"Remember, the whole world is watching this story, and they didn't really give a shit about the poker world for a long time... this has gone mainstream and there are opportunities for me to explore." Robbi Jade Lew
“The moment I was probably cheated on the J4 hand, my professional life would always change forever. I will live with some peace of mind at least knowing that the $135K will go towards a great cause. I don't know when I will choose to play poker again." Garrett Adelstein on Twitter on October 14, 2022
After fourteen years of playing professional poker, Adelstein is one of the best and most profitable high-stakes real-money players, known to viewers of popular casino broadcasts for his loose and aggressive style of no-limit hold' em and their willingness to buy for huge sums of money, bringing up to $1 million to the table.
On September 29th, Adelstein made the biggest bet of his life: he risked his highly respected reputation, and possibly his poker career, when he accused rookie player Robbi Jade Lew of cheating in a $269,000 hand against him at "Hustler" LiveCasino”.
The video of the hand, in which Lew's unorthodox all-in with the Jack of Clubs and Four of Hearts led to an unlikely win, was viewed by 20,000 people while it aired and by hundreds of thousands more when the clip went viral. Some fellow professionals have said that Lew's hand strategy was inexplicable unless he knew Adelstein's cards; Lew later said that she was confused about what she had, but she got over it anyway. The production company behind “Hustler Casino Live” said she is investigating and has yet to produce evidence of cheating by Lew or anyone else.
With no evidences, the explosive accusation has unsettled the poker community, creating deep divisions at all levels of the game as players and fans debate the hand and subsequent revelations. The fallout for both sides has been severe, with Adelstein and Lew facing bitter character attacks and questions about their motives.
Lew has maintained his innocence: "I 100% unequivocally didn't cheat," he told The Times, "and I'm just waiting for the investigation to prove it."
Adelstein, 36, hasn't played poker since. While he once spent much of his time studying optimal strategy, reviewing past hands, and appearing on broadcasts from Hustler Casino in Gardena and Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, he is now very focused on conducting his own research to prove his case. .
Sheltered at his Manhattan Beach home, Adelstein said he was "extremely certain" he was the target of a cheating ring involving not only Lew, but other players and at least one member of the show's production team. . . Lew, 37, denied the allegation, which he called "defamatory."
The drama has left Adelstein uncertain about when he will return to the poker table. "Despite not knowing much about anything at the time, I think I saw my professional life pass me by... I knew that on top of being cheated, I was going to have problems."
Cheating has been a longstanding concern within the poker community. Fifteen years ago, some workers at major online poker websites were arrested for running fixed games where "superuser" accounts, often held by the sites' employees, had access to face-down cards of each player, known as hole cards; Knowing that information gave superusers an insurmountable advantage. Some players have shared their cheating methods in person, such as Houston Curtis, executive producer of rival poker stream "Live at the Bike," who detailed how he rigged the games in a 2020 book and on YouTube.
In casinos, measures like automatic card shufflers, floor monitors, security guards, cameras, and frequent dealer rotations provide some level of security, but cheaters still get through. And new security risks have emerged as poker rooms introduce more modern features to spice up the game and grow their fan base.
“Whenever you talk about big money and play, there will always be people trying to circumvent the system, cheat, steal, or look for any trick they can find,” said poker pro Daniel Negreanu. "Now that poker is on the air, there are new ways for people to cheat."
In 2019, a civil lawsuit was filed against poker player Mike Postle, Stones Gambling Hall near Sacramento, and a poker room manager. In it, dozens of poker players alleged that Postle, while playing games broadcast by the casino, received information about opponents' hole cards in real time from an accomplice. The games featured on the broadcast used cards embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that transmitted each card's unique suit and rank to a receiver.
The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, with a judge ruling that the damages were "gambling losses under California public law." “If you cheat in any other game, you're cheating the house and they'll crush you” “With poker, it's amazing: no one goes to jail. In reality, nothing happens to anyone; it's very frustrating."
“When it comes to broadcast security and these types of games, as professionals, obviously we're always vigilant so it doesn't happen again,” poker player Matt Berkey said of the fallout. "Garrett is one of the biggest players playing on the broadcast, so he's more of a potential target himself."
"Hustler Casino Live," the show that featured the now-infamous game on September 29th, also uses RFID cards. Since its first show aired in August 2021, it has become the most watched poker broadcast in the world, combining the drama of the game with huge amounts of cash, top poker players, celebrities and other colorful personalities. Hustler Casino Live now has over 1 million monthly unique viewers and 185,000 subscribers.
The show's games are broadcast five days a week with a one to four hour delay to prevent information from being broadcast to players live. But now the security of their stream has been questioned, with players saying stricter protocols need to be put in place. They have raised concerns about the number of employees who had access to the control room where hole cards were monitored, with some saying the stream should be temporarily shut down while the investigation is ongoing.
Adelstein has appeared once a week on "Hustler Casino Live" since the broadcasts began and is their most successful player, racking up more than $1.5 million in winnings in 53 appearances. Being a regular on the show, taped 15 minutes from his home, brought a measure of stability that is rare among professional poker players, who often have to travel the world to find good games, at high enough stakes.
“I thought streaming poker was, at least compared to the other options, one of the last safe havens,” Adelstein said. "And at this point, I have very little faith in that."
With its biggest star refusing to play, the production company behind “Hustler Casino Live” quickly launched an investigation into the September 29 incident, hiring a private investigator, a cybersecurity firm, and a law firm. Nick Vertucci, co-owner of High Stakes Poker Productions, said in an interview Monday that the process is expected to take several more weeks to complete.
The company is reviewing its security protocols and would make changes to ensure its stream is "as secure as possible."
Dozens of professional and recreational poker players have jumped in to conduct their own amateur research, hyping their findings and opinions around the clock on Twitter, Reddit and YouTube.
"There are a lot of accusations, a lot of speculation, and a lot of innocent people are going to be hurt by the circus and the conspiracy theories," Vertucci said. “This is being exploited for clicks, views and money. It's disgusting what's happening."
High Stakes Poker Productions posted the first of its findings on Oct. 6th, saying a review of its video showed that one of its employees, 24-year-old Bryan Sagbigsal, was caught taking $15,000 worth of chips from Lew's stack after that the cameras stopped recording in September. 29. The company also said that Lew refused to press charges after being told about the incident.
That decision led many to suspect that Lew and Sagbigsal were working together, which she denied. Two days later, she announced on Twitter that she had changed her mind and would press charges. Sagbigsal has refused to answer questions and has deleted the networks of him, after having defended Lew in them.
On Thursday afternoon, Lew and Vertucci met with a detective from the Gardena Police Department at the Hustler Casino. He said that he handed over the direct messages he received on Twitter from Sagbigsal after the September 29th incident.
Meanwhile, Adelstein published his own 5,600-word report on October 7th. In it, he stated "with great confidence" that Lew was "most likely part of a cheating network of at least three members," one of whom was able to access hole card information and point out the cards to others over several hands of play. across multiple streams. Much of the report focused on circumstantial evidence, suspicious behavior, and inconsistencies in Lew's statements.
Adelstein wrote that his legal team had advised him to put aside speculation about "the specific methodology and roles of each member of the entrapment ring," "It was about six or seven days, 20 hours a day, of investigation." That was my mindset: that the only way I could feel confident that the truth would come out was if I went and got it myself."
In response to Adelstein's report, Lew said on Twitter that he was "full of inaccuracies and conjecture" and used a poop emoji to characterize his presentation of evidence. Through a text message, he added: "I will not respond any more because everything he has said is defamatory."
Adelstein was born and raised in Tucson, the oldest of three children in a middle-class family who lived in the middle-class part of town, in the shadow of the nicer community of Catalina Foothills.
“We couldn't afford to live there”, “From a very young age, I deeply believed that becoming very rich was the key to finding happiness in life. And I definitely had a rude awakening when I was 20 years old in terms of realizing that's not true at all."
Adelstein started playing poker in 2003, a great year for online gaming. That May, Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event as an amateur player, sparking a worldwide poker boom.
Adelstein moved to Los Angeles a couple of years after graduating from the University of Arizona, where he majored in entrepreneurship and marketing. While he was drinking with friends at Cabo Cantina in Marina del Rey one night, two “Survivor” casting directors approached him. He joined the cast for Season 28 in 2013, but was the second contestant eliminated, an early exit that sent him into a deep depression.
During that period, Adelstein said he rarely left his one-bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. Around his 30th birthday, he sought the help of a psychologist and in the years since he has used the platform of him as a well-known poker player to speak candidly about his lifelong bouts of depression.
"I've made great strides, whereas in the past, I could lie in bed for months," he said. "Convincing my wife to marry me and, to a large extent, overcoming these mental health issues I think are the two things I'm most proud of."
He is a voracious reader of self-help books and biographies, and a fitness fanatic who drove up Mount Whitney in the middle of the night in July when he realized he had a last-minute permit available to climb the mountain. . He reached the top of the 4,400-meter peak alone, in the afternoon of that day.
Professional and recreational poker players on both sides of the current controversy described Adelstein as an affable, polite and friendly guy known for taking any big loss at the HIGH STAKES tables in stride.
According to Jennifer Shahade, professional poker player and chess champion: “Garrett would have reacted normally if his opponent made a good call, even hero-call, that cost him $100,000”, “I think the starting hand, the call and the situation would be suspicious under any circumstances, of any gender.
Negreanu said that Adelstein has long been "a gentleman" in the world of poker and an ambassador for the game. "Having said that, I think he's got it wrong," Negreanu said about the cheating allegations. “I think he could have handled this much differently and better than he did. But that doesn't mean you should sully him or dirty his name."
Adelstein has seen the intense debates online over the last two weeks, the 12-hour podcasts dissecting the day's developments, the memes of his shocked face after Lew revealed his cards, the video parodies of the various characters involved.
If he could redo things, he said, he would tone down his opening statement on game night. Other than that, "I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "And that, to me, almost indicates that it was inevitable: my professional life was going to change forever."
“I think there's a world in the next few weeks or months where he maybe he can process this and wants to play a game of poker. But right now, that's not how I feel." “I will never play poker on a broadcast again unless I see tangible, noticeable and measurable differences in the security of the live broadcast”, “That is for my own benefit and it is for the benefit of the poker community in general” . These are Garrett Adelstein's own words.
For her part, life has also changed for Robbi Jade Lew since that September 29, which appeared for the third time in "Hustler Casino Live and played that wild and controversial J4 hero-call, surprising the spectators, the rest of the the table and Adelstein, who was stunned and speechless for more than 90 seconds after Lew revealed his hand.
The fallout from this hand has inflamed the poker community, which has been plagued by cheating at casinos and online poker rooms over the years.
Lew has found himself in the crosshairs of everyone from professional and casual gamers around the world, who have chimed in by dissecting Lew's body language (was he tapping his fingers and twirling his ruby ring as a secret signal or was she just fidgeting?), the clothes she was wearing (was that "bulge" in her leggings? something nefarious or a trick of the light?), the chair she was sitting in (did it vibrate at a crucial moment or did it was her leg shaking under the table?) her trying to cover her tracks or just nervous when asked?).
“She played a very bad hand in a way that suggested she could see her opponent's hole cards,” said poker pro Matt Berkey, “Her hand was so bad that even the worst player in the world wouldn't want to put money in the pot. ”, "it is still very difficult for me to understand how he could do this"…
Lew's supporters say it's a classic example of sexism in which a prominent man can't deal with losing to a less experienced woman. Meanwhile, naysayers have delved into her personal life, questioning her wealth, her relationship with her attorney-businessman husband, and her financial arrangements with her poker sponsors (Lew said she bought $240,000 worth of chips before the show started, using money that was wagered by another player at the table).
Now the production company behind “Hustler Casino Live” while carrying out the investigation, said that she could ask Lew and her own employees to undergo polygraph tests.
Lew was born in Saudi Arabia to a medical doctor mother and a physicist father. She and her family (she also has an identical twin sister and a younger brother) immigrated to Berkeley when she was 5 years old and then moved to Orinda, a quaint town near the East Bay. She attended UC Santa Barbara, double majoring in law, society and philosophy, and married Charles Lew a decade ago.
Robbi Jade Lew denies cheating in the game of poker against Adelstein, she says that she, she just misread her cards but outplayed her opponent nonetheless. “My husband is a very successful man”, “he has a huge law firm called the Lew Firm. He is a partner owner of several bars, restaurants and a hotel or two. He is the #1 metaverse attorney in the nation, as well as a professor at Loyola Law School. He teaches a metaverse class every week. This is a man who has funds. I don't know why money surprises people. I guess it's because most people don't have it."
Lew has already told what happened in Hustler according to her:
As seen in videos of her, her chair seemed to vibrate, because she was hungover and had forgotten to take her ADHD medication, causing her leg to shake. She had nothing on her pants except her microphone pack on the back of her; her apparent rectangular shape was nothing more than the glare of the casino lights. Having another player at the table betting and raising for her is not against the rules (this has been confirmed by Hustler Casino) and she is not required to disclose the terms of the deal (she said that she and her sponsors usually split their winnings 50 -fifty).
"I'm not nervous about any of this. I have nothing to hide”, “I feel that if I stay quiet and let the world make up their own stories and their own plot, that mentally is more damaging to me than coming out and speaking”.
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