The blogosphere, or perhaps more accurately the Twitterverse has been a flutter of activity following yesterday’s official announcement that both Phil Helmuth and Annie Duke would be leaving UB.com immediately. Tweets were largely positive with many congratulating the two most prominent faces of the site.
The story began on Thursday evening when Annie Duke Tweeted “Starting a new chapter in my life. Decided to leave UB, but the future’s exciting for me and the place I’ve called home for more than a decade.” Response to the news of her amicable departure was filled with her former Team UB pros thanking Annie for all she’d done for them while they were on the team.
Duke’s former Team UB teammate “Hollywood” Dave Stann was quick to hit Twitter and responded to the news saying “Thanks @AnnieDuke for all you’ve done for my growth as a poker player… @UB won’t be the same without you!”. B.J. Nemeth was next to chime in saying “Not sure if congratulations is the right word or not, but good luck and best wishes for whatever you do next.” Finally Dan Fleyshman, the charismatic CEO of Victory Poker seemed to have his own ideas for her future by Tweeting “I’m sure @howardhlederer would be happy to have @annieduke join his friends at Tilt now that his sister left UB!”
What was perhaps more shocking to the poker world due simply to it’s unseemly timing came just a few hours after Annie Duke’s initial tweet about her move away from UB when Phil Helmuth’s Agent Brian Balsbaugh confirmed to everyone that Hellmuth would also be leaving: “My client @Phil_Hellmuth and UB part ways – exciting time for us.”. Hellmuth then followed up for his agent again by Tweeting “On a flight to L.A. baby! Dinner tonight w Corey and Lisa Pavin, my parents, and my kids at Boa on Sunset (yummy!)… Big news in one hour!”
His final confirmation came after Hellmuth’s plane landed and the family had had time to settle down “Making a big move… leaving UB,” the 11-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Tweeted. “Truly lots of great memories, but it’s time to move on… Mutual decision… Looking forward to a bright future!”
The reaction to Phil’s announcement was equally positive as colleagues and friends passed on their congratulations. Scott Ian, who earned a spot on the Team UB.com roster as a result of poker coaching from Duke and Hellmuth, Tweeted, “@AnnieDuke & @phil_hellmuth: my mentors, my coaches, my friends, & are responsible for my growth/success in the poker world. Thank you both.”
Daniel Negreanu was next to congratulate Hellmuth, tweeting “Congrats to @phil_hellmuth for leaving UB. A good dude and he deserves better. He may be a bit wild at the table, but he is a stand up guy.”
Finally, Joe Sebok, the current dean of Team UB sent out his congratulations on Twitter “Wishing both @annieduke and @phil_hellmuth the best of luck with everything in the future. Pleasure working with both.”
On his blog at PokerRoad, Sebok was able to say more: “2010 sees us parting ways with two icons of the poker world, Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke. These two legends in our industry have, quite literally, helped to build UB into what it is today. Phil and Annie have been the face of the company for years now and we thank them for their unbelievable contributions and bid them the utmost in success moving forward.” He cryptically stated towards the end of the blog, “We’ll be announcing our newest Team UB member next week and I am crazily pumped about it.”
It didn’t seem to take very long long for the Twitterverse to answer the question on everybody’s mind as to who would replace the two legends. Poker pro Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler provided the answer early Friday by tweeting “Apparently Prahlad Friedman is the new UB pro. He is on Annie Duke’s former page.” While the link he provided now simply redirects to UB’s home page, Friedman had provided clues over a month ago when he asked ““I said I would never sign with a poker site. Should I ever reconsider? What y’all think? I would have to get over the fact that I’m ‘selling out.’ I’m the only poker player in the world that hasn’t wanted a deal that I know of.”
Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth’s two departures have certainly created a far more interesting holiday season which typically faces a dearth of interesting poker news. It has also raised questions as to why exactly they chose to leave and perhaps more strangely why at the same time.