Since 1994, when he won the World Series of Poker main event, Russ Hamilton has played both blackjack and poker extensively. Over the course of his tenure, Hamilton has won more than $1.5 million in live tournaments, positioning him one hundredth on Nevada’s All-Time Money List.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Hamilton will likely always be known as a fraud for his role in the Ultimate Bet Scandal, which cost the site’s devoted participants millions of dollars. He is currently regarded as one of the most despised competitors in the wagering community.
How It All Began
Hamilton was attending a community college near Detroit, Michigan, when one of his professors told him that his distinctive thought process and mathematical approach to life would likely make him an excellent poker player.
Although he was pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering and had only played poker a handful of times prior to that conversation, Hamilton decided to take a chance on the game. He pulled out of college and began playing poker in clandestine Detroit-area pubs. In no time, he was able to build up his bankroll and relocate to Las Vegas due to his skill.
This is when Hamilton began competing in poker tournaments professionally. In 1988, he placed second in the Seven Card Stud event of the Summer Poker Festival, and in 1990, he placed second in the Los Angeles Poker Classic, winning over $21,000.
Hamilton was introduced to baccarat around this time, later partnering up with Stanford Wong, Fred Davis, and other well-known professionals. Together, they used card counting to win the vast majority of cash games and tournaments in which they participated. Unfortunately, casinos began cracking down on card counters, so Hamilton refocused his efforts on poker.
A Profession in Poker
After his performance in the 1994 World Series of Poker, his career reached its apex. Early in the series, Hamilton finished in the money multiple times, including seventh place in the $1500 Pot Limit Omaha event and fourth place in the $2500 Pot Limit Omaha event.
His greatest accomplishment was winning the WSOP main event that year after a fierce heads-up match with Hugh Vincent. Hamilton received his first and only gold bracelet from the World Series of Poker as well as the largest financial incentive of his career: $1 million in addition to his body weight in silver (43 silver ingots, to be exact).
In an interview following his WSOP victory, Hamilton remarked, “Winning the championship was something I desired above all else. It places you in a distinguished company of poker players into which very few individuals are admitted.”
His next significant victory didn’t come until the 2002 Caribbean Poker Classic, when he won the No Limit Hold’em Championship event. In addition, he won first place in the tournament’s Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo and $300 buy-in No Limit Hold’em events.
Elimination blackjack is essentially a combination of blackjack and no-limit hold’em that Hamilton created with the assistance of a friend.
Hamilton’s rules and procedures for elimination blackjack were later adopted as the guidelines for the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.