Russ Hamilton was the 1994 World Series of Poker main event champion. He defeated Hugh Vincent in heads-up play to win $1 million in first-prize money, as well as his body weight in silver. Following his World Series win, Hamilton served as a consultant for Ultimate Bet, an online poker server. In 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission found Hamilton largely responsible for cheating players on Ultimate Bet out of $6.1 million through software that allowed access to opponents' hole cards. In 2009, Kahnawake increased the $6.1 million estimate to $22,100,000.
Hamilton initially attended college and pursued a degree in electrical engineering, before a conversation with a professor led him to decide that playing poker for a living would be more profitable. After playing in underground games in Detroit, he moved to Las Vegas at the age of 36 where he joined a tournament blackjack team. He enjoyed a successful run, but when tournaments started barring blackjack pros, he turned back to poker. In 1994, he won the World Series of Poker main event bracelet.
He also invented Elimination Blackjack a tournment Blackjack derivitive that was used as the format for the telivised Ultimate Blackjack Tour.
As of 2009, his total live tournament winnings exceed $1,500,000. His eight cashes at the WSOP account for $1,261,940 of those winnings.
Since winning his World Series bracelet, Hamilton has served as a gaming industry expert, including as a consultant for the online poker cardroom UltimateBet where he was involved in recruiting some prominent poker players, including Phil Hellmuth, to promote the site. He has won World Championships in several types of casino games and founded the Ultimate Blackjack Tour in 2005.
On September 29, 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission stated it had found clear and convincing evidence that, between the approximate dates of May 2004 and January 2008, Russ Hamilton was the main person responsible for, and benefiting from, multiple sophisticated cheating incidents at UltimateBet. UltimateBet eventually refunded a total of $22,100,000 to the defrauded players.
In October 2008, 60 Minutes aired a report profiling Hamilton and called the fraud the biggest scandal in the history of online gambling.60 Minutes partnered with the Washington Post in their investigation.
In May 2013, recorded audio of discussions with UltimateBet management was released by Travis Makar where Russ Hamilton and other management can be heard discussing the scandal and the plans to cover up known conspirators and participants as well as aiming to reduce the declared or refunded amount of the fraud. This recording included statements of admission from Hamilton such as "I did take this money and I'm not trying to make it right, so we've got to get that out of the way real quick."