RE (3): Tiffany Michelle Signs With UltimateBet

PokerRoad’s Shronk Writes Open Letter to a Friend

by , Aug 4, 2008 | 9:26 am

Justin Shronk is also disappointed in Tiffany Michelle’s decision to sign with UB, and he made no bones about his feelings in an open, thoughtful letter to her on the PokerRoad website. In his Pokerazzi column dated today, he notes that he wants the best for his friend but believes this sponsorship deal is not it, and he hopes she goes the way of Eric “Rizen” Lynch and detaches herself from the UB brand.

Shronk’s letter in full is reprinted here:

BACKGROUND: I worked with Tiffany Michelle as Multimedia Manager for PokerNews from February to October of ’07. Tiffany was our first on-camera hostess at the LAPC in February ’07 and we worked together everyday at the ’07 WSOP. I still consider her a good friend and respected colleague.


As is everyone that knows you, I’m really proud of what you did in the recent WSOP Main Event – and not just for placing 17th, someone does that every year. I took genuine joy in watching the poise with which you handled yourself every single day of the tournament. Maybe it was the lack of testosterone, or maybe it was your experience in front of cameras and crowds, but it’s not often you see a first-timer displaying more class than a lot of the players who’ve been there before.

That being said, as proud and happy as I’ve been for you, I’ve been equally disappointed with some of your choices – namely your association with Ultimate Bet. At this point, no one needs the details of the cheating scandal spelled out, and you probably know more about it than I do. This letter isn’t meant as an indictment of Ultimate Bet as a company – for that you can read the news releases or forums. Ultimate Bet is presumably now as clean as any other site, but it’s the past behavior of their owners that makes your decision such a terrible one. The current owners of Ultimate Bet are accused of dishonest and borderline criminal activity – and by representing the site you’re helping these same people make money.

Let me preface this by saying that I have no idea what kind of deal you got. Let me also say that, although not proven or admitted, I agree with the overwhelming evidence that points to the previous owners of Absolute Poker (which are the current owners of Ultimate Bet) being at the very least aware of, and very likely involved in, the cheating at Absolute Poker.

You’ve talked about how towards the end of the WSOP there were a number of companies coming to you with deals to wear their logos, but you chose to stay with UB. You had a previous relationship with Ultimate Bet before the WSOP, and you also said they were the first to approach you during the Main Event. I admire your loyalty to your friends at the company and to the company itself. The people you know at UB aren’t cheaters, but the people you’ll ultimately be making money for are accused of just that. Tokwiro Enterprises was the parent company of Absolute Poker when people inside the company were accused (with substantial evidence) of cheating. Tokwiro now owns Ultimate Bet. Although nothing has been proven or admitted yet, substantial evidence involving the Absolute Poker cheating scandal points to Tokwiro, and others inside the company, at the very least having knowledge that cheating was occurring on their sites, and many still contend that some of the owners themselves were profiting from the cheating.

A good percentage of the general public still isn’t familiar with what went on at AP and UB. Some of them are going to open online poker accounts for the first time after watching this year’s WSOP coverage on ESPN (which is why sites pay so much just to get previously unknown players to wear their logo). Some of them are going to look you up online, and one of the first links they’ll see is ‘Play With Tiffany Michelle on Ultimate Bet!”. By attracting new customers to this site, you’re putting money into the pockets of people who don’t deserve to have it – and at the expense of people who don’t know any better.

You’ve also said that in the last few days of the Main Event, as more sites were approaching you, you saw some of the ugliness that is inside the poker business. Even if representatives from other sites are slimy or underhanded (I’m not saying they are, all the ones that I know aren’t), they can rest their hat on knowing they’re ultimately making money for honest people who have demonstrated their appreciation for the everyday customer. Any integrity demonstrated by UB’s representatives, in my opinion, is canceled out by the lack of integrity of their owners.

If the option had been between UB or no sponsorship, your choice would be more understandable. I can’t imagine that is the case though. Thousands of people follow the live coverage of the World Series of Poker; MILLIONS watch it on ESPN. One can only assume your opportunities will only increase once the coverage of the Main Event airs, and your options will be just as plentiful (if not more) than they were during the Series. I don’t know why you wouldn’t wait until after the WSOP to make a decision. Also, by then more information will be known about whether or not UB owners in any way were complicit in the cheating. I hope I’m proven wrong about the owners of UB, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Regardless of whether or not you think, or have been convinced, that the ownership of Ultimate Bet is innocent, the fact remains that a substantial portion of the poker world associates the company with dishonesty and cheating.

Even if it’s proven tomorrow that the ownership had ZERO to do with the cheating, and did everything in their power to prevent or stop it every step of the way (which has virtually already been proven not to be true), people are still going to have negative feelings toward UB. If given the option of being associated with that company or with one whose name isn’t synonymous with duplicity, I would always choose the latter.

Because I know you, I have to assume there’s something to which I’m not privy. You’re one of the most intelligent and savvy people I’ve met in the poker world, so I can only guess this is something you anticipated. I’m not in your shoes, and I don’t have all the information you do. Eric Lynch backed out of his deal with UB, and I can assume the same option is available to you. I don’t know the reasons why Eric ended his relationship with Ultimate Bet, but he was met with only approval and appreciation from the poker community when he did – and Eric won’t have the other sponsorship options that you’ll have.

In the end, I’m hoping that you will follow Eric’s lead and end your relationship with Ultimate Bet (if that option is available to you). As a friend, I want you to do what’s best for you; helping to put more money into the pockets of people who may have stolen from the poker public isn’t what’s best for anyone. I don’t expect this letter to have any real effect, as you probably consulted with family and closer friends than me before you made your decision, but I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t make my opinion known. I chose to make this letter public because I thought you should see how many people feel the same way I do, and I hope this will generate some legitimate discussion.

Again, I genuinely wish the best for you, and I hope that in the end it turns out that you were right and this letter was wrong. Sadly, that looks unlikely.
-Justin Shronk

8 Comments to “RE (3): Tiffany Michelle Signs With UltimateBet”

  1. BJ Nemeth

    I think all of us in the media (especially those who know Tiffany) feel a need to put our opinion out on this issue. I know I do. (Dan seems somewhat conflicted as to whether he should opine, according to his post earlier today:

    I’ve wanted to write about this since she appeared on PokerRoad Radio (the first chance I had to talk with her privately and directly for a few minutes), and I think I have a different take than most of those who are critical of Tiffany. But I didn’t have a forum at the time (I hadn’t joined Pokerati yet), so I’ve decided to wait until Tiffany starts appearing on ESPN, and the issue spikes in relevance again.

    I’m glad Shronk had a chance to get his thoughts out there, because he has worked much more closely with Tiffany than I have. (Aside: I don’t think Shronk knows that he’s becoming a heavyweight in the poker media.)

  2. BJ Nemeth

    For the record, when I write about Tiffany Michelle’s decision to sign with UB, I’ll obviously be posting that here at Pokerati.

  3. shronk

    I don’t know who this BJ Nemeth dude is, but I’ve lost a lot of weight, so you can shove it.

  4. BJ Nemeth

    LOL … next time I’ll choose my words better. 🙂

  5. Jason B

    I’m sure Justin Shronk feels entitled since he worked along with Tiffany Michelle, but if I were her, I would tell him to kiss my ass! Classic example of a person who thinks they know what is best for other people. When or if Justin Shronk ever gets the opportunity to be given an endorsement deal, then he can grand stand as much as he wants or make the decision Eric Lynch did on his own terms. If youre associating everyone on the UB sponsored players as cheaters by association then by accords your “moral” position would be the same as Bill Frist when he pushed the SAFE Port Act. Come on Justin, start the ‘moral’ parade and let’s ban poker all together! Okay, not live poker cause no one cheats at live brick and mortar room poker. Right?!?

  6. shronk

    I have no idea what you’re point is, but whatever it is, I agree with it.

  7. BJ Nemeth

    Wow, Jason, your comment really snowballed there. You don’t think Shronk (or me, or anyone else in the media) has the right to advise Tiffany about her endorsements. That’s a fair comment. I disagree, but it’s a reasonable opinion.

    But to then compare Shronk to Bill Frist and suggest he wants to ban online poker? That’s a *bit* of a stretch, don’t you think?

  8. DanM

    Even though I don’t fully agree with Shronk’s position on Tiff’s biz decisions, clearly he would be better off just talking behind his friend’s back.