Postle Poker Cheating Allegations Lead to Investigations
The story has grown in scope and intensity over the past week. It got quite complicated, complete with hours-long video analyses and vlogs and livestreams, not to mention thousands of tweets. The story even made it to SportsCenter on ESPN.
Longtime poker pro Mike Postle is at the center of the allegations.
After numerous other poker pros have analyzed videos and considered all possible angles to give Postle the benefit of the doubt, most of them can no longer do so.
Watched a lot poker videos today and feel yucky. I hope mike comes out with some good videos of his own but @Joeingram1 seems to be pretty thorough. Will sit on sidelines and watch as more information comes out. Still praying he is innocent but not liking the looks of things pic.twitter.com/2T6wBJeV31
— Chris Moneymaker ⭕ (@CMONEYMAKER) October 2, 2019
The claim is that Postle has been cheating in low-stakes cash poker games livestreamed from Stones Gambling Hall near Sacramento, California. And the story has evolved so quickly that there are already attorneys involved, and the story is being covered by an ever-increasing number of media outlets far beyond the normal poker circles.
From Accusations to Investigation
It started (in the public eye) on September 28 when poker pro Veronica Brill, poker pro and live poker commentator, tweeted the following:
“If someone is displaying a probability of cheating on a live stream you don’t make the entire room not be able to use their cellphones in an attempt to reduce everyone’s anxiety and then still promote the player as one of the best.
“You take that player off the stream while you launch a proper, objective investigation done by a third party. Once it’s shown that the player has not been cheating, you make your investigation public and let the player back onto the stream.
“Am I sure that this player is cheating? No. Do I think that there is a greater than zero % chance that he is? Yes. Have numerous professional poker players voiced their concerns to me regarding this player? Yes.
“Also, I brought up my concerns about this player months ago to the person running the live stream. I was told that no one gets this player and that he is just better than everyone. Also, that they had some one or some company come in to check their security.”
Brill went on to say that the player is nice off stream, and she played with him frequently at Stones. She had been noticing discrepancies and brought them to the attention of Stones’ staff but was consistently dismissed.
However, the cheating suspicions show Postle had an uncannily high VPIP (voluntarily put money in pot), one that puts him in the top 95% of results. Brill could not let it go without making it known.
— Veronica Brill (@Angry_Polak) September 28, 2019
Those accusations and the initial responses to Brill made Joey Ingram want to investigate on his own. He did some live commentary and looked through hours and hours of play from the livestreams.
Ultimately, Ingram watched more than 50 hours of hands involving Postle and concluded that he had two playing styles: “one where he plays GOD-like, soul-reading poker with very wide pre-flop ranges and perfect frequencies, the other where he plays really solid poker most of the time.”
Ingram ended up posting several videos with explanations and analyses, all with the same almost-undeniable conclusion: Postle cheated.
Impromptu livestream – I will go over every single hand that @Mike_Postle played during a session on @StonesLivePoker to take a look at his entire play vs various hand histories that have been posted. I'll speed it up to move from hand to hand.https://t.co/gvhOjXmazx
— LEGION | Joey Ingram 🐉 (@Joeingram1) October 1, 2019
LIVE IN 30 mins
Livestream #4 – The investigation continues into hands played by Mike and how exactly this could have all been done….
— LEGION | Joey Ingram 🐉 (@Joeingram1) October 4, 2019
The videos are each several hours long, and these are only two of the Ingram videos of five thus far. Poker pro Doug Polk has also been on the case and producing video content.
Theories and Clues
Many other poker pros have been analyzing hands over the past week, and the posts are all over Twitter and the Two Plus Two thread on the topic. Within one week, that forum thread had more than 4,500 postings and counting.
It should be noted that Postle’s amazing runs of winning plays have taken place on the Stones Live streams hosted at Stones Gambling Hall. He now rarely plays cash games other than streamed ones.
In order for Postle to cheat, he had to be able to know the hole cards of his opponents or know what plays to make. Considering Postle’s knowledge of the game, if he was shown the hole cards, he would know how to correctly play the hands.
There are several ways he could have cheated, according to those who know about livestreaming and the games in question.
–Headphones or some type of device under Postle’s hat (always wears a baseball cap, regularly touches his head in the same general spot)
–Key ring, some type of reader mixed with his keys (always seem to be in sight)
–Cell phone in his lap (regularly reaches into his lap, squirms, looks down into his lap)
Some connected Postle with Taylor Smith, a member of the Stones Live tech team. However, it doesn’t seem that he was always present when Postle played his winning sessions on the stream.
The most frequently mentioned person who could have coordinated with Postle to help cheat – allegedly – is Justin Kuraitis, the tournament director at Stones. He is not only in charge of the Stones Live operation, but he is also reportedly at his desk near the livestreaming table during the broadcasts. Postle’s winnings seem to only happen when Kuraitis is on site and at his desk.
While the livestreaming commentary and broadcasts are all on a 30-minute delay per California gambling regulations, the tech room has access to the hands as they happen so as to prep the stream for the commentators and broadcast. Very few people have access to that information. Kuraitis is one of them.
Kuraitis, known as JFKPokerTD on Twitter, locked his social media account but not before tweeting this:
“It is unfortunate that these allegations were made public with absolutely no evidence. The reputation of my team and an exciting/fun player are now being publicly mobbed.”
Postle Responses and Explanations
When the accusations against Postle began to gain momentum, he took to Twitter to defend himself. He started with this:
“There is so much I want to say and now so much that I am forced to say which involves gloating about my 16-year poker career. On that involves me being so successful everywhere I’ve played including online, that I’ve been accused of having an unfair advantage by a handful of local individuals who convinced someone it was true, and to ultimately attack me publicly in the process with nothing but speculation on a tiny fraction of hands that are questionable at best. I’ve played a unique high-variance style my entire poker career…”
Postle claimed that he has put “an enormous amount of time into just studying the game” and studying human behavior. He claimed he has been “blessed with very good instincts.”
Days later, Mike Matusow interviewed Postle for his podcast in an effort to allow Postle to explain himself.
What we learned from Part 1 of the Matusow/Postle interview pic.twitter.com/WIvi7M16Ol
— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) October 5, 2019
On the two-part podcast, Postle claimed to be a winning player for his 16-year career. He said he never liked the accolades or the comments about him running like a god at the table. Even so, he later said he believes he is one of the best poker players in the game.
While admitting that he loves making good money, he also said that he doesn’t want to travel beyond Sacramento to play the higher-stakes games in other cities like Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
Postle claimed that the chip stacks on the livestream are rarely accurate because of hands played before the stream begins and due to reloads not explained on the streams. Thus, he said his win rates and win amounts are exaggerated.
Stones Responses and Actions
Initially, when the allegations against Postle surfaced, Stones’s poker room responded via Twitter that the complaint of cheating had been received earlier in the year and fully investigated.
Earlier this year an accusation was made that a player was cheating in our game
We conducted a full investigation & found no evidence that any cheating had occurred
Stones Live stream remains a secure poker streaming platform
The recent allegations are completely fabricated
— StonesLivePoker (@StonesLivePoker) September 29, 2019
Days later, as the story came together, Stones Gambling Hall suspended all broadcasts of live poker play, including the streaming. There was an investigation in progress, a “multifaceted” one with “outside experts.” It would be thorough and detailed, and the outcome would be reported “when available.”
Since that didn’t go over well with anyone following the story, Stones issued a four-part tweet that read:
“Stones Gambling is committed to the integrity of our games. We have been alarmed by allegations of unfair play occurring during the streamed broadcasts of our “Stones Live” games and have acted quickly to investigate.
“Yesterday, we temporarily halted all broadcasts from Stones. We have also, as a result, halted the use of RFID playing cards. We have taken these steps proactively while we conduct a multifaceted and thorough investigation into every element of these games.
“To that end, we are today announcing the creation of an independent investigation team. The team will be led by Michael Lipman, a former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of California and Chief of that office’s fraud unit.
“He is assembling other members who will be announced in due course. Stones intends to conduct this investigation and share outcomes with transparency. We will provide updates as appropriate.”
Victim Responses and Actions
Many players who have competed against Postle on the stream have been quick to speak up, as their quiet suspicions have been given voice.
In fact, players from all corners of the poker world have spoken up to express their concerns about the likelihood of cheating on a livestream. Their interest goes far beyond the Stones Live stream but covers the future of poker in general. Livestreaming has given poker some new life and helped the game, but a scandal like this can just as easily tear it all down.
Concerns also immediately arose about the choice of Lipman as the lead investigator for Stones. Several people in the poker community very quickly determined that Lipman had served as legal counsel for the owners of Stones Gambling Hall.
Poker player and gambling attorney Mac VerStandig publicly questioned Stones about it.
Maybe worth sharing the head of the independent investigation team is your former counsel? No doubt a qualified and well-respected man (genuinely and seriously), but not exactly the truly “independent” optic the public might desire here. https://t.co/vl4KCOZdAG https://t.co/hdxpJAgO5s pic.twitter.com/0XON1iyMED
— Mac VerStandig (@mac_verstandig) October 3, 2019
VerStandig also revealed that his law firm is working with Brill and other victims of Postle. He is meeting in Sacramento this weekend with players who claim to have been cheated. “We anticipate bringing suit next week,” he wrote on Twitter.
In addition, poker pro and commentator Jamie Kerstetter – who is also an attorney – noted in a tweet that the lawsuit is a class action.
— Jamie Kerstetter (@JamieKerstetter) October 4, 2019
The story has so many interesting twists and turns that it is spreading beyond the world of poker media.
Perhaps, the story hits home because poker is the game played at the kitchen table and with grandparents. Poker is the most popular card game in America…and maybe the world. The vast majority of people in the game have worked for decades to change the image of poker from a backroom game played by cheaters to a clean game that is regulated and trustworthy.
Or perhaps, the story resonates because it is the story of an alleged cheater outed by the affected players and community.
Of course, the story made it to the local news in northern California where Stones is located.
— Doug Johnson (@Doug_J_ohnson) October 4, 2019
It made it to ESPN on Friday, as Scott Van Pelt explained it in its simplest terms for the masses on SportsCenter.
Big thanks to @notthefakeSVP for doing such a great job explaining the Postle situation on Sportscenter in a way that anyone can understand. I appreciate the shout out for the investigation. Hopefully we get to the bottom of this soon.@Angry_Polak @haralabob @BarstoolNate pic.twitter.com/3pf6QJnXSI
— LEGION | Joey Ingram 🐉 (@Joeingram1) October 5, 2019
“If a guy were able to cheat his way to six-figure games playing cards and it got solved by a bunch of poker sleuths on the internet, is that a story that interests you?” said Van Pelt.
Business cable news network CNBC covered the story, too.
Stones Gambling Hall pulls plug on livestreamed poker games after cheating allegations https://t.co/YcrLfAolwK
— CNBC (@CNBC) October 5, 2019
As Van Pelt described accurately on SportsCenter, looking into this story can take a person down a very complicated and deep wormhole.
Anyone who wants to look deeper can start with these links: