AN ACE UP THE SLEEVE
Mike Sexton discusses cheating in poker
By Sean Chaffin
No one wants to play with a cheater and the topic is a serious subject among poker players. Accusations began flying recently in one suspected case at the Stones Gambling Hall located near Sacramento, California. Mike Postle, a regular in the property’s live streamed cash games, is accused of cheating and the issue was first brought to light by Stones stream commentator Veronica Brill.
Postle regularly played hands in highly unlikely scenarios and seemed to never lose. Brill brought the situation to Stones management, but the property claimed an investigation had been conducted and there was no evidence of cheating. Brill then went public with her beliefs, and poker players/vloggers Joey Ingram and Doug Polk analyzed hours of poker hands.
The main focus was on hands where Postle played and raised with weak poker hands in highly unlikely spots. It seemed Postle couldn’t lose and also never seemed to make a postflop mistake. He seemed to rarely, if ever, lose.
“Mike just always seems to maneuver himself into the perfect situation,” Polk noted in his analysis.
Stones backtracked, shut down its streaming, and promised a complete investigation.
When watching Postle videos, he appears to look in his lap when his winning hands develop. Some have wondered if he received his opponents’ holdings via cell phone from someone in the streaming control room, or if he had an RFID reader in play. Postle denies all the allegations and took to Twitter to defend himself.
“I’ve played a unique high variance style my entire poker career,” he said, “and there’s hundreds of players I’ve played with over the course of those 16 years who can verify that I’ve played the same style both online and live that entire time.”
The case took another turn shortly afterward when 25 players, including Brill, filed a $30 million lawsuit against Postle, the Stones property, and tournament director and poker production manager Justin Kuraitis.
As a longtime poker pro and former WPT commentator, Mike Sexton has played and seen more poker than most. His lifetime live tournament earnings are $6.7 million and he also holds one World Series of Poker bracelet and one WPT title. Sexton was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009 and now serves as the chairman of PartyPoker. He spoke with Casino Player about the issue of cheating in poker.
Have you ever been in a game you suspected cheating was taking place?
Cheating is a touchy subject in the poker world. It’s not written about or discussed publicly much – and for good reason. Those in the industry don’t want to scare people away from poker, so they really don’t talk or write much about cheating. Honestly, cheating is quite rare, but poker is not unlike any other venture where money is involved. Someone will always be trying to “get the best of it” or take advantage of an opportunity by any means necessary.
Having said that, if you play poker regularly, whether in a casino or private game, it’s always best to have your antenna up. And yes, I’ve been in a private game where I felt something was going on and after an hour or so, I simply got up and quit. Sadly, I’ve played in a game or two many years ago where I went broke only to discover later that I’d been cheated. Live and learn.
What should players watch out for?
Pretty much everything – suspicious hands, who is winning, who plays pots together the most with unusual bets and raises by one and then a fold before showdown by one or the other. Always keep an eye on the dealer, notice if anyone continually follows the cards as they are dealt – a sign of looking for marked cards. In casino games, obviously, it’s in the house’s best interest to protect the players, but in private games it’s best if you know and trust the other players in the game.
What are some common cheating or collusion techniques?
I believe there are different things to look for in private games and casino games. In private games, I would say marked cards, cold decks (bringing in a deck pre-arranged as to who will win the pot), the “eye in the sky” (some type of camera that can see player’s cards where cheaters could relay that information to a partner in the game), and collusion among players (meaning there might be two or more playing the same bankroll and they signal each other when one has the nuts, where the other might stay in to raise a victim and then drop out before the showdown).
In casino poker, collusion is probably the biggest threat in terms of potential cheating, but this is nothing to fear in low stakes cash games or tournaments as players are randomly seated. And as we have seen as of late, RFID (radio frequency identification) creates cheating possibilities in live streams if the radio frequency can be intercepted or signaled by someone on the inside and relayed to a small earpiece or perhaps to a phone in someone’s lap.
How often do you think cheating in poker really takes place?
I would guess cheating takes place in far less than one percent of all games. However, it can and does happen occasionally. My best advice: If you ever feel uncomfortable in a poker game and have any feelings of potential cheating going on, quit the game. If it’s a casino game, report your suspicion of collusion or whatever to the poker room manager.
Second, if you’ve been around poker for any length of time, you know cheating has taken place. Simply put, although it is infrequent, cheating has and does happen, but it’s truly nothing to keep you awake at night, or a reason for you to quit playing. Just stay on your toes and keep your eyes and ears open.
Third, on behalf of all poker players, a sincere thank you to all those who suspect, investigate, and discover anyone who cheats at poker. We love and respect you!
We all want fair games to play.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and senior writer for Casino Player and Strictly Slots magazines. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions or email him at email@example.com for story assignments.