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Poker Drama: Garrett Adelstein, Nik Airball, Matt Berkey, and Doug Polk

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Poker is a highly social game, so anytime there is a large amount of money on the line, there are bound to be conflicts that arise within the community. Back in September of 2022, Garrett Adelstein accused Robbi Lew of cheating in a high-stakes poker hand at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, California.

Garrett Adelstein, Matt Berkey, Doug Polk, and Nik Airball Poker Drama

Garrett Adelstein was the most profitable professional player to regularly appear at Hustler on their Hustler Casino Live (HCL) poker streams over the course of the past few years. After the incident, Garrett has taken a break from playing poker, but there has still been plenty of discussion about the hand both online and on poker live streams. Hustler Casino Live has continued to operate with success in the aftermath.

Over the past few months since the incident, there has been plenty of online discussion, arguing, and drama surrounding the hand in question. Garrett has been the target of a lot of criticism regarding his time at Hustler and the way that he responded to the potential cheating scandal. In this article, we will discuss a few of the most recent revelations, including Nik Airball and his appearances at HCL as well as the drama surrounding Matt Berkey, Garrett Adelstein, and Doug Polk.

Background on the J4 Hand Involving Garrett and Robbi

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Hustler Casino, located near Los Angeles, California, is known for operating one of the most popular online poker live streams known as Hustler Casino Live. The brand is primarily run by Ryan Feldman with Nick Vertucci also holding a prominent stake in the brand and its management.

Back in late September 2022, Robbi Jade Lew, a fairly unknown woman in poker, made a wild hero call against Garrett Adelstein with only Jack high, and her hand was good. This in turn prompted Garrett to wonder whether he was cheated.

Garrett reacted fairly strongly at the time, since he believed he was cheated, and he even talked Robbi into paying him the entire $135,000 back. In the time following this incident, Garrett received a lot of negative attention for keeping the funds without concrete proof of any wrongdoing. He later announced that he had donated the funds to Big Brother Big Sister Los Angeles.

Garrett Adelstein, poker pro and “Survivor” contestantGarrett Adelstein hasn't played any poker since the infamous hand

The most recent drama that we're going to be focusing on seems to stem from the alleged cheating incident in addition to some players at Hustler claiming that Garrett acts “fake,” targets recreational players, and directly controlled the Hustler Casino Live poker lineups.

Who is Nik Airball and How is He Involved?

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There isn't much history on the internet regarding Nikhil Arcot, also widely referred to as Nik Airball. Nik is a 34-year-old poker player who moved to the United States from India when he turned 18. In recent times, Nik has gained popularity by playing on poker live streams like Hustler Casino Live. Nik immediately gained a reputation for buying in for huge amounts and taunting other players at the table.

Nik Airball Fired Shots Online at Garrett and Matt BerkeyNik Airball has become a regular on Hustler Casino Live

Airball has made it clear that he is willing to tussle with anybody while demonstrating his brash and somewhat disrespectful banter at the poker tables. Airball has also shown plenty of willingness to run big bluffs, play a wide range of hands, and straddle to keep the game interesting.

Nik Airball Attacks Garrett Online

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Nik Airball has been playing at Hustler Casino Live frequently as of late in addition to making appearances on other streams, like at The Lodge. Doug Polk offered to interview Nik on his YouTube channel, and the interview was conducted on March 22 on Doug's popular YouTube channel.

Over the course of the 90+ minute interview, Nik made a number of claims regarding Garrett specifically. Nik told multiple stories about Garrett “controlling” the Hustler lineups and even in one instance, being kicked out of a certain game after winning more than $1 million.

Nik Airball didn't present any concrete evidence for the vast majority of his claims regarding Garrett. It appears as though Nik may have some kind of personal grudge against Garrett after admitting to looking up to him in the past only to now accuse him of targeting recreational players, controlling Hustler lineups, and acting “fake.”

Matt Berkey Has Been Accused of Being a Fraud

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Matt Berkey is a somewhat popular poker player who is primarily known for his training site, Solve For Why. Matt has started several poker-centered businesses, including his training site, a merch store, and an in-person poker academy called Poker Out Loud that features a hefty $3,999 price tag. Matt also operates the Solve For Why Youtube channel, which mostly hosts podcast discussions featuring Solve For Why staff and guests including Melissa Schubert, Christian Soto, Nick Howard, and Landon Tice.

Matt Berkey Created Solve For Why, a Poker Training Site and Youtube PodcastMatt Berkey runs a popular YouTube podcast and the Solve For Why poker training site

In a recent interview with Doug Polk on his Youtube channel, Nik accused Matt of being a “scammer.” Nik mostly bases these claims on Matt potentially misleading people regarding his poker skills and success while offering supposedly elite poker training services. This is certainly a complex topic and one that we can't comment too specifically on, but we did receive a bit more clarification when Garrett broke his silence in an interview with Doug.

We'll get more into the specifics of Garrett's recent interview later on in this article, but when the topic of Matt Berkey was brought up, both Doug and Garrett shared interesting insights. Garrett made it clear that he is good friends with Matt and is therefore biased. With that in mind, Garrett still said that while he used to question Matt's poker abilities, he now believes he is a “very strong player.”

Doug was a bit harsher when it came to discussing Berkey. Doug said that while he disagrees with Nik's sentiments that Matt is a “scammer,” Doug clarifies that he does view Matt Berkey as a “fraud.” Perhaps there are semantics at play here with this difference in wording, but it is clear that there are many people in the high-stakes poker community who do not respect Matt Berkey as a potential elite professional. Doug also called into question the quality and validity of the training services offered by Solve For Why.

Twitter Wars Break Out

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Partially due to Nik Airball's claims on Doug Polk's Youtube channel, there have now been multiple feuds between these involved parties over on Twitter. Garrett took to Twitter to respond to Nik before going on the Doug Polk podcast. Garrett replied to a recent Doug Polk video and had the following to say regarding Nik in the Twitter responses:

Garrett Adelstein PC Garrett is Dead TweetGarrett Adelstein took to Twitter to call out Nik Airball

It appears that some of this response was spawned by Nik's recent criticism of Garrett on Twitter and Hustler Casino live streams as well as the general backlash that he has received from the online poker community. Nik had many critiques of Garrett, including claiming that he controlled the Hustler lineups, was removed from certain games for beating recreationals for too much money, and that he “acts fake.”

Matt Berkey also had several things to say in response to some of the accusations against him. Berkey defended his position and his brand in addition to indicating his willingness to challenge Nik Airball to a heads-up poker match. Nik doubled down and claimed that Berkey is a “fraud” and he wishes to play against him heads up to “expose Berkey as a fraud.”

Is Garrett Banned From the Hustler?

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Nick Vertucci, who co-owns and operates Hustler Casino Live, stated on his Youtube podcast that Garrett would not be invited back to any HCL shows in the foreseeable future. Vertucci refrained from stating in clear terms that Adelstein was banned, but he certainly made it clear Hustler did not plan on having Garrett back anytime soon.

Following the lengthy and volatile interview with Nik Airball, Doug Polk made it clear via Twitter that he would be happy to host Garrett on the podcast to address some of Nik's accusations and statements. Fortunately, on March 27, Garrett joined Doug Polk for an interview to share his side of the story and his thoughts regarding the J4 hand, Nik Airball, and his future in the poker industry.

Garrett and Doug Announced the YouTube Interview on TwitterGarrett and Doug announced the interview over on Twitter

To sum up a few of his thoughts, Garrett made it clear that the majority of the claims made by Nik are provably false or grossly exaggerated. Garrett went into specifics about Nik's claims, demonstrating that he was never banned from the game Nik claimed and that he did not directly control the Hustler lineups.

Garrett also discussed Hustler Casino Live and Nick Vertucci's recent comments. Garrett stated that he was blindsided by Nick's comments about him potentially being “banned” from Hustler. Garrett made it clear that he is not seriously pursuing poker and thus he has no intention of trying to play on the Hustler streams.

Hustler Casino is where the Hustler Casino Live stream is filmedHustler Casino Live is at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, CA

When it came to discussing Robbi and the infamous J4 hand, Garrett made it clear that he still “very strongly believes that he was cheated” in the J4 hand last year. As a result, Doug and Garrett discussed live-stream poker game integrity and shared some concerns regarding the way Hustler is still running live streams.

Doug Polk runs an online live stream at The Lodge which is located in Round Rock, Texas. Doug, as an owner and ambassador of the room, clarified that the streams at The Lodge utilize a “trustless” approach which means that nobody will have access to any of the hole cards live during a stream. Doug also stated that Live at the Bike has implemented the same technology in an effort to increase the security of their high-stakes poker streams.

It is important to note that Doug did mention that he discussed this issue with Ryan Feldman, who runs Hustler Casino Live, and Ryan stated that it would be currently impossible for the Hustler streams to implement a “trustless” system due to some kind of technological limitations. Doug said that Ryan expressed that he is open to working on implementing this system if possible in the future.

So What? Who Cares About Any of This?

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While the online banter may seem a bit silly, the entire situation does pose a number of important and interesting questions for the poker community to consider as a whole. Perhaps the most important aspect to come of this situation is the discussion regarding live stream poker integrity.

It is certainly important for the poker community as a whole to ensure that publicized, live-streamed poker games are fair and safe, especially when large sums of money are involved. If nothing else, at least it seems clear that the community and poker live stream operators are much more aware of the importance of game security as well as potential leaks and vulnerabilities in the systems.

Another question that has been discussed is what the poker community as a whole can do about cheaters. Doug Polk clarified in his podcast that he had preemptively banned Ali Imsirovic after it was proven that he had cheated online. Furthermore, people claim Ali had been boastful when asked about his cheating and showed no remorse whatsoever.

When it comes to a person like Robbi, where there is no concrete proof of any cheating, is there anything that can be done to protect live games? Robbi has appeared on Live at the Bike and The Lodge streams recently, so it is clear that she has been welcomed back to the table.

Without concrete evidence of any cheating, we would have to agree that preemptively banning her may be too strong of a move. It is our hope that these kinds of discussions regarding potential cheating continue to be brought to the forefront so poker can remain safe and accessible for all people who wish to play. Playing poker for real money can be extremely important for people and being cheated out of their hard-earned money can easily turn people off from the great game of poker altogether.

Nik and Matt Berkey Set to Face off HU4ROLLZ

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After Nik Airball openly stated his willingness to play anybody in the world heads up, he focused his attention on Matt Berkey. On March 26, Airball re-tweeted Matt and confirmed that the two are going to face off heads up. The terms for the proposed match can be seen in Nik's re-tweet below.

Nik Airball and Matt Berkey set to Battle Heads UpNik and Matt have seemingly agreed to terms for a massive poker match

The blind level to be played is set at $200/$400 and the two plan on battling for six hours a day, three days a week. The minimum buy-in will be $100,000. The proposed ruleset stipulates that either player can quit if they're down more than $1 million, and there will be a $10,000 penalty for missing a session or quitting early. The two will play a total of 100 hours.

On March 28, Nik Airball tweeted that the first match is set to take place on Saturday, April 1 at Resorts World in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Nik Airball and Matt Berkey set to Battle Heads Up at Resorts WorldThe match is set to begin on April 1st at Resorts World in Las Vegas

The two continued to bicker and contest the terms of the duel, sometimes involving weird stipulations, such as Airball's demand that he be allowed to bring a friend to sit with him at the table. At times, it seemed like the match would be cancelled, but eventually, thanks to the intercession of arbiter Phil Galfond, the combatants agreed on the terms, and the challenge is set to proceed at Resorts World.

Bet on the Match and Play Safe Poker Online Now


For the rest of us that won't be playing for $1 million anytime soon, there are plenty of trustworthy online poker sites for players in the United States, Canada, and Australia. To learn more about the best poker site in your geographical area, please feel free to review the internet poker guides provided below.

In addition, you may be able to bet on the upcoming high-stakes heads up poker match between Matt Berkey and Nik Airball at BetOnline or although the contest is no longer listed. A couple of days ago, the two sites had Matt listed as a -175 favorite with Airball coming in at a +145 underdog. This means that a winning $100 bet on Berkey would net a $57.14 profit while a similarly sized bet on Airball would yield $145 in profit on the same wager.

Bet on the Match at BetOnlineBetOnline lists Matt Berkey as a solid favorite