For a little more than a week now the poker world has been dealing with rumors and speculation that Prahlad Friedman would be signing with online poker site UB.com. The reaction of the poker community has been shock and, in some cases, even anger. Friedman was the biggest victim of the UltimateBet Superuser Scandal having lost millions to Russ Hamilton and his now infamous cheating ring. When rumors first surfaced that Friedman would indeed be signing with UB many people questioned the positioning of Friedman’s moral and ethical compass. How, after rejecting all suitors up until this point, could he sign with poker site that cheated him out of millions of dollars?
With the signing now confirmed BLUFF sat down with Friedman to bring his side of the story to the discussion.
The poker community has responded with shock to your decision to sign with UB after you were a victim of the now famous UltimateBet Cheating Scandal. What do you say to those who are angry or disappointed in your decision?
I would say that’s their personal opinion and I’m fine with that. I’m kind of an outspoken guy myself so I understand why other people are outspoken, so I don’t really have a problem with their opinion, I just totally disagree. Just the fact that they’re so anti-UB I guess. I feel like they took care of me after the scandal. I feel like they didn’t have to pay people back and they did. It was amazing to find out I was going to get a hunk of money back. I have a good relationship with their team and their management and I feel like this is a totally different UB than anything associated with the scandal.
At any point in the last week have you reconsidered your decision?
No. Not at all. I talked to friends and family, just bascially all my loved ones and they all said go for it. I explained all the situation of everything and they said go for it. And these are a lot of real liberal people, a lot of down to earth people that I completely respect. When you have the support of all your friends and family it’s easy to have a change of heart.
At what point were you at peace with your decision?
There’s no specific time but it was a couple of weeks before Christmas. That’s when I was talking a lot with friends and family and they gave me a lot of good advice. They let me know you could be a good influence on the world and get your messages out there. As it’s been I’ve just been here in the dungeon, here in my house, just playing online poker. I reach out through Twitter and Facebook but I think this is a way for me to get out there and be a positive influence. There’s a big charity component with my deal and I’m really happy about that. I feel like I can do a lot of good.
One of the most outspoken people in the last week has been Daniel Negreanu. Have you spoken to Daniel and if so, what did you tell him?
Very briefly, through texts, but I’d rather not get into anything that we talked about. I respect the fact that he’s outspoken, so am I. We’re both fellow vegans, which is cool. I think it’s great to have a couple of vegans at the top of their respective sites. His opinions are his opinions and I guess mine are mine. I guess we just disagree on this one. We agree on a lot of other things.
When you sent out the Tweets on November 23 asking for feedback from your followers about signing with an online poker site, did you learn anything from that which influenced your decision?
I didn’t learn too much. Everyone kinda said ‘go for it’. I actually wasn’t specifically talking about UB. At that point I was just shopping around and I’d picked up an agent through PokerRoyalty. I was just kinda exploring my options, so a lot of people said ‘go for it’. My main influencers were just people close to me. I just put that out on Twitter to have fun with it and see what the responses were. I learned the most from people closest to me.
At that point how close were you to signing with UB?
At that time I was shopping around through my agent. Everything was through my agent, so I wasn’t specifically myself talking to any site. I was just letting my agent do his thing. At that point I didn’t even know if there were offers or anything.
Who else in the poker community did you talk to before making the decision to sign with UB?
I’m not going to name specific people, but just people that I’m close to or that I hang out with. There’s a lot of people in the poker community that I’m friendly with, but I don’t really hang out with them too much, don’t really talk on the phone too much. So a lot of those people I didn’t really reach out to. They’re just kind of associates, friendly associates or whatever. There are some poker players that I’m friendly with and I did talk to them and like I said, anyone that’s close to me gave their full support. It was easy for me to reconsider my years of not wanting to sign with a site ever. I just kind of held my own opinion and held tight with it. After talking to all the people close to me, they were like ‘hey, you can do a lot of good with this’. So it just convinced me.
When your agent told you that UB was interested what was your initial reaction?
I was happy because UB came at an angle of me having a lot of creative control and being a front-runner for the company. Whereas the other sites I’d just be like a pawn. The other sites have thousands of pros. I felt that with other sites I wouldn’t really get the forefront. I’ve always played basketball, been the point guard and always been the leader in most things that I do. I feel like I’m more of a leader than a follower so this is just a perfect fit for me.
Do you think any other big site would be able to realistically offer your the same amount of money that UB has? Was that a factor?
It wasn’t really a big factor, the money. People that know me well know that my life doesn’t revolve around money. I think the charity component involves some money and that’s what I was concerned with. I think UB is down to work with me on charities of my interest. With the deal I have there’s a good charity component. A lot of people are going to get helped. I’m going to be posting on Twitter if anyone has charities that they feel should helped, I’m going to check them out. I’m going to do a lot of research and a lot of good is going to come out of this so I’m real happy about that.
When you found out that both Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth would be leaving UB, did that cause you any concern?
I’m friends with both of them. I respect both of them. It didn’t really cause me concern because they’re doing what’s best for them. I just see that UB is going in a new direction and while they did tons of good for their site I guess they just want to try something new. I’m sure Annie and Phil will have no problems with their future. I’m sure they’ll be successful. So it didn’t really raise concerns with me.
Did you ask UB management why the two biggest names would be leaving the brand?
I didn’t have any concerns about it. I didn’t assume anything bad happened. They’ve both been with the site a long time. People have a change of heart, just like I did.
Have you received all of your hand histories from the super-user scandal?
No, I haven’t. People might be shocked that I would do that but I didn’t really care too much to do that. I received an amount of money that I was extremely happy with and I felt like they totally took care of me. I didn’t feel like I needed to spend months or years or however long it was going to take to check every single hand history. I was ready to move on. I was extremely ecstatic to get a refund.
Was the refund close to what you lost?
I think it’s what I lost. It was such a good number that how could it be much more? I have a little bit different outlook than a lot of people, I kind of feel like karma takes care of things. I felt like I had good karma just to get that refund. I was happy and ready to move on rather than being all freaked out. That’s just not how I operate as a human.
What recourse do you have if further security issues arise? Would you considering walking away or leaving UB if further problems surface?
Yeah, I’d say that anyone that signs with a site, you can never really have a clear-cut if this happens or this happens. It would have to be a case-by-case basis I’d have to look at it and make a decision from there. I feel like I’m a smart enough person to make a good decision and do the right thing.
For so many years not only did you speak out against online companies, but all corporations in general. What part of your moral view changed?
I think talking to friends and family they convinced me that I can do more good than any pitfalls that I would see in the past of representing a corporation. Even Daniel responded on Twitter saying that ‘you need to reconsider because you can do a lot of good with charity with the money that you get’. So it’s kind of funny that Daniel would have a little bit influence on me. It’s mainly my friends and family that said the charity component is awesome.
I plan on putting my stamp on the poker community in terms of doing good for society as well. Not just poker, poker, poker. Poker and society, helping people. I just plan on continuing to be me. I’m not changing in any way. I’m going to continue to be a silly guy, a rapper, someone that likes to have fun and someone that likes to have fun and someone that’s kind of intense about his poker and also intense about helping the world. Nothing’s going to change. I just feel like I can reach a greater audience through more exposure. In the past I haven’t really been invited to too many shows and I never really understood why. I feel like I’ll probably be on a few more shows, I’ll probably have a little more exposure and I’ll just continue to be me which I feel is a good influence.
You’ve always seemed to stand for something, so much so, that you couldn’t be bought. Many in the poker community feel that by signing with UB, you’ve sold out. How do you explain choosing UB instead of another site?
UB is giving me the most creative control. At the other sites I’d just be one of hundreds or whatever. It just feels like they’ve already got their set team and I just don’t feel like I would have a very great influence on what they do. At UB it feels like I’m put in a position of having a lot of creative control whether it’s commercials or clothing lines or whatever it is. I just feel like that’s awesome. That was the biggest thing probably along with the charity component.
What is the charity component? How does it work?
It’s a good chunk of money that’s going to come out of my deal and go to whoever I feel it should go to. I’m already in the process of looking at charities that I’m interested in. Make sure the charity is solid and the money actually goes directly to people in need. I’m excited about it. I’m already got a lot of ideas from people, different charities and I’ve been researching and looking through it. I just can’t wait to get out there and help people.
Who brought up the charity angle? Was it you or UB?
It was important to me. That was the only way I was going to sign a deal with anyone was if there was going to be a charity component to it. I’m not doing this for money. Rather than being such an outsider of the world we live today, which I’ve been for many years, I guess I’m trying to be on the inside a little bit more. I’m trying to mix with society more because I feel a greater influence on more people. Rather than being on the outside and saying people shouldn’t do this or shouldn’t do that, I just feel like I can take away some of my judgements and work from the inside out.
Has it been hard the last week to not respond to forum threads or Twitter conversations?
No, not really. I have a pretty good amount of discipline. It was somewhat tempting to respond but I’m not trying to get into any kind of war. I just want to be about peace. Like with Daniel, we’re both vegan and a lot of our life we feel the same way. The fact that he’s so outspoken is all good with me and now that it’s out there that I’ve signed I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with him. I’ve got no hate for anyone. There’s been a few comments hating on me but I just feel like a lot of these people that are hating on me I don’t have a close relationship with anyways so it doesn’t really effect me at all.