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Mike Postle & Stones Face $30M CHEATING Lawsuit

Important Note: The matters discussed in this article pertain to the legal system and involve serious allegations, which have not thus far been proven in a court of law. The text contained herein is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as any form of qualified legal opinion or legal advice.

Crook

Mike Postle is at the center of probably the biggest cheating scandal the game of poker has seen at least since the superuser incidents of more than a decade ago at poker sites Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. Not content with just sitting idly on the sidelines, a group of Postle's alleged victims has filed suit to attempt to recover $30 million from him and other supposed wrongdoers.

Mike Postle Accused of Cheating

Sequence of Events

Billiard Balls

Since January 2018 and possibly for a while prior to this, Mike Postle has been a regular in the games at Stones Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights, California, part of the Sacramento area. He frequently appeared in broadcasts of Stones Live Poker, which streamed the card game action across Twitch and Youtube with a delay so as not to compromise players' hole card information.

Postle seemed to be a solid winner right from the start, but his fortunes appeared to improve to a nearly god-like level from about June 2018 onward. He won the vast majority of his sessions and oftentimes was the winningest player at the table multiple nights in a row.

His good results were not mainly the consequence of receiving sick runs of monster hands nor sucking out on his adversaries. Rather, he demonstrated uncanny card sense: folding when opponents made well-concealed monsters, raising with subpar holdings when he sensed weakness, and calling down light when others were bluffing.

Mike PostleMichael Postle Faces Allegations of Cheating at Poker

Mike attributed his success to his 16-year poker career, claiming that his experience at reading other players and willingness to play a high-variance style were instrumental in his ability to crush the game. However, whispers started circulating that something else was going on.

Shots Fired

The first individual to make public allegations of cheating against Mike Postle was Veronica “Angry_Polak” Brill who has often played against him on Stones Live Poker and used to be a regular commentator on the stream. In a lengthy series of tweets posted Sept. 28, she brought forward her evidence, including several video clips of some of the hands that Postle participated in.

Veronica BrillVeronica Brill, Whistleblower in the Mike Postle Case

Within that thread, Brill said that she couldn’t be sure that Postle was cheating but made it known that there was a good chance that he was. To back that up, she stated that various other professionals had warned her and voiced their concerns over Postle and his gameplay although Brill refused to mention who those players were in her posts.

After extensive investigation by respected members of the poker community, it became evident that Mike Postle was up to no good. The leading theory is that someone on the inside had access to the control room that received the RFID transmissions from sensors embedded in the table. That person then forwarded info on opponents' down cards to Postle in realtime via some unknown mechanism.

More About the Lawsuit

Letter i in Blue Circle

Seeking redress for the wrongs committed against them, 25 individuals who had played against Postle banded together and retained the services of the VerStandig Law Firm in pursuing legal action. They then filed a “Complaint and Demand for Trial by Jury” in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Tweet About Postle Lawsuit

Among the plaintiffs listed in court documents are Veronica Brill herself and poker vloggers Jeff Boski and Jaman Burton. The defendants include Michael L. Postle, King's Casino – the company behind Stones Gambling Hall – and the tournament director of Stones, Justin F. Kuraitis. Kuraitis also serves as the live poker production manager for the cardroom. There are unidentified co-conspirators involved as well, labeled simply “John Does 1 - 10” and “Jane Does 1 - 10.”

Nine causes for action are given against one or more of these defendants:

  • RICO Act violations
  • Fraud
  • Negligent misrepresentation
  • Negligence per se
  • Unjust enrichment
  • Negligence
  • Constructive Fraud
  • Fraud (yes, “fraud” is listed twice)
  • Libel

Monetary Awards Sought

In addition to being made whole for the losses they've suffered in what they contend were unfair games, the plaintiffs are also looking to slap the malefactors with heavy punitive damages. They want judgment issued against Postle and his unidentified co-conspirators in the sum of $10 million for fraud. Then they're going after Stones for constructive fraud and seek another $10 million in damages. Finally, they're trying to hold both Stones and its Live Poker Production Manager Justin Kuraitis liable for another $10 million in punitive levies for fraud.

Justin KuraitisJustin Kuraitis Had Final Authority Over All Aspects of the Stones Live Poker Broadcast

This gives a total of $30 million that the affected individuals are looking for. They intend to see this money divided up amongst themselves proportionately based upon the number of minutes they each played on the Stones Live Poker stream.

Actually, the total figure in question could climb higher than $30 million because of the other small recompenses that the plaintiffs are asking for, like $1,000 to Veronica Brill for libel, the payment of court costs, and the divestment of ill-gotten poker winnings from Mike Postle. On the other hand, the $30 million figure looks like pie-in-the-sky optimism in case they get a favorable judge and jury with the real amount to be awarded likely much smaller.

Inside Man's Identity Ascertained?

Curiously, there are indications within the court filing that the identity of Mike Postle's main confederate is known. In one part of the document, we read:

The Plaintiffs have a good faith basis upon which to allege the identity of the person who is John Doe 1, being an individual who directly aided Mr. Postle in cheating by aiding in the concealment of such behavior with knowledge and scienter, and have directed a litigation hold letter to such person. The Plaintiffs, however, are cognizantly refraining from making such allegation against this particular Defendant herein until greater information can be gleaned through the discovery process, in recognition of the sensitivity of making such an allegation.

The text goes on to state that it's not due to any uncertainty on their parts that the plaintiffs are wary of revealing the identity of this mystery accomplice. It's rather that they are possessed of “a desire to be more cautious than required, given the gravity of this matter.” Should the court demand that this individual be clearly identified, the plaintiffs are ready to comply.

Mike Postle Watches

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Stones Stonewalls

TTTH

Before making her allegations public, Brill approached Stones management to get their take on the situation:

Tweet About What Stones Told Veronica

Not only that, but the Stones Gambling Hall also responded to her Twitter comments. The establishment stated that it had already tackled accusations of cheating earlier in the year and found them baseless. “The recent allegations,” Stones continued, “are completely fabricated.”

As more and more evidence of Postle's shenanigans came to light, Stones changed its tune on Oct. 3. It suspended its live streaming broadcast, stopped using RFID cards, and promised to create an “independent investigation team.” Later, further details about the investigation were announced:

Stones Gambling Hall Tweet About Investigation

What was left unstated was that Michael Lipman – named head of the investigation – has served as counsel for Stones Gambling Hall in the past! Just look at this settlement arrangement reached with the California authorities to dispose of a case involving financial improprieties on the part of Stones. Page 11 clearly shows the signature of one Michael L. Lipman, Attorney for Respondents, i.e., Stones.

Just how “independent” Lipman can be in these circumstances is unclear. Given Stones Gambling Hall's initial reactions to the cheating scandal, it's likely that they're just attempting to sweep the entire affair under the rug whilst protecting their reputation as much as possible.

Stones Gambling HallStones Gambling Hall Has Not Exactly Acted With Transparency

Evidence Collected

Magnifying Glass

Before we go on any further, it's about time we check out some of the material that has been amassed to show that Mike Postle was indeed guilty of improprieties in his gameplay. Such suspicions of cheating are serious indeed and not to be leveled against anyone lightly.

In the wake of Brill's accusations, quite a few prominent members of the poker world determined to conduct their own analyses of the situation. The factors considered by these internet sleuths included:

  • Mike Postle's long-term patterns of behavior
  • Statistics collected on Postle's televised play
  • Review of individually suspicious hands played by Postle

1. Mike Postle's Behavior

Despite Mike's much-touted ability to look closely at his adversaries and gain valuable reads and tells on them, he actually ignored his opponents when making some of his most notable plays. Instead, his attention was directed beneath the table, toward his lap where he kept his smartphone in his left hand.

This lends credence to the idea that he was receiving some type of digital signal telling him what cards other players had. He was very careful to position his body such that nobody other than himself could view his phone.

Something else that was odd about his pattern of play is that he would often arrive at Stones, play on the televised stream, and then leave immediately when filming was concluded. Other participants tended to hang around and play longer. One possible explanation is that the RFID table was only used for the live stream broadcasts, and when they were finished, Mike's illicit edge became unavailable, leading him – quite reasonably – to abandon the game.

Mike Postle, when he wasn't playing on Stones Live Poker, was often spotted in the smallest games spread: $1/$2 and $1/$3. One wonders why such an absolute beast of a player would content himself with these cheeseburger stakes when, for someone of his superior poker abilities, millions of dollars awaited him in bigger games.

2. Statistical Oddities

Several forumites have taken it upon themselves to compile stats regarding Postle's play. Because there were no official statistics compiled or released by Stones, this was a laborious process that necessitated watching past streaming videos and noting down whatever his results were.

The specific numbers vary depending on the time range covered in the analysis, whether we include NLHE/PLO/other games within the totals, and guesstimates as to what happened whenever Mike's stack seemed to increase or decrease without the reasons being shown on-stream.

By all accounts though, Mike's winrate and percentage of winning sessions were phenomenal and unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. According to twoplustwo user “js84,” Postle won in 62 of 69 sessions, making $253,300 in 277 hours of play, for an hourly rate in excess of $900/hr.

Forum user “Utopia” is meanwhile maintaining a spreadsheet of data on Mike Postle's session results, which forum members are constantly refining as more becomes known. Here are a couple of tables from the “Results” tab of this spreadsheet:

Postle's Results on Stones Streams

Though the numbers don't exactly correspond identically to the previous statistics, these figures tell the same story basically: a stellar winrate combined with an improbably high frequency of winning sessions. For what it's worth, the plaintiffs in the legal suit state that Postle achieved “net winnings in more than ninety four percent (94%) of the Stones Live Poker games in which he played from July 18, 2018 onward.”

3. Individual Hand Reviews

Although the numbers discussed above are so unlikely as to be all but impossible for anyone playing legitimately, several observers believed that there was no way to really get an accurate handle on what was going on without digging into the archive of past streams and viewing the way Mike Postle played his hands.

Among the first to treat Veronica Brill's charges against Mike Postle seriously was Joe “Chicago Joey” Ingram. He has a history of digging deeply into controversial poker-related topics, just as he did with the Winning Poker Network bot situation in 2018.

Joe went through hours of footage from Stones Live Poker on his YouTube channel and reached the unmistakable conclusion that Mike was benefiting from improper information on his opponents' holdings. In fact, on Oct. 9, Chicago Joey hosted Veronica Brill on for a livestream wherein they discussed the evidence against Postle. You can view this video below:


Fellow YouTube blogger Doug Polk got onboard too, making several videos discussing the unbelievable plays and amazing reads that Mike Postle appeared to make and ultimately concluding that he was cheating. After a few initial days of confusion and denial, many respected poker professionals reached the same conclusion, including Scott Siever, Matt Berkey, and Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu.

Questionable Hands

While conducting their research, the video makers mentioned above found hands that showcased Mike Postle's uncanny ability to make just the right play again and again. Taken in isolation, each of these hands isn't proof of anything more than the occasional odd decision on Postle's part that worked out. Considered as a whole, however, they paint a damning portrait of someone acting as though he knew what cards everyone else had.

One of these hands, on May 4, 2019, involved Mike getting it in three ways preflop with a very suspect holding: 54o. The way it went down was that blinds were at $5/$5, but there were a couple of $45 straddles in play, one of which was posted by Postle.

A couple of people called the straddle, and then a player named Naga raised to $245 in the small blind with AK. WSOP 2003 champ Chris Moneymaker was next to act in the big blind with his own AK, and he three-bet to $705.

The UTG straddle folded, and then it was on Mike Postle who had also straddled in the hand. He called the $660 with the abysmally weak 54 (and it wasn't even suited). The limpers then folded, and the action proceeded to Naga who shipped it all-in for $2,900. Moneymaker followed suit by going all-in for $4,100.

What did Mike Postle do? Why, he called off the rest of his stack ($3,400) with the lowly 54. Taking a look at the equity of this situation, we see that this call was highly +EV given that Naga and Moneymaker both held AK, blocking each other's outs, and taking into account the specific cards folded by others:

AK v. AK v. 54 Equity Sim

Postle actually had more than 40% equity in this hand, clearly above the 33% needed to be a money favorite in a three-way situation. However, it's hard to see how his reads on his two adversaries could have possibly been precise enough for him to know that they both held the exact same hand. Against more reasonable shipping ranges, Postle would have been in serious trouble:

Equity Sim: 54 v Reasonable Ranges

Observers found many instances like this one where Mike deviated from the normal, expected action in a way that implied omniscience on his part. As more and more of these spots were found, it became increasingly evident that there's no way he could have pulled off these incredible moves without some extra help.

Postle's Reaction

Red Comment Bubble

As can well be imagined, Mike Postle didn't take too kindly to being called out in this way. On Sept. 30, he posted to his Twitter feed:

Mike Postle Defends Himself

Postle went on to say that he has played his "unique high variance style" throughout his entire poker career, and that there are plenty of professionals that he has played with throughout that time who can verify it.

That’s all fine and good, but when Brill is being backed up by multiple professional poker players who echo her concerns on Postle’s cheating, things don’t look good for him or the establishment where it all took place. Some of these former players now operate in the fields of law and academia and have pointed out Postle’s high win rate and specific hands that he chose to play. According to them, circumstantial evidence also questions the possible misuse of radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards.

Postle Defenders

Shield

Although the majority of players, after looking at the evidence, sided with Veronica Brill, Joe Ingram, and Doug Polk, there were a few who claimed that Postle was innocent.

Matusow Mouths Off

One of Mike Postle's champions was Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. According to him, it’s possible to almost never make an incorrect decision when at the poker table. He's not convinced by Mike Postle's enviable record of winning sessions either, claiming to have once himself won 54 sessions in a row.

Matusow even invited Postle for a YouTube interview, which was posted to the channel “MikeTheMouth” in two parts: 1, 2. However, these videos were lambasted by others who claimed that Mike The Mouth fed Postle softball questions and didn't grill him very hard. Responding to his critics, Mike Matusow had the following to say:

Matusow Attacks Postle Attackers

Former Champ in Postle's Corner…at First

Chris Moneymaker, who has had his own lengthy poker history with Postle (and who was also inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame this year), spoke of the accusations being made. He and Postle have competed against one another numerous times on the Stones Live Poker stream.

Regarding the hand mentioned above where Chris had AK and Postle called all-in with 54, Moneymaker explained that they had just been joking around about Chris winning the WSOP Main Event with that exact hand, and this was the reason Postle opted to play it. That's some pretty flimsy reasoning, if you ask us. It's highly likely that someone who routinely used such off-the-wall justifications for entering a massive pot with subpar cards would quickly go broke rather than stomping the competition for more than a year.

Moneymaker initially defended his friend, claiming that he's “a really good f*****g player.” He stated that there was no real evidence against Postle apart from a few outlandish plays.

However, after watching a few of the videos produced by prominent poker content creators, Chris Moneymaker changed his tune:

Moneymaker Changes Mind About Postle (1/2)
Moneymaker Changes Mind About Postle (2/2)

Jeff Boski Weighs In

Play Button

One of the poker vloggers whom we most admire, Jeff Boski, has produced a half hour-long video going over a few interesting aspects of the Mike Postle cheating fiasco. Jeff is not only a first-rate video producer but also a participant in some of the games that Postle entered on Stones Live Poker as well as a litigant in the lawsuit filed against Postle. Additionally, Boski has considerable experience in high-stakes poker events, like the Costa Rica Live Cage. You can watch Jeff's video below for more enlightenment on this situation:



Our Opinion

Thinker Statue

Having taken into account the mountains of evidence that are available for public inspection, we have to agree with the majority of players that Mike Postle is guilty of cheating. He deserves to lose the lawsuit, forfeit his winnings, and have his reputation tarnished forever.

Yet, he's not the only one whose actions leave something to be desired. The entire Stones organization is at fault too for enabling Mike's wrongdoing to continue as long as it did and then attempting a half-hearted cover up when allegations nevertheless surfaced.

What about the community of poker players? Well, they do merit kudos for piecing together all the pieces of the puzzle to confirm Mike's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

But that's only one half of the story. What about the dozens of players who squared off against Postle over a period of MORE THAN A YEAR and didn't suspect that anything untoward was happening? Or the live stream commentators who frequently would express their disbelief at Mike's laser-sharp reads and remark that it was as though he could see his opponents' cards?

We're saddened by this lack of vigilance on the part of individuals who, as a group, take pride in being able to read people and evaluate table conditions. Alarm bells should have gone off in the minds of many of them well before Veronica posted her initial allegations on Sept. 28.

So in conclusion, we half-applaud the poker-playing population for their sleuthing ability and half-castigate them for being so oblivious for so long.

Safe Poker Play in California

Yellow Smiley

While the accusations of Postle and his potential cheating are technically still as yet to be proven, it does beg the question of just how secure land-based poker rooms are. If players are possibly able to get away with it while live streaming, then it does seem to suggest that certain holes are present within that security.

While the Stones Gambling Hall remains available to enter within Northern California for poker purposes (even with live streaming of such currently being inactive), it’s also possible to engage in online poker from the state, too. Find out how in our guide to legal Californian online poker.

If you live in another part of the country, then head over to our USA internet poker guide and FAQ to brush up on your knowledge of the best online sites to play at.