Big Cake and UB Resignations Rock Poker World

Yesterday the big news was whether or not Cake Poker is crumbling. The twin resignations of Lee Jones, the site’s longtime Card Room Manager, and Serge Ravitch, their Tournament Director, had many industry analysts speculating on a rough 2011 for the poker room. Today, two more simultaneous resignations have rocked the poker world, but this time it’s that’s losing its key players.

For years, poker pros Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke have been the face of UltimateBet. They stuck with the poker room when it joined the CEREUS Network and rebranded itself as UB, and they were integral to its continued growth despite the 2006 inside cheating scandal. Earlier in the year, Phil Hellmuth’s dwindling UB duties lead many to wonder how long he would stick with the site. Now we have our answer.

Today, issued a press release announcing that both Hellmuth and Duke would be parting ways with the poker brand. While Duke was quick to post positive Tweets and a blog about the incident, Hellmuth remains mum. Duke has ascribed her decision to leave to a need for “professional and personal growth.” And likewise while Duke has brushed off any rumors of her signing with her brother Howard Lederer’s sponsoring site – Full Tilt – Hellmuth has neglected to make the same assurances.

While we wait with baited breath to hear what Hellmuth has to say about the sponsorship shake-up, Duke and Hellmuth’s former UB colleague, Joe Sebok, has already put in his two cents over at his PokerRoad blog. While Sebok wishes the two pros the best, he goes on to suggest that 2011 will be a better year without them. Ouch. Sebok then hints at a new team member that will exemplify “a whole new look and feel” not only for the UB pros but for the site itself.

For those unfamiliar with yesterday’s Cake Poker bombshell, executives Jones and Ravitch announced their immediate resignations, not via the usual formal press release, but on a thread on the poker forum Two Plus Two. Jones cited differences with the management team’s strategic decisions, and Ravitch seconded the sentiment. The site has yet to release a statement of their own.

With news on both incidents trickling in from all directions, we’re left to wonder… Did Duke and Hellmuth voluntarily leave UB, or were they put out to pasture? And in regards to the Cake Poker situation, does Jones’ statement about poor strategic decisions address a business-wide problem for Cake Poker or just a personal dispute? Stay tuned!

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