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
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
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
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
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.
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