Poker Cheating Scandal Investigation Reveals its Findings
A nearly three-month investigation into one of the most controversial hands of poker ever played has concluded. But its findings, released on Wednesday morning, are less conclusive than most poker players and fans probably hoped.
A 12-page report from High Stakes Poker Productions (HSPP), the production company for the Hustler Casino Live (HCL) livestream show, found “no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing” against Robbi Jade Lew. The rookie player made one of the most illogical calls in professional poker history while playing against Garrett Adelstein, one of the game’s most prominent stars, on Sept. 29.
However, the report stated, “That does not mean that no wrongdoing occurred. It means that the investigation failed to find credible evidence.”
Rundown of a Bad Beatdown
During the now-infamous HCL livestream from the Gardena, Calif. casino, Lew called Adelstein’s semi-bluff $105K all-in bet with virtually nothing – a jack high with no draw and only a hope of a pair on the river. (According to a calculation by DraftKings, she had approximately 150 ways to lose her hand, but only six ways to win.)
This grew the pot to $269K, which Lew won. Even more bizarrely, following the win, Lew gave her winnings from the controversial hand back to Adelstein, making her appear guilty. (Later, she claimed, she did so under duress.)
Adelstein later accused Lew of colluding with at least one other player at the table and with production employee Bryan Sagbigsal. Lew has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Four days later, the scandal got $15K weirder, when it was revealed that Sagbigsal robbed Lew of three $5K chips following the game, and that Lew initially refused to press charges. (Later, she did, and the Gardena Police Department issued a warrant for the 25-year-old’s arrest, on Nov. 22 for felony theft.) Sagbigsal, it was later determined, had a criminal record, including a 2017 arrest for robbery and prison escape (without force).
Investigating the Investigation
HSPP said it spent more than $100K on its investigation. Cybersecurity experts, private investigators, and law firms were all hired for their expertise. Dozens of hours of surveillance video were scrutinized. The card shuffler was inspected. Even the poker table was dismantled, to check whether its radio frequency identification system – which reads and broadcasts each player’s face-down cards to a receiver – could have been compromised in any way.
“Upon inspection of the systems, table and network,” the report said, “there was no evidence of tampering, remote access, viruses, rogue hardware installed, or previously installed programs on the machines.”
That said, the cybersecurity firm did identify some “critical risks” that, while not suggestive of cheating in this case, needed redressing to prevent it in the future:
- Production Room Vulnerabilities
The players’ card information “could be seen by anyone in the production room just by turning their head,” according to the report. A wall and door have since been installed to fortify that weak link. Now, only a single monitor, viewable only by the show’s director, displays hole-card information. In addition, all employees must place their electronic devices into signal-blocking bags before entering the room, and only HSPP employees have access to the room, not Hustler Casino employees.
- Undisclosed Staking
After it was revealed by Lew that she had been staked her gambling money by another player at the table, Jacob “Rip” Chavez, HSPP announced that it will now require players to sign a waiver acknowledging they have no financial investment in anyone else in the game. “The undisclosed financial relationship between Ms. Lew and Mr. Chavez creates the appearance of collusion between the two players,” the report said. “Such conduct is widely considered unethical in the poker community and is prohibited in ‘Hustler Casino Live’ games.”
- Lack of Background Checks
HSPP, which admitted that not conducting a background check on Sagbigsal before hiring him was a mistake, said it will now conduct pre-employment background checks on all prospective employees.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, HCL coowner Ryan Feldman attempted to frame the investigation’s conclusions as though they resolve the cheating charges and place the scandal squarely in the company’s rear-view mirror.
“It will always be a mystery to a degree, because — as I’ve said all along — there’s no way to 100% prove that nothing happened,” Feldman told the newspaper. “But 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.”
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