UB News: Duke and Hellmuth Out, Friedman In

Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth
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Last week, while everyone was getting ready for the New Year's eve, UB threw in a bomb – two of it's major stars Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth have abandoned team UB and will no longer represent the site in live events or online. The news came as a shock to the online poker community, although there have been rumors of Hellmuth not being quite happy with UB, nobody expected both pros to leave the team so unexpected. Both Duke and Hellmuth are well-respected (although not always and not by everybody, but still) poker icons who have been with UB for many years through better and through worse. However, on December 30th the relationship has officially ended.

Joe Sebok, who will now most likely become the new face for UB had made some comments in his blog on PokerRoad as well as in his exclusive interview to PokerNews. Here's what Sebok had to say: “Whenever a move such as this takes place, it's rarely a quick decision, and their departures were similar. Annie and Phil have been our face so long that they really became synonymous with UB, but I am excited for our new face to emerge and the new look of UB to evolve. It seems to me that it was the perfect time for all parties to part ways, and I wish them both the utmost in success moving forward. Sometimes it's just the right time to make a move and I think that was the case here”.

A few days before leaving UB, Annie Duke has announced her engagement to a long-time boyfriend Joe Reitman by posting “I said yes!” on her Twitter page on the first day of Christmas. Having this in mind it's not so difficult to figure out that Duke started thinking family which was one of the reasons to part ways with Ultimate Bet. “After some thought, I made a decision to leave UB.com because I would like to explore other avenues of business and personal growth. I realized I needed to spend my time on other things,” said Duke in her official statement and added that she has no plans on signing a new sponsorship deal with any of the online poker sites.

However, as Sebok revealed in his comments on the issue, UB is not going to mourn on the departing pros, but rather carry on very quickly and start adding new pros to the team in the nearest future. The rumor soon spread that the newest addition to the team should be the WSOP bracelet owner and a WPT Season III Legends of Poker winner Prahlad Friedman. Although he's been known for declaring never to sign a deal with an online poker site and becoming a sell out, in November his Twitter started wondering if this was really his way.

Friedman's possible signing was made almost official by the PokerStars pro Daniel Negreanu who posted a bunch on tweets on the issue stating his opinion: “So disappointed in @prahladfriedman signing with the devil who stole millions from him.He was so "anti sellout" then he did the unthinkable. They must have paid him a lot to join the dark side and endorse the exact same people who ruined him. So sad and so mind boggling. The current owners of AP/UB are spending Prahlad's money, they must be mocking him at this point. Cheat the dude and watch him endorse us! I don't begrudge people from signing a deal to support themselves ala Maria Ho. Prahlad spoke out AGAINST online poker then signed for money”.

Has Friedman actually sold out and signed with UB? Sebok promised more news this week.

And here's a nice picture gallery of Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth: