Remember When: Reflecting On The Mike Postle Cheating Scandal

The poker chips are piled high, your wallet’s fat and it feels like doubling-up never ends. This is every poker player’s dream, hitting that perfect balance of luck and strategy, riding the heater, and taking home a huge payday. But when does winning become suspicious?

For Mike Postle, it happened sometime around September 28, 2019.

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Who is Mike Postle?

Mike Postle is a professional poker player from America, who grew up gambling, even creating his own gambling-themed games as a child at the roller rink his family owned.

Eventually, his love of gambling and the casino led him to a job as a dealer at a local Indian casino, until the young dealer realized he had a knack for analytics — this led him to move to Tunica, Mississippi where he began to participate in more poker tournaments, and also as a staff member at Rounder Life, a poker magazine.

After a move to Sacramento with his wife after the birth of his daughter, Postle began playing poker at Stones Gambling Hall, and participating in their live streamed poker games via YouTube and Twitch. Postle was known for his jovial nature and funny stories, and for being a solid, albeit not highly technical poker player. After time clocked playing at the Stones, his propensity to win began around July 2018.

Postle started his ‘heater’ (the name for a player’s winning streak in poker), winning $250,000 from $1-3 and $2-5 no-limit hold’em games in 2018.

This made some Stones’ locals and other in the poker scene skeptical of his big wins and long-running heater. On September 28, 2019, another recreational poker player who enjoyed playing at Stones’, Veronica Brill, wrote a series of tweets that described why she thought Postle might be cheating. One accusatory Twitter thread was enough to light the poker world on fire, and spark two lawsuits. 

Cheating Controversy: What Happened to Mike Postle?

Eventually, players from Vegas were flying into Sacramento to play against Postle — it’s during his peak that Brill partly identified how Postle was cheating.

In a game of Texas Hold’em, each player is dealt their hole cards and five face-up community cards, and players can bet in-between. The flop is dealt first (3 cards), followed by the turn (1 card), and the river, (1 card). In this particular game, Postle was playing against 8 other people, when 7 opponents folded before the flop was event dealt — a very unusual Hold’em move. This left Postle and Vegas-based player Marle Cardeiro.

What happened next? The flop had an 8 of spades, 9 of diamonds, and jack of diamonds. Postle had a pair of jacks, and was one card (a 10) away from achieving a queen-high straight, which is a (8-9-10-jack-queen sequence). With two cards left, the turn produced a 4 of spades. Cordeiro places a $600 bet, then Postle decides to fold (for anyone not following, statistically, a raise or a call would make the most sense next for Postle).

Cordeiro held a good hand for the game, a 10 of diamonds and queen of spades, and had secured a queen-high straight before the river was dealt. The commentors of this particular game were mixed — while one, Justin Kelly, praised Postle for a brilliant play, Brill was long-skeptical of his heater, and this seemed to confirm her suspicions.

“It doesn’t make sense, it’s like he knows. It doesn’t make sense. It’s weird.” Her comments were ignored by Kelly, who continued to remark on Postle’s incredible game.

How did Brill think he was achieving his wins? Statistics, for one — it’s normal for even skilled and highly-technical players (think MIT-educated engineers who play as a hobby, and even professionally) to lose sometimes. To put this in perspective, there are over 2 million possible hold’em hands, which makes predicting moves & reactions both a science and an art that typically, requires hours and hours of studying and research. The reactions that Postle made in his game seemed devoid of any strategy beyond pure instinct, and a high VPIP rate. This is called ‘voluntarily put in pot’ and represents the rate a player remains in the game before the flop.

Although Brill wasn’t sure exactly how he was doing it, she surmised that he must know the other players hole cards. Despite many safeguards put in place to prevent cheating, security at Stones’ wasn’t allegedly secure, and many people were allowed in and out.

This makes a security compromise very possible. Postle also had a tendency to glance down at his phone on his lap, which fueled further speculation. To throw another hard-to-believe stat in the mix, Postle’s winning rate was at 94% while playing Stones’ Live Poker Games.

Mike Postle Court Ruling

What did the cheated players do? They took legal action. Mac VerStandig represented Brill as the plaintiff in the case, which included 80 poker players who played with Postle during livestreamed games. There were 14 complaints in total, which related to negligent misrepresentation, fraud, negligence per se, injust enrichment and a RICO claim.

In addition to this lawsuit, Marle Cordeiro, the opponent he faced while Brill commented on the game, filed her own multi-million dollar lawsuit with VerStandig in the state of Nevada, claiming damages and that Postle violated the Rakcateer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, negligent misrepresentation, two counts of negligence, and fraud.

In September 2020, things began to look up for Postle — a Sacramento judge dismissed cheating charges against Mike Postle, the tournament director Justin Kuraitis, and the Gambling Hall itself, ruling in favor of Stones’ Gambling Hall. The judge opted to grant their motions to dismiss pending civil lawsuits resulting from the cheating scandal. Cordeiro’s case was also dismissed, mainly because it was filed in Nevada rather than Sacramento, where the game took place.

After the court ruling, Stones reached a settlement with 62 of the 88 players represented in the lawsuit, though players signed an agreement that no evidence of cheating or nefarious happenings occurred (or was proven) during the games.

 

VerStandig for one, doesn’t think the lawsuit is over and intends to exhaust his legal options pertaining to the cheating scandal.

 Mike Postle Update: Where is he now?

So, where is Mike Postle at now? Unfortunately, the disruptions weren’t limited to Mike Postle’s professional life, his personal life was in disarray, too. After a tumultuous divorce, he was embroiled in a battle for custody of his daughter. After the scandal, he decided to lay low and spend time with his family, before getting re-hired by Stones’ Gambling Hall, who firmly stands by their decision to allow Postle to play and re-hire him.

 However, it’s worth noting that the main gambling publication who supports Postle and decries his critics is…can you guess? Rounder Life, the same publication that employed Postle on their masthead. And rendered an image of Jesus with Postle’s face superimposed. We’ll leave you to make your own conclusion with that.

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