Poker world in furor over alleged cheating
Mike Postle, a professional gambler from California, is at the center of a maelstrom of cheating accusations connected to his play in dozens of livestreamed poker cash-game sessions hosted by Sacramento’s Stones Gambling Hall.
Postle, a regular at Sacramento-area poker rooms, has vigorously defended himself against the mounting claims on Twitter.
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 and there’s hundreds 2/2
— Mike Postle (@Mike_Postle) 30 September 2019
Accusations against Postle began with online comments made by Veronica Brill (@Angry_Polak), who has worked as a commentator on numerous Stones Live poker streams. On September 28, Brill cast aspersions on both an as-yet-unnamed Postle and the Stones’ poker directors.
Brill’s attention-drawing Tweets included:
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.
— Veronica 2.0 (@Angry_Polak) 28 September 2019
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.
— Veronica 2.0 (@Angry_Polak) 28 September 2019
Brill later confirmed Postle as the subject of her Tweets after numerous other pros named him as the likely cheating suspect.
Statistical analysis bolsters accusations
Top pros began looking at the publicly available Stones Live streams and were stunned. Hand after hand, Postle made plays unlikely to succeed unless he had knowledge of his opponents’ cards.
Elite poker pro Scott Seiver was one of the first to examine many hands featuring Postle, and his opinion is that the cheating was obvious. In response to a Twitter thread involving Haralabos Voulgaris and Joey Ingram, Seiver made his feelings clear:
It’s genuinely as simple as he gets to the river approximately 30 times. Chooses the correct choice 30 times. There are tons of other obvious signs, but everything stems from this pretty much
— Scott Seiver (@scott_seiver) 1 October 2019
However, even more damning evidence emerged when others began toting Mike Postle’s results. Poker player Rob Stan posted results of Postle’s streamed appearances in what was a $5/$5 livestreamed cash game.
For 2018 livestreams:
- Livestream sessions: 21 (19 winning, two losing)
- Profit: $93,200
And in streamed $1/$3 action:
- Livestream sessions: 13 (13 winning, zero losing)
- Profit: $36,120
To post such incredible winning streaks against talented players is unlikely for even the most talented pros. Postle’s playing style, in which he managed to win frequently while playing inferior hands, makes the streaks even more statistically unlikely.
Former world champ Moneymaker possible victim
Dozens of hands played and won by Postle on live streams have drawn fierce commentary from onlookers.
In one hand during $5/$5 streamed play, action began with a $45 straddle. Two players at the table, one of whom was former WSOP Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker, held A-K, and a preflop raising war ensued.
Postle was all in for $3,400 with 5-4 off-suit, a largely worthless holding in a hand with multiple preflop raises
Three players were eventually all-in in the hand, with the total pot holding over $10,000. Two of them (including Moneymaker) had the A-K, but Postle was all-in for $3,400 with 5-4 off-suit, a largely worthless holding in a hand with multiple preflop raises.
However, the modest 5-4 off-suit gains substantial equity in exactly one special instance — when both of the other players hold exactly the same non-paired hand. That itself, though, is an unlikely statistical occurrence.
Numerous other hands won by Postle showed similar strange strategies. Examples included making “hero” calls with weak hands against semi-bluffs that should have won pots, or, in one bizarre hand, correctly folding pocket kings preflop when an opponent held pocket aces.
Stones room claims no cheating
Just one day after Brill’s initial posts, the Stones Gambling Hall responded to the claims on Twitter with the following:
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
Still, Stones posted the statement before any of the deeper statistical evaluations of Postle’s play proved in the minds of most professional observers that something was amiss. Stones officials also have been heavily criticized for failing to renew or expand the earlier investigation into what might have occurred.
The most likely explanations for the alleged cheating involve access to opponents’ hole cards through a camera or RFID tap, though no one has yet been able to pin down the most likely method used for the alleged cheating.
In the minds of many pros, however, the verdict is in. Elite pro Shaun Deeb posted it bluntly: “I play as many hands as he does at those stakes but I have losing sessions and bad hero calls and bluffs. He has none of that, 100% cheat, and I hope [he] and conspirators go to jail….”