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What Does It Mean?

January 6, 2011

The worst kept secret in poker was made official today; Prahlad Friedman is now a member of Team UB.

In recent years, the signing of any new pro by a major (or minor) poker site was usually met with nothing more than a collective yawn from most of the poker community. Sure, there were a few notable exceptions – Isildur1’s recent signing with PokerStars, for example – but even then, the buzz wore off faster than one of those cheap energy shots you can buy at 7-11.

So, why is Friedman’s signing any different?

Let’s put aside the fact that Friedman was the original online superstar. The pre-Durrr, if you will, whose aggressive style changed the game and earned him millions of dollars before the industry was out of its infancy. Let’s also put aside that fact that Friedman has consistently proven himself to be a true iconoclast and had famously turned down numerous offers to represent other online sites over the past few years. Friedman, it seemed, played for the love of the game and didn’t want ruin the pure passion he felt by becoming a shill for an online site.

And then he got broke.

If you don’t know already, Friedman, who played almost religiously on UB back in the day, was one of the biggest victims of the online cheating scandal allegedly perpetuated by Russ Hamilton and his buddies. Hamilton, who was a major player in UB’s management, reportedly had a backdoor into the system that let him see his opponent’s hole cards. Using this “feature”, he and his cohorts are said to have to have stolen millions of dollars from other players including Mike Matusow and, of course, Friedman.

Worse than the monetary loss, however, was that the thefts also took Friedman’s confidence. After winning for so long against some of the best players in the world, Friedman’s sudden string of losses drove him away from the game for years. Upon his return to poker, Friedman wasted little time showing the skills and talents that made him a superstar in the first place.

So, the question is, why would a player who went through so much pain and suffering at the hands of a crooked online poker site ever agree to become one of its sponsored players? At this point, no one but Friedman knows the answer to that question.

In his introductory video, Friedman makes a passing reference to the scandal saying there’s “the old UB and the new UB,” but goes no further in talking about what behind-the-scenes changes were enough to get him to drop his long-standing anti-corporate stance, let alone sign with the site that broke him.

Those answers, Friedman promises, are coming. In a tweet this afternoon, Friedman said “Many of you have tough and fair questions. I understand and you’ll get many answers in the coming interviews I’m doin. Peace.”

And that folks, is what makes this signing different from all other recent pro signings. Mystery. Unanswered questions. A look behind the curtain. Has UB really, finally changed? Did Friedman work a deal that let him get his money back and repeatedly kick Russ Hamilton in the balls? Is Joe Sebok now his personal bitch? People want to know and, until we do, we’ll be paying more attention to UB than we would otherwise.

*****UPDATE*****

Shortly after I posted this article, Prahlad Friedman gave an interview to Bluff Magazine where he shared some his thoughts and rationales for signing with UB. I don’t know if I would be as forgiving as he appears to be if I was in the same situation, but that’s just me.

Anyway, take a read and let me know what you think.

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