The show must go on
Picture it: An early 20th-century three-ring circus. In one of the rings, a tightrope-walker deftly traverses the space between two perches, a death-defying feat for the audience who stare up at him, mouths agape. Meanwhile, a colorfully clothed clown dances for those who don’t dare to look up.
the clown interprets their shouts as whoops of excitement
The clown mounts a unicycle and begins to juggle, tossing a trio of fire devil sticks into the air. Unbeknownst to the clown, she is getting closer to the tightrope-walker’s area. The audience gasps as they recognize the danger, but the clown interprets their shouts as whoops of excitement and throws her fire devil sticks higher and higher.
Curdling screams pierce the night air as the tightrope walker’s garb is set alight. The audience shrieks as his spinning, flaming body makes an almighty thud, a cacophony of breaking bones and howling agony.
As children’s eyes are covered and pandemonium within the assembled crowd ensues, a calm voice is heard over the speaker. The ringmaster has taken up position in the center of the adjacent ring and he is gesturing to the third ring where some trapeze artists have begun their routine. “Ladies and gentlemen, the show must go on!”
Hustler Casino Live plowed on
Hustler Casino Live (HCL) barely took a breath in the wake of the Robbi Jade Lew/Garrett Adelstein alleged cheating scandal. The show’s owners Ryan Feldman and Nick Vertucci launched an investigation, but they did not cease production while waiting for the outcome. Even when it was discovered that they had been harboring a thief in their ranks, the world’s most-watched weekly poker stream plowed on.
The HCL stream was always a poker show/reality TV show hybrid that looked to create characters, indulge in shameless hype and accentuate rivalries but, in this alleged scandal, they had all the ingredients for a breakout hit. Tabloid newspapers Daily Mail and USA Today were the first to pick it up on either side of the Atlantic. Then came a segment on Inside Edition and an article on BBC News.
I 100% unequivocally did not cheat and I’m just waiting for the investigation to show that.”
The interest in “Jack-Four” grew and grew until it was a mainstream story, but Lew never waivered when asked about the cheating allegations. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, she said: “I 100% unequivocally did not cheat and I’m just waiting for the investigation to show that.”
Several months later, on December 14, HCL published the results of the investigation which was conducted by cybersecurity firm Bulletproof and private investigation firm The Solution Group in conjunction with legal support from law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.
Notes on a scandal
In its summary of the investigation, HCL emphasized the following five findings:
- The Deckmate shuffling machine used on the stream was secure and could not have been compromised.
- It was extremely unlikely that a card-reading device was stored in a water bottle, piece of jewelry, or object on the table/in a player’s leggings.
- The RFID technology used by HCL was safe and any device that could have theoretically intercepted a signal would receive a serial number and not the actual card.
- Radio communication to the on-floor camera operator was not an issue in the Lew-Adelstein hand.
- No malware was detected in the PokerGFX system, nor were any programs installed that could intercept hands.
The full report, however, did not completely exonerate HCL or others involved in that now infamous September 29 cash game livestream. Bulletproof actually stated: “While no direct evidence of cheating was found, Bulletproof found that cheating with the Sept. 29 setup was possible.”
Regardless, Feldman was firmly looking to the future, stating: “I think a lot of people will be satisfied by this and see that we did everything we could to try to figure this out. We are ready to move on.”
Lew wants her money back
In reality, HCL had already moved on, but they wasted no time in reaching out to their prodigal son:
Adelstein responded, saying that he would consider playing on the stream in the future.
This was a strange line from HCL as, by implication, Adelstein’s allegations had not been proven, he had not back-tracked one iota from his publicly held opinion and he was still in possession of Lew’s money, which is still an ongoing bone of contention.
Adelstein’s version of events are that he never asked for a refund. He stated: “I never even considered asking as it would be such an obvious admission of guilt on her end. But once she offered, of course, I’m going to accept my money back after being clearly cheated.”
Significantly, that Adelstein statement was refuted by Feldman, who was present during the off-camera discussion immediately following the hand, and who went on record corroborating Lew’s version of events, that returning the money was actually Adelstein’s idea.
she wants the $135,000 back and a mea culpa
Lew will be appearing on an upcoming episode of The Chip Race and during that interview, she made it very clear that she wants the $135,000 back and a mea culpa.
“Garrett needs to do the right thing,” she said. “He should return the money that I gave to him and…in his own words, give some type of apology…“
Lew also spoke about the legal avenues available to her, adding: “…and if I have to, my lawyers will make that extra step in going through the legal route. I’m not asking for anything more than the money that I gave to him.”
Burden of proof is always on the accuser
In the weeks and months since the results of the HCL investigation were published, an investigation that produced no evidence of cheating but also failed to disprove a negative, Lew has certainly been winning in the court of public opinion. She has embraced her newly found fame and notoriety, taking interviews, posing for selfies, responding to tweets when people win or lose money with Jack-Four, and even showing up to collect the fan-voted GPI Global Poker Award for Best Hand.
his behavior right after the hand was unbecoming of a professional player
Adelstein has taken a very different tact, largely remaining out of the limelight, enjoying time away from the game. His is in a self-imposed exile, but it’s fair to say that there would be a backlash if he was playing. Whatever way you look at it, his behavior right after the hand was unbecoming of a professional player. Even with a strong suspicion that he had been duped, there were much better ways to protect Lew and himself in the case that he was wrong. There were also much smarter ways to go about trying to trap Lew if he was right. Ultimately, the burden of proof is always on the accuser, and he should have been both wary and respectful of that.
Adelstein remains convinced that something was awry that fateful day and there are many who support him and share that opinion. The wind may have changed direction, but nothing will seemingly change their minds. In the absence of evidence, and with none likely to follow, that position becomes increasingly untenable, and one imagines that he has done long-term reputational damage to himself by sticking to his guns.
Ever the weather vanes, Vertucci and Feldman have done a U-turn vis-a-vis Adelstein, rescinding his invitation back to the Hustler stream. Vertucci made that proclamation on a recent podcast episode and, in a subsequent interview with Poker.org, claimed that it was a pure business decision:
“…our players don’t want him back. And you can see that our games have grown even larger. Players are buying in deeper because Garrett is not there. So, there’s more action, which makes the pots bigger and more exciting.”
Reality TV is a fickle business. One minute, you are the golden boy and the next you are the villain. Vertucci continued:
Maybe things will change down the line. We will never say never.”
“This is hard on all of us. But he didn’t do us any favors by leaning hard into the position he held and still believes – that he was cheated. Even after an extensive investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing. I hesitate to use the word banned, in regard to having Garrett back on the show. Maybe things will change down the line. We will never say never.”
A curtain call?
At the end of The Chip Race interview with Lew, I told her that I watched her collect the Global Poker Award and it felt surreal, like that moment after the pantomime where the cast all hold hands and take their bows at the end. It did feel like a curtain call of sorts, but the dust just never seems to settle on this particular drama.
Adelstein has since taken to social media to once again try to take ownership of the narrative with an “I am the one who knocks” type of remark. Also, having previously expressed an openness to returning to HCL, he now infers a distrust of their operation.
The tightrope walker may be smoldering, but the clown continues to juggle her fire sticks and the audience is now engrossed by the men and women on the flying trapeze. The ringmaster clears his throat and the show goes on.