamilton started seriously competing in poker tournaments. In 1988, he placed second in the Seven Card Stud event of the Summer Poker Festival and in 1990, he finished runner up in the Los Angeles Poker Classic for over $21,000 in prize money.
It was around this time when Hamilton was introduced to blackjack, later teaming up with Stanford Wong, Fred Davis, and other well-known professionals. Together, they used the process of card counting to win the majority of cash games and tournaments that they competed in. Unfortunately, casinos started to crack down on card counters, so Hamilton decided to focus his attention back to poker.
A Career in Poker
The peak of Hamilton's career was undoubtedly after his performance in the 1994 World Series of Poker. Early in the series, Hamilton managed several money finishes including a seventh place finish in the $1500 Pot Limit Omaha event and a fourth place finish in the $2500 Pot Limit Omaha event.
His greatest achievement was when he won the WSOP main event championship that year after an intense heads up match against Hugh Vincent. Hamilton received his first and only WSOP gold bracelet and the biggest cash prize of his career, $1 million dollars plus his body weight in silver (43 silver bars to be exact).
In an interview after his WSOP victory, Hamilton exclaimed, "Winning the championship was something that I wanted more than anything else in the world. It puts you into an elite group of poker players that very few people can enter."
His next big win wasn't until the 2002 Caribbean Poker Classic, where Hamilton landed a first place finish in the No Limit Hold'em Championship event. He also took first place in the Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event and the $300 buy in No Limit Hold'em event of that tournament.
With the help of a friend, Hamilton invented a new way to play blackjack that he called, elimination blackjack, which is essentially the combination of blackjack and no limit hold'em. The rules and procedures that Hamilton developed for elimination blackjack were later used as the guidelines for the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.
That tour became a televised competition where famous blackjack professionals, internet qualifiers, and poker professionals were all invited to participate. It only ran for two seasons before it was discontinued.
Ultimate Bet Scandal
Hamilton worked for Ultimate Bet as a consultant, giving the owners tips on how to prevent players from winning the jackpots and preventing cheaters from taking over the site. Instead of preventing scams, it turned out that Hamilton was using his position to pull off the biggest scam of all.
Audio recordings released in May, 2013 by a former employee of Ultimate Bet reveal that Hamilton had taken over $16 million for his own personal gain from other players by using the "God Mode" feature on the site, which gave him access to the hole cards of all his opponents.
In an interview with Card Player Magazine after the recordings had been released, Hamilton showed his apathetic attitude by saying, "I did take this money and I'm not trying to make it right, so let's get that out of the way." Hamilton, himself, cheated renowned players such as Ben Affleck and Mike Matusow, along with thousands of other innocent players.
Hamilton and his two partners in crime, Greg Pierson and Dan Friedberg, have never officially been charged for any crime related to the cheating, as online poker itself was a legal gray area at the time.
However, Hamilton and the others were convicted of illegal gambling and bank fraud, but they didn't have to serve any jail time for their actions. Despite this, Hamilton still is unable to show his face in any major tournaments, due to his bad reputations. There have been rumors that he continues to play poker in Florida, but no one knows for sure, as Hamilton now keeps a very low profile now.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: November 2016
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