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INTRODUCTION TO PART 2In December I posted Part 1 of this series, which describes my early days in the HCL Poker Scandal Discord Group that investigated possible cheating on Hustler Casino Live. Part 1 provides essential context for what will be discussed here:
The crux of Part 1 is a "fake pots" theory that one group member proposed and which I came to agree with: various hand/finger positions, including (but not limited to) one-finger and two-finger hand positions, have generally been associated with fake pots.
I basically stand by what I wrote in my Part 1 post.
Once again: in this post I speak for myself ONLY.
GARRETT VS ELI: THE HAND THAT SPAWNED A SPLINTER DISCORD GROUPGarrett vs Eli
As I wrote in Part 1, Garrett Adelstein (whom I had been a fan of) was an early member of the Discord.
As the Discord discussion moved away from the J4 stream, and fanned out into an exploration of possible widespread cheating, some group members began to question the wisdom of having HCL's "signature pro" in the group.
The hand that broke the camel's back was discovered by another group member, then shared with others (including myself) privately. Later, it was shared with the entire group (3:19:45):
Preflop: Garrett (HJ) raises to $1000 with A♥️T♠️. Eli (BB) 3bets to $3200 with A♣️K♦️. Garrett calls. Garrett and Eli go HU to flop.
Flop (pot: $7150): T♣️8♠️3♣️
Eli bets $2600. Garrett calls.
Turn (pot: $12350): 9♣️. Three clubs on the board. Eli has A♣️, i.e., nut flush draw.
Eli checks. Garrett bets $4000. Eli raises to $11000. Garrett calls.
River (pot $34350): 5♦️
Eli (with the nut-flush blocker) makes a small bet of $11900 (leaving $17025 behind). Garrett tank calls.
The reason this hand piqued some group members' curiosity: we wondered if this might be a "fake pot." By this time some group members (including me) had come to agree with the "fake pots" theory that associated certain hand positions with "fake pots" (this is discussed in detail in my Part 1 post).
The hand features a two-finger hand position from Eli (beginning around 3:20:43, but continuing all the way to the river), which some of us now believe to be associated with "fake pots":
Eli two-finger position in hand vs Garrett
Some of us thought that Tiger (seated to Garrett's left) may have also been signaling in this hand.
As far as the actual poker actions in this hand go, at least a few of us found Eli's river bet size noteworthy. With the nut-flush blocker, and a nearly pot-sized stack, an all-in bluff would be the natural play. Some wondered if Eli's small river bet might be a "chip dump" to Garrett.
It's also worth noting that the very next hand -- another Garrett vs Eli hand -- features a similar two-finger position from Eli. My opinion is that this is likely also a "fake pot."
Group members question Garrett
Garrett did not weigh in on this hand when it was first discussed in the Discord.
Later, Garrett conversed with group members in the Discord #general channel. In response to a direct question from one group member --
What do you think was happening in your AT v AK hand against Eli?-- Garrett gave his take on the hand:
Garrett's explanation of hand vs Eli
The phrases "fake hand" and "fake pot" were used interchangeably by Discord group members.
When there was a follow-up question regarding what Garrett thought Eli and Tiger were doing in the AT v AK hand, Garrett's response was:
My best guess as to what Eli and Tiger were doing in that hand?A little bit later in the conversation, one group member asked Garrett to share what theories he believed "disproved." Garrett replied by listing several, among which "fake hands" was one of them.
At this point, I personally addressed Garrett. My first comment to him regarded "fake hands":
OP's message to Garrett regarding possible existence of \"fake hands\"
The two hands mentioned were discussed in my Part 1 post.
Garrett's reply to me:
Garrett's reply to OP regarding possible existence of \"fake hands\"
For the record, I am leaving out a lot of the conversation between Garrett and other group members from that day. But I tried to include necessary context for what I've focused on here, which are Garrett's positions on: (1) his AT vs AK hand against Eli, and (2) the possible existence of "fake hands."
I've tried to represent Garrett's positions on these topics accurately by using his own words. But these words only represent what he expressed, at the time, to the group. I hope he'll weigh in if he feels that further clarification is needed.
A splinter Discord group
The day after the group's conversation with Garrett, a splinter Discord group was created by several group members. This splinter group excluded Garrett and some other members of the original group (such as inactive members).
I was not invited to this splinter Discord until the second day, but I joined once invited.
There was no general consensus at this point that Garrett had been cheating. My own position, at that time, was more restrained: Garrett had been "withholding information" and "misdirecting."
Regarding "withholding information": it was hard for me to believe that an HCL regular like Garrett could be unaware of these hand positions seen on so many HCL streams (as described in my Part 1 post).
And one particular reason that some of us felt Garrett had been "misdirecting" was that he'd suggested that we focus our investigation on a few specific names only. One such name was "Julio."
Garrett had written, continuing the reply to me quoted above:
Garrett's position on \"Julio\" (from reply to OP)
Julio was a player who had played on only two HCL streams (with a total profit of $4950):
Julio HCL results (source: trackingpoker.com)
Garrett's suggestion that we focus on "Julio" became a running joke among group members.
Anyhow, we seemed to agree there was "some level of involvement" on Garrett's part -- and that this was enough to necessitate the second Discord group. We needed to have a group where we could discuss Garrett and other HCL personnel openly.
Additional video link
A DIFFERENT KIND OF POSSIBLE SIGNAL: POTENTIAL EVIDENCE OF CHEATING?Possible team "equity advantage" signals
One group member, "V Files," had been invited into the Discord group by another member because he'd found a new kind of possible signal. It was potentially very strong evidence: if valid, it related certain hand positions to a team member's equity advantage ("ahead" or "behind") on the current street in a hand.
After I joined the splinter Discord group, I lobbied for Mr. Files to be invited to the splinter group as well. I believed in his evidence.
There was some pushback. One group member wrote:
idk manBut Mr. Files was eventually invited to the splinter group by the moderator.
We then focused on releasing his evidence to the public. This tweet from the Discord group on Nov 12 -- about suspected signaling from Nick Vertucci to Mars throughout an HCL stream -- made the group's Twitter following jump from less than 50 to more than 1500 in about a day:
The tweet links to the "Rounders" web app, which Mr. Files himself created to present his potential evidence. In this app, Mr. Files has documented several streams he believes to be compromised:
Mr. Files' Rounders web app (https://roundersinfo.com/)
The Rounders web app -- identifying streams, documenting possible signals, coding the app itself -- has essentially been the work of one man, Mr. Files.
I did make a concerted effort while I was in the Discord group to educate myself on Mr. Files' potential evidence. I spoke to him by voice call, and I tried to give him what support I could. So I can at least give a try at presenting an explanation of his potential evidence.
Vertucci > Mars: explanation of possible signals and outliers
The first stream that Mr. Files posted on his Rounders app included suspected signaling from Nick Vertucci to suspected co-conspirator Mars, to indicate whether Mars' hand was "best" or "not best" on each street of a hand. In other words, Mr. Files suspected that a team "equity advantage" signal was being used. The suspected signaling system is:
Suspected signal: Nick's hand not on arm = Mars is behind
It's also important to note that the hand position of the suspected signaler does NOT matter outside the actual spots where the suspected signal would be used by the suspected co-conspirator.
Mr. Files believed that the signaling system included "curveballs" for trash/nuts hands. The suspected reason: a signal is not really needed in such cases. Presumably, curveballs in these cases would allow the signaler to add intentional "noise" to the system; this way, the system would be harder to detect.
Mr. Files' Rounders app has a toggle that allows the user to view spots with trash and nuts outliers either included or removed:
Toggle on: \"Trash & Nut Outliers Removed\"
Toggle off: \"Trash & Nut Outliers Included\"
That's my attempt at a quick explanation of Mr. Files' potential evidence. This video contains an explanation of the suspected signals and web app from Mr. Files himself:
Here is Mr. Files' Rounders web app:
A few disclaimers:
If these are valid signals, would they indicate cheating?
One other condition would also need to be present: the signals (assuming they are valid) would need to be used in "real" pots for them to constitute evidence of cheating.
If you use the web app for a while, you may start to notice that the suspected signaling does not always correspond to correct decisions. Originally, I thought that the most likely reason for this was that this would allow the player receiving the suspected signals to NOT "Be Like Mike (Postle)."
But there is another consideration. Sometimes the suspected signaling could be used in "fake pots." It's even conceivable that the possible signaling system identified by Mr. Files could be used in streams that are ENTIRELY fake. In such a case, such a signaling system would NOT be cheating.
Some of you may be wondering why such a signaling system would be needed at all in a stream that's 100% fake. I can't give a definite answer, but I can think of possibilities. One of them is: implementing such a signaling system could help the show exert greater control over desired outcomes. Fixing (or partially fixing) results -- in a similar way to how a pro wrestling show might fix results in favor of certain individuals -- could still be used for entertainment purposes.
But this is speculation. I don't have all the answers. I am dealing in possibilities here -- and I'm trying to identify the most important considerations.
When I was in the group, my opinion was that the (possible) signaling system identified by Mr. Files constituted evidence of likely cheating. Now, as I give more consideration to the possibility of "fake pots" and also "fake streams," I'm less sure.
LAST DAYS IN THE DISCORD: A COMPROMISED GROUP?Leaving the Discord
A couple of days after the group released Mr. Files' potential evidence of cheating to the public, things took a dramatic turn in the splinter Discord group. Events transpired that would lead me to believing the group might be compromised -- and I ended up leaving the group within the next week.
Here are some of the things that happened during my last few days in the splinter Discord group, in approximate chronological order:
(1) Mr. Files had a public conflict with another group member (group member F) -- which resulted in group member F temporarily leaving the group. When I DM'd Mr. Files to ask what had happened, his initial response was that this group member brought "too much spam" and "no value." He wondered who had invited the group member in.
It seemed he may have suspected group member F of being a shill/mole account. (There had already been suspected shills/moles in the original Discord.)
(2) The next day, three group members (whom I will refer to as group members A, B, and C) -- all of whom had been in the original Discord group since Day 1 -- together decided to create a splinter channel within the splinter Discord. This channel was made to exclude Mr. Files and group member F.
In the original Discord group, there had been many moderators (including me) with channel creation permissions. In the splinter group, there was one moderator (group member A) who had all of the channel creation, deletion, and access permissions. (This moderator was also in control of the Discord group's Twitter and Reddit accounts.)
Another group member (group member B) -- the same member who had pushed back against my earlier lobbying to invite Mr. Files to the splinter Discord -- wrote to the newly created channel:
[...]It was hard for me to make sense of all this. Group members A, B, and C had been in the group since the beginning. I'd pretty much taken for granted that they were "solid." But I'd spoken to Mr. Files by voice, and it was difficult to reconcile my interactions with Mr. Files to group member B's opinion.
Later that day, another group member (group member D, who had been in the Discord group since Day 2) tried to turn me against Mr. Files in DMs. After I said that Mr. Files had contacted me to talk by voice, he told me that Mr. Files had contacted him, too:
he [Mr. Files] contacted me for a 1 hour chat or soThis really put me on edge. My gut told me group member D was lying: I thought he might be a mole. I wondered if certain people in the splinter group viewed Mr. Files as a threat, and had different aims than me.
My communications with Mr. Files changed, too. The last time I DM'd Mr. Files my thoughts, he sent me a terse and formal reply that made me feel he no longer trusted me.
(3) I started looking through Discord history. There were accounts in the Discord that seemed to bring chaos, not value. Group member A had a tendency to bring in such accounts. He'd brought in group member F, whom Mr. Files had had clashed with. And later, I also found a different account group member A had brought in suspicious.
(4) When I DM'd group member A with questions about other accounts, he became defensive. He later locked me out of a specific Discord channel I previously had access to. Another group member told me that group member A had locked him out of channels as well.
(5) Group member A unilaterally decided to remove (or hide) nearly all of the "PEOPLE" category channels from the original Discord, which came as a shock to me and at least one other group member. (Toward the end of my time there, group member A controlled all the permissions for both Discords.) The following screenshots show (A) a partial view of the "PEOPLE" channels from early November, and (B) the complete view of the "PEOPLE" channels on the day I left the group:
Discord \"PEOPLE\" category (partial), early November
Discord \"PEOPLE\" category (complete), latter part of November (day I left group)
(6) Another group member involved in creating the channel to exclude Mr. Files (group member C) was in charge of hand history data. This was supposedly being scraped from streams using custom software. I now suspected this was a lie.
The first time someone asked how long it would take to finish the hand histories, on Nov 8, group member C's answer was "24 hours." But "24 hours" became days. Days became weeks. (Now, two months have passed.)
(7) At this point I decided to jump all the way back to the beginning of the original Discord's #general channel. And just like the answers about HCL were there in the streams all along, the answers about the group were there in the Discord all along.
Garrett had been added to the original Discord in its first few hours. He was the fourth member of the group. The people who had started the Discord were likely people that Garrett knew.
Group members B and C were in the original Discord before Garrett. What's more, group members A and C had created the splinter Discord, and group member B was one of the early members of the splinter Discord.
I now recalled how familiar group members B and C had seemed to be with Garrett before supposedly turning against him. Had group members A, B, and C created the splinter Discord NOT to work against Garrett, but to pretend to work against Garrett -- while keeping an eye on people like me?
Had the original Discord been compromised from the start? Created to target people who had cheated Garrett -- but protect Garrett from evidence that might implicate him?
Everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I'd gotten the full HCL experience.
I left the Discord without a word of farewell.
Changing my mind
The drama and the stress of my last week in the group made it difficult for me to process everything that was happening while I was "in the moment." But I've been out of the group since late November. I think I now have a much clearer perspective on everything that happened.
Do I still think I left a "compromised" group? Well, I've changed my mind on some things.
I feel I've only shared a small fraction of my whole Discord experience. My time in the Discord was a wild ride -- and part of me wants to tell the full story. But this post is already long. Let me just list a few other memorable things that happened:
• Group member B tried to extort -- or pretended to try to extort -- Garrett. He seemed upset at Garrett's lack of interest in putting resources toward hand histories, and he threatened Garrett about what they would reveal. He wrote to the Discord #general channel:
k garrett, your kid gonna have a fun life with no dad• Group member A showed support -- or pretended to show support -- for the "flat earth" and "dinosaurs never existed" conspiracy theories, among others.
• A VERY famous poker player (top 5 in the world in terms of name recognition) made a brief guest appearance in the group. Weird, in retrospect.
• Group member E, mentioned earlier, made two brief appearances in the group (invited in twice, left twice). He was supposedly a video editor who had never played poker. But for someone who had never played poker, he exuded a lot of confidence in telling others that they were wrong about poker-related things. At least once, he threatened to "expose" people. Later, multiple group members (notably group member B) opined that he'd been a shill hired by Garrett to infiltrate the group.
• Alleged evidence of a sexual affair between two prominent HCL players, one of them married, was shared. The names would surprise people.
• A minor group member (whom group member C was "in contact with") also made two brief appearances in the group (invited in twice, left twice). He wrote of a "Jewish conspiracy":
THere appears to be a jewish connection I wanna follow which is annoyign [sic]He made transphobic comments to Garrett:
Garrot [sic]He also wrote:
I am not like anti cheat ideologue , I dont care for it , but to be honest if i am not cheted I normally woudl steer clear. [sic]Yes, he even admitted he was NOT an "anti-cheat ideologue." I replied:
I am like an anti-cheat ideologue.Before anyone attacks the truth of what I've divulged here: (1) there are other group members who know that my account is true, and (2) I have screenshots that back up everything that I've shared.
But you might be thinking, after reading what I've shared, that this was NOT a serious group.
And yes -- that's what I'm thinking, now, too. Maybe it was not a "compromised" group, per se.
Maybe it was a group that was created to troll naive anti-cheating ideologues like yours truly.
It seems like an obvious possibility when you look at the words quoted above. Why did it take me so long to consider it? Well, most group members made a first impression of being serious gumshoes. First impressions can be hard to shake.
J4 REVISITED: THE MISSING PUZZLE PIECECheating or not cheating? That is NOT the question
But if the Discord group was a big troll, rather than an actual investigative group, what would that mean? There's a lot to unpack in that question -- and I'll wait until the end of this section to answer it.
First, J4. If you don't know the hand by now (lol), here it is (2:07:23):
On the flop, at 2:08:08, you can see Eric Persson with a two-finger hand position. If you've read what I've written from Part 1 to here, you know that some group members (including me) think that such hand positions are generally associated with "fake pots":
Eric two-finger position in J4 hand
Lauren, the dealer, is also seen extending two fingers at 2:09:19.
My current opinion is that most people have been asking the wrong question about the J4 hand. The primary question is not: "Did Robbi cheat?"
The primary question is: "Is this a real pot or a fake pot?"
I will not cover everything J4-related. A lot has been said about this hand and its accouterments in the various corners of the internet. I'll focus on a few key pieces, some of which most people missed.
Here is a link to the "Garrett Adelstein Report on Likely Cheating on Hustler Casino Live," originally posted on October 7, 2022:
Here is an excerpt from Garrett's post regarding Nik Airball:
Excerpt from \"Garrett Adelstein Report\" re: Nik Airball
You can decide for yourself: are Nik Airball's words about Garrett on Joey Ingram more likely to represent "real beef" or "pro wrestling beef"?
A few days after the (original) Discord group was created, the group spent an entire day on dealer-related theories. I will not go into all of that now, but this Twitter thread from the Discord group summarizes dealer-related theories that at least some group members showed support for:
I think the "dealer involvement" clues are there. But are they real clues or staged clues?
Rewatch the entire J4 hand, and also the post-hand conversation -- and focus ONLY on Eric and on the times Robbi may be looking in Eric's direction.
On the turn, at 2:10:28, Robbi is seen extending her index finger under her opposite arm:
Robbi one-finger position (finger extended under arm) in J4 hand
When you consider Robbi's one-finger position here, and Eric's two-finger hand position on the flop, this seems like a possible clue: could Eric and Robbi be cheating together during the hand?
But is this a "real clue" or a "fake clue"? (Surely, Garrett has seen many two-finger and one-finger hand positions during his time on HCL. Go back to my Part 1 post to see just how common these are.)
Focus on Eric's demeanor after the hand, and see how uncomfortable he gets as Andy remarks on the strangeness of the hand and Garrett starts digging in with questions (beginning around 2:14:45):
Eric post-hand demeanor
At about 2:15:00, you can see Eric visibly gulp. Continue to focus on Eric.
Later in the stream, Eric changes both his clothes and hat (at about 3:09:15):
Eric clothing/hat change
If you agree that these are clues about Eric's possible involvement in J4, then the follow-up question is: are these real clues or staged clues?
This will be brief. Rewatch this blow-up from Rip:
Is this a real blow-up or acting?
One topic of discussion in the Discord group that definitely has NOT been widely discussed was that Phil Ivey may have been involved in an on-stream cover-up of the J4 hand. First, you need to look at the clues in the "Eric Persson" subsection (above) to ascertain the likelihood of Eric being involved. If you think Eric may be involved, then there are two relevant clips where Phil is talking to (or with) Eric.
Some group members thought that this tabletalk between Phil and Eric (3:58:40 to 3:59:30) --
-- represented Phil and Eric getting their "cover-up story" straight. Note the way that Phil says, "Right...Right?" to Eric at 3:59:13. Observe Phil and Eric's demeanor.
(This tabletalk may seem normal enough the first time you watch. But try watching a few times. 🙂)
Later, during Phil and Eric's joint interview, the two of them present the same argument that they'd agreed on during their tabletalk (interview starts at 4:26:24):
You can decide for yourself: are this tabletalk and joint interview something -- or nothing?
And if you think they are something, then that begs this question: was Phil Ivey involved in covering up J4? Or is the poker legend also a pretty good actor?
Bryan: the missing puzzle piece
I've withheld my opinion on whether or not the J4 hand is a fake pot until now, but you can probably tell which direction I'm leaning toward.
My current thinking is that everyone at the table -- including Ryusuke, Lauren, Phil Ivey, and Garrett -- likely knew what was about to go down. The "staged stream" theory makes so many pieces fit together in a way that makes sense: the unclaimed bounty, Garrett expressing a willingness to play on HCL again, the phenomenon of Alex Jacob, my own bizarre experiences in the Discord, and much else. Other theories I've considered have holes in them.
My current opinion on the Discord group is this: the Discord was likely a big troll created by HCL-associated (perhaps indirectly associated) people to catfish noble-minded idiots like me into investigating "kayfabe (staged) cheating," NOT real cheating.
If the J4 stream was a staged stream, I'll give credit where it's due: HCL writers put a ton of work into making it seem real -- scattering clues everywhere, giving players backstories, etc. The acting was (mostly) convincing, too. HCL never broke kayfabe. The Discord never did, either.
But could new info come out that changes my mind again? Sure.
People have said at times they feel "99% certain" or "65% certain" or "20% certain" that the J4 hand was cheating. But those percentages only tell us how those individuals feel. Someone can also "feel" 99% certain that dinosaurs never existed.
Early on, I felt 99% certain that Robbi had cheated (and close to 100% after the Bryan chip theft story). Now? I think I wasn't even asking the right question.
I've been an idiot at times. But I'm open-minded enough to change my mind when presented with new info.
In my opinion, the key piece of new info that still remains is this unanswered question: will Bryan Sagbigsal go on trial and/or to jail?
The answer to that question seems to me to be the missing puzzle piece to J4.
The Bryan chip-stealing story has elements that seem real:
Yet Bryan is not in custody.
If Bryan never goes on trial or to jail, then that might mean: the Bryan chip-stealing/file cabinet story was an elaborate kayfabe fabrication.
But if Bryan does go on trial and/or to jail (assuming that such events aren't staged lol), then I may have to rethink everything from the beginning.
I'll end this section by asking you to reread Bryan's 2p2 post from Oct 9:
Is Bryan's post real or "acting in text"?
I don't know the answers to any of the questions I've posed for certain. I have my guesses.
CONCLUSIONI was the fifth member of the Discord -- added right after Garrett. I was very likely the first "mark" in the group, there on Day 1.
Why me? Well, I'd made online comments (outside of Reddit) that showed I was picking up on "clues" HCL had scattered. Maybe they invited me in because they thought I'd be a worthy mark.
I'd never used Discord before I was a member of this group, or been part of an online group like this at all. I didn't have much experience of how easy it is to "act" when you only exist as text on a screen.
This tweet from Garrett Adelstein may be relevant. He posted it soon after the group conflict outlined in the "Garrett vs Eli" section of this post:
Garrett Adelstein tweet from Nov 8, 2022
If my theory that the Discord group was a big troll (created to investigate "kayfabe cheating," especially in the J4 stream) is correct, it's possible that Garrett was speaking directly to me -- and the other "trolled" group members -- in this tweet.
I didn't realize it at the time, though. If the Discord was all a troll, then I was an excellent mark. I did a great job of playing the part of a very naive "anti-cheating ideologue" for those who trolled me.
Catfishing ethical people and making them think they are working toward a noble purpose that is actually a mirage isn't totally harmless, though. There was an element of psychological manipulation that temporarily caused me -- and a few other marks in the Discord -- a degree of real distress. We questioned people we'd trusted, including other marks.
But I feel recovered now. I still had fun. The people who created the Discord put on an elaborate show for me and the other "marks," when they weren't treating us like circus animals. On the days the Discord was particularly active and words were flying by, it was exciting. (I still remember the "dealer theory" discussion from Day 3.) Toward the end, I even learned to "act in text" myself a little bit. I deserted the circus when it stopped being fun, but I'm glad I was a part of it.
So what's my big theory of HCL and the HCL Poker Scandal Discord group, at present? I still don't know the answer for sure, but my current thinking is that these two possibilities make the most sense:
Ultimately, I don't have all the answers. Being in the HCL Poker Scandal Discord group was an experience that added some intrigue to my life. At times, it was an obsession. I came in with an ethical motive and a desire to see the truth come to light. Later, sheer curiosity drove me to this point.
But mysteries remain -- and I've just tried my best to share my own experience of that intrigue and those mysteries, for anyone who is interested.
I know my posts cover a lot of ground, but I'm happy to try to answer questions that people may have.
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/u_summition
This post is PART 1 in a planned two-part series. Overview of what will be discussed:submitted by summition to poker [link] [comments]
PART 1 (this post)
INTRODUCTIONAs a casual fan of Hustler Casino Live (HCL), I watched the Garrett Adelstein/Robbi Jade Lew stream (the "J4 stream") live when it aired on September 29, because Phil Ivey was playing.
I'm a former poker pro who is now working in another field. But the J4 hand -- which I soon suspected involved possible cheating -- re-ignited my obsession with poker. At first, I focused on the J4 hand itself. But one observation led to the next, and I soon dived deeper into the possibility of more widespread cheating.
A few weeks after the J4 hand -- based on online contributions I made (outside of Reddit) about potentially suspicious behavior from Nick Vertucci and other HCL-associated personnel -- I was invited to a Discord group of poker players inviting possible cheating at HCL. I accepted the invite. I was one of the early members of the Discord, joining soon after it was created.
At that time -- and for much of my time in the Discord -- it felt like a privilege to be a part of an anti-cheating group that seemed to be focused on a common goal: helping the truth come to light. The group had respected names, including Garrett Adelstein himself, and some sharp minds.
(I won't reveal the identity of anyone in the group unless it is public knowledge. Garrett was in the Discord group at the beginning. Later on, he was no longer a member of the Discord group. This is public knowledge, and it has been addressed on the group's Twitter page. I intend to provide my own perspective on this in a future post.)
Although the work was meaningful to me, the Discord rarely seemed to lack in conflict or drama. Arguments abounded. On more than one occasion, they spilled into the Discord equivalent of civil war. Membership fluctuated over the next few weeks, with some people invited in and other people leaving or being kicked out. At least one splinter Discord group was made -- and that group proved to be no less lacking in conflict.
More than a month after I joined, I ended up being one of the people who left the group (or rather, groups: both the original Discord group and the splinter group I'd joined). During my early days in the group, I'd thought that we all shared the same mission: to see the truth come to light, regardless of whom might be implicated. Later on, I began to suspect that some of the most powerful voices in the group had motivations that were in conflict with mine. A few seemed to be intent on creating chaos and confusion above all else.
Since leaving the Discord group in the latter half of November, I have continued to keep a close eye on the group's Twitter page:
The group's Twitter has ceased to post substantial evidence in recent weeks, despite occasional promises to do so. Perhaps they will post substantial evidence again. If they do so, I will very much welcome the development. But I have reason to believe this may not happen. So I'm writing this post.
In this post I speak for myself ONLY.
My main approach in this post will be: (1) to try to walk everyone through my time in the group, sharing some of our key observations/theories (including both weaker and stronger theories), and (2) to include video links for key hands -- because I am asking people to watch the hands themselves and to draw their own conclusions. At the end of this post I will present a major theory -- but only those who put in the work and watch the hands will be able to evaluate the theory in an informed way.
When I was in the group, other members shared information gathered from informants -- but I am NOT relying on such information, because I no longer entirely trust all group members who reported such information. I am therefore basing my opinions solely on the hands/streams themselves. These are only my opinions. Without reliance on inside info, I cannot profess 100% certainty. All I ask for is an open mind -- and the time and commitment to watch the hands. If you bring those to the rest of my post, then I think that you might just come to this conclusion: there seem to be unusual happenings going on at Hustler Casino Live.
EARLY DAYS IN THE DISCORD: UNUSUAL HANDS, POSSIBLE SIGNALSRip vs Eli
The group's initial focus was the J4 stream. But discussion soon rippled out to other streams, other hands, and other players. We looked at other players associated with the J4 stream, and we soon found other interesting hands. One early subject of discussion was this baffling heads-up hand between Rip and Eli (at 2:10:50):
Preflop: Eli (SB) raises to $600 with 33. Rip (UTG|S) 3bets to $2600 with TT. Eli calls.
Flop (pot $5305): AKQ rainbow
Eli checks. Rip bets $3500 into a pot of $5305 with his underpair and gutshot. Eli makes a small raise to $8000 with his baby pair (this is very unconventional; keep in mind, he makes this small raise against a preflop three-bettor who has cbet two-thirds pot on an AKQ board). Rip calls.
Turn (pot: $21305): Ah. Backdoor flush draw on the board.
Eli checks. Rip checks.
River (pot: $21305): 4c. AKQA4 board.
Eli checks. Rip tanks for a while before making a very unconventional quarter-pot bet of $5000. Eli tanks for a short while before making a very unconventional call. The commentator (DGAF) expresses surprise -- as does Ling Ling, the player sitting between Eli and Rip. Rip himself expresses surprise too.
Discord group members were in agreement on this: the Rip vs Eli hand was truly bizarre. Unlike the J4 hand, it wasn't just one player whose actions were unusual. Many of us found both Rip's and Eli's actions in this hand baffling.
At this point, we still weren't able to make sense of the hand yet. Later, after considering this hand in the context of other unusual hands, we had a better guess for what was going on. So I will be revisiting this Rip vs Eli hand again later in this post.
For now, let me just note that the hand took place during Rip's second-ever appearance on Hustler Casino Live (Rip's next appearance took two days later, on the J4 stream). Eli, on the other hand, is a regular; this stream was his 62nd overall appearance on HCL. You might not expect this after watching his hand vs Rip, but Eli is one of the bigger winners on the show (as of today, December 20, 2022):
Discovery of possible signals
As we continued to watch streams and make observations, a variety of theories were discussed, with evidence for and against each theory considered. There was discussion of possible hidden devices, possible deck manipulation, and possible dealer involvement. There was an understanding that various theories need not be mutually exclusive; it was possible that "multiple vectors of attack" could coexist.
But I'd now like to mention the theory that would end up being the most frequently discussed one throughout my time in the Discord group. Another Discord group member shared the image collage below with the rest of the group (similar image collages are currently floating around online elsewhere). Please take a look:
Collage of hand/finger positions
Are the hand/finger positions striking to you? The group consensus was that they were. This was our opinion: players seemed to be signaling.
Some people might question if these hand positions are intentional at all. Maybe they are just natural hand positions. My response: try resting one finger and then two fingers on your opposite arm, the way that Eric Persson is doing in the last two images of the collage. Ask yourself if these feel like natural hand positions. One member of the Discord group noted that poker players -- who sit in the same spot for hours -- want to be as comfortable as possible. Try looking for these hand positions the next time you play. Observe whether it's common practice for players in your local room to just position their hands like this.
Other people might wonder if this image collage represents a cherry-picked sample. But the tic-tac-toe grid above represents a small cross-section (no pun intended) of similar hand positions seen across MANY different HCL streams. I will be sharing more images/clips shortly.
Our group consensus was that these were not natural hand positions -- and indeed felt quite uncomfortable. I will not be going into depth on all of the potential signaling hand positions that our group observed, some of which are quite subtle. But in the next two sections I will be focusing on the two most conspicuous ones: one-finger hand positions and two-finger hand positions. It was easy enough to observe these again and again. What was difficult was trying to decipher what the apparent signals meant.
POSSIBLE ONE-FINGER SIGNALS AND AN EARLY MISSTEPNick Vertucci one-finger hand positions and Charlie Carrel appearance on Joey Ingram
Take another look at the middle row of the tic-tac-toe image from the previous section (three pictures of Nick Vertucci with one-finger hand position). Our group's focus soon shifted to Nick, the co-owner of Hustler Casino Live. Nick's personal tendency seemed to be to stick his index finger out and "massage" his arm with his other fingers, as you can see in action if you watch the videos throughout this section.
Soon enough, one group member (whom I would later come to distrust) reported to the rest of us that he'd found 100% correspondence between Nick Vertucci one-finger hand positions and correct decisions (spoiler: it was a very premature conclusion). I am not sure whose idea this was, but it was suggested that Charlie Carrel go on Joey Ingram to present the apparent Nick signals. The group assented to this.
(Charlie's association with the group at that time is public knowledge. Charlie's later disassociation with the group is also public knowledge.)
Charlie appeared on Joey Ingram's show on October 18 (he appears on the show from 1:08:45 to 1:46:10 in the following video):
Charlie presents three Nick Vertucci hands (starting at 1:27:45). Three apparent Nick Vertucci one-finger signals (vs Luda Chris, vs a different Chris, and vs Francisco). Three correct river decisions. But then Joey shows a "counter-example" hand (starting at 1:40:45) where Nick Vertucci again uses an apparent one-finger signal, then makes an INCORRECT river decision: he calls Rampage's all-in despite being beat.
Nick one-finger position in hand vs Rampage
The group had made a misstep in agreeing to have Charlie appear on Joey Ingram: the presentation of our initial theory was very premature. That said, we wondered if Nick Vertucci's one-finger position followed by an incorrect decision vs Rampage was simply an effort to remain "balanced." Maybe the one-finger signal still meant that he wanted help with the decision...but then he intentionally decided not always to use that help, in an effort to remain non-suspicious?
But before long, we found two additional Nick Vertucci hands with one-finger hand positions where Nick again made incorrect river decisions. One hand was played vs Garrett Adelstein:
On the river, Garrett makes a 2x pot overbet bluff ($20K bet into a pot of $10.3K). Starting at around 2:52 in the video, Nick's right hand begins to assume its signature one-finger position.
Nick one-finger position in hand vs Garrett
But then Nick makes the incorrect river decision: he folds the best hand.
The other hand was another Nick vs Luda Chris hand -- but this one was played at Live at the Bike, all the way back in 2018. In this hand, Luda makes a 2.2x pot overbet river bluff that Nick folds to. (I will include the video link to this Nick vs Luda LATB hand -- as well as one additional Nick Vertucci hand vs Zeo where he uses a different kind of one-finger hand position -- in the "additional video links" subsection at the end of this section.)
Soon after this we even found Nick making similar one-finger positions off the felt. I found him making one on his podcast show. At this point the group realized that if these one-finger positions were, in fact, signals, then Nick was remaining VERY balanced -- taking the "balancing act" straight off the felt and generating heaps of plausible deniability. Maybe the one-finger position wasn't a signal at all? Maybe Nick really just found the hand position natural.
But then why were there so many other HCL players that seemed to putting their own personal spin on the one-finger hand position?
One-finger hand positions from other HCL players
Please take a look:
Eric (tip of one finger sticking out above his elbow)
DJ Washburn (left side of the image)
Andy (right side of the image)
Could it be something in the Los Angeles air? An unusual contagion that resulted in folks' hands contorting into erect positions? Or were these hand positions indeed intentional -- and we just hadn't arrived at a correct interpretation of them yet?
I haven't yet gotten to two-finger hand positions (that's coming in the next section of the post), but we observed plenty of those as well.
This is from my notes:
Idea floating around the group: creating a video montage of around 50 to 100 (??) of these strikingly similar hand positions, set to music (I personally suggested "In the Hall of the Mountain King"). Minor players could be shown first, then major players, and finally pots being dragged in. [One group member] said that whoever ends up making this video will "break the internet."This video has yet to be made. But if anyone should want to give it a try, I'm putting the idea out there.
Additional video links
"FAKE POTS" THEORY: POSSIBLE TWO-FINGER SIGNALS AND A POTENTIAL BREAKTHROUGHKeating vs Mars, featuring Ben: the birth of the "fake pots" theory
Now let's look at some two-finger positions. This hand between Keating and Mars (at 2:13:25) is one that I found and shared with the group:
With only Keating (BB) having called and with only Ben and Mars left to act preflop, Ben places two fingers on top of his wrist:
Ben two-finger position in Keating vs Mars hand
The screenshot doesn't do Ben's action justice. Please click on the video link and watch the hand. Ben (+1|S) appears to VERY methodically put two fingers on top of his wrist area at 2:13:50 before calling with A6o. A half-minute later, Mars (+2|S) raises to $9000 with TT. Less than 10 seconds later, Keating moves all-in with A4o for $142K effective. Ben folds. Mars calls. Mars holds and wins a $187K pot.
Now, I received some pushback in the group when I shared this hand. (I found it notable that I was told this was "off-base" by one person.) But there were group members who felt the hand was worth discussing. At this point, a bold theory was proposed by one member, after this hand was considered alongside other hands we had observed involving similar hand positions (some of which I will discuss in detail shortly).
First, a tangent. This is from my notes:
I noted during my time in the Discord group that it had two schools, the School of Probability and the School of Intuition. Almost all of us in the group seemed to understand the power of probability. Similar hand positions -- seen over the course of many different streams in many different players -- were less and less likely to be merely coincidental, the more such hand positions were observed.To actually interpret the meaning of these hand positions, one group member made a leap of intuition that others (including myself) would come to agree with:
Maybe these apparent two-finger signals had nothing to do with correct/incorrect decisions. Maybe they had nothing to do with whether a player's hand was ahead or behind. Maybe what they actually indicated was that hands associated with them were "fake pots."
What would a fake pot look like? In my understanding, it'd be a pot where "in the know" parties chop up the result. One ramification of this would be this: "in the know" parties, when playing "fake pot" hands with only other "in the know" parties, have license to play wild hands against one another -- because there is no actual financial risk.
I've been semi-active on poker for a few years now, so I know what this subreddit's perception of Alan Keating is: someone who has so much money and so little care about money that he can throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars with grace and class. And I'm not saying he doesn't have grace and class. I also find Keating likable when I watch him on HCL.
But I'll just say it: in my personal opinion, Keating's pot against Mars, where Ben appears to give a two-finger signal, is likely not a real pot. I think that Keating shipped all-in with A4o for $142K effective because Ben and Mars were "in the know" parties that he was playing a fake pot with. I do not think that Keating had anything at stake when he shoved. And when Keating looks (a bit) upset after the hand, I think he is acting. (I think there is a lot of acting on the show, some of it excellent. I think the show does an admirable job of living up to the city where it is filmed.)
I also know that I've provided no "hard proof" of this yet. At this point we've departed the School of Probability. We are firmly in the School of Intuition, where people who demand "hard proof" will be disappointed. But though I cannot provide "hard proof," I can certainly try to provide further justification and context for what I think. Let me share a few more hands with possible two-finger signals.
Mars vs Eli
This next possible two-finger signaling hand involves two players already discussed, Mars and Eli. The hand starts are 1:41:55 in this stream:
Preflop, Eli (BTN) raises to $300 with 64h. GT (SB) calls $275. Mars (BB) 3bets to $2250 with A9o. Tal (3B) folds. Eli calls. GT folds. Mars and Eli go heads-up to the flop.
Flop (pot: $4950): JT5 rainbow.
Mars cbets $2300. Eli raises to $5700 and then places two fingers on top of his opposite hand. Mars calls. The hand is already unusual, as noted by the commentator (David Tuchman).
Turn (pot: $16350): Td. Backdoor flush draw on the board.
Mars checks. Eli bets $6300. Mars calls. The hand becomes more unusual.
River (pot: $28950): 3d. Brings in possible backdoor flush. Board: JT5T3.
Mars makes a smallish bet of $10500. Eli folds. The commentator seems baffled, and actually wants the cards to be confirmed as correct. The cards are confirmed to be correct. "That's just a bizarre hand," he says.
The apparent two-finger signal is on the flop at 1:43:32, when Eli and Mars are heads-up.
Eli two-finger position in hand vs Mars
I agree with the commentator: it's a bizarre hand. As is the case in the hand seen earlier between Rip and Eli (which we will be revisiting fairly soon), BOTH players take unusual actions.
Note that (1) the hand is played by two players who we've already seen involved in other unusual hands, and (2) there's again a two-finger hand position involved in the hand, as shown above.
Two two-finger hand positions, two unusual hands.
Luda vs Kennedy, featuring Mike X
This is a more recent hand that I found after I left the Discord group. The hand took place recently, on November 29, 2022. I'm including this to show an additional way that apparent signaling is carried out among involved parties:
Preflop, Luda Chris (HJ) opens to $1000 with 77. Mike X (CO) calls with AJo. Nick Vertucci (SB) calls with 66. Big John (UTG|S) calls with T4o. Kennedy (+1|S) moves all-in with 94d for $14080. With the action back on Luda, he now 4bets to $33785. Everyone else folds. Kennedy spikes a 9 on the river to win a $31265 pot.
Is this just a reckless play from Kennedy? Perhaps, but this two-finger hand position from Mike X at 2:03 -- which happens AFTER the hand here -- makes me question whether this is a real pot:
Mike X two-finger position after Luda vs Kennedy hand
Three two-finger hand positions, three unusual hands.
DGAF vs Mike X
DGAF is a player who was discussed with some frequency on the Discord group's Twitter account when it was first created. I'll discuss one DGAF hand, played against Mike X (3:17:05):
I'll start from the flop, which is a 6-way hand.
Flop (pot $740): QQ6 rainbow.
Four players check. Mike X (98h with no BD FD) bets $300. DGAF (85o) calls. Everyone else folds.
Turn (pot $1340): 7c. Backdoor flush draw on the board.
Mike X bets $700. DGAF makes a small raise to $1720. Mike X calls.
River (pot: $4780): 3s. Board is QQ673.
Mike X makes a small bet of $1200. DGAF makes a small raise to $2620. Mike X folds.
I think it's fair to say this is an objectively bonkers hand. As we've now seen in a few hands, in this hand there are TWO players who are taking unusual actions. DGAF's actions are obviously especially striking -- but Mike X's play is notable as well. Mike X's small bet on the river is especially strange.
The possible two-finger signal from Mike X is more subtle than others shown so far (there are other two-finger variations that are even more subtle), but I am convinced it's there because I've seen similar hand/finger positions to this elsewhere. If you start watching the video at around 3:18:52, you'll see Mike X place several fingers on his arm but then slightly withdraw his index finger so that his third/fourth fingers are protruding. Keep an eye on Mike X's hand position during the entire street (the turn):
Mike X two-finger position in hand vs DGAF
At this point I've shown four unusual hands with four possible two-finger signals. But now it's time to return to the very first hand discussed, back in the "Early days in the Discord" section of this post.
Rip vs Eli, revisited: possible "fake pots" not associated with two-finger signals
Are fake pots, assuming they exist, ONLY associated with two-finger hand positions? Almost certainly not, as I will discuss now. Here's the link to the Rip vs Eli hand (at 2:10:50) that I first shared in the "Early days in the Discord" section of the post:
Many of us eventually came to believe that this was another fake pot. The highly unusual actions taken by both Rip and Eli in this hand are one clue. Was there a possible signal that went along with this hand? There may have been. The precise position of Rip's fingers on his face (starting on the turn around 2:13:30 and continuing to the river) is a position that seems to be repeated among different players, with slight variations. I know this position actually looks pretty natural (and I have not focused on this hand position pattern because I thought it a better use of my time to focus on more obviously unusual hand positions):
Rip hand position on face in hand vs Eli
There may be other, even more subtle hand position patterns. For example, I've observed in a number of players a hand position pattern where four fingers are extended but the middle two fingers (third/fourth fingers) are squeezed together.
But let me now summarize my current thinking on everything that I have covered so far.
The "fake pots" theory, revisited and refined
After I left the group, I came to believe (and this is only my personal opinion): various hand/finger positions, including (but not limited to) BOTH two-finger and one-finger hand positions, have generally been associated with fake pots. The includes the Nick Vertucci one-finger hand positions.
I write "generally" for this reason: if it is indeed true that HCL players are signaling, I think it is likely that there exist occasional accidental and/or intentional exceptions to the general rule.
Also, it is very important to note that NOT all suspected fake pots are wild. In fact, most of them just seem like normal poker hands. The wild hands were the key hint to the possible existence of fake pots, but I do not think wildness is necessarily the primary reason for fake pots, assuming they exist. I just think some of them are wild (and sometimes outright bizarre) because they can be.
And even if I am wrong about these hand positions being associated with fake pots, you can grant me this: if you accept that these patterns are not coincidences, then that means they are intentional. And if they are intentional, then that means that the people who are forming these hand positions are "in the know" in at least this sense: they literally KNOW to make these hand positions.
So WHY are they making these hand positions? It seems that a LOT of players can answer this question, based on how many people seem to be "in the know" with regard to these.
I've presented a theory that I currently believe in, based on observation and intuition, but I also acknowledge that I'm not 100% certain.
So now I will directly ask Nick, Gal, George, Eric, DJ Washburn, Eli, Andy, Haralabos, Ben, Mike X, and all of the other players that are seen making similar hand positions: (1) Are these hand positions intentional? (2) If so, then what is the precise intent of these hand positions?
I think it is fair game to ask these questions. In my own experience, hand positions like these -- assuming they are intentional -- are NOT a generally accepted aspect of live poker games.
Go ask the players these two questions. They know the answers. I can only provide an educated guess.
Would "fake pots" be cheating?
If the "fake pots" theory is correct, and everyone in the game is "in the know," then it's effectively pro wrestling. It's a reality show where only the viewer gets "conned."
You've probably already seen potential signals from people you weren't expecting them from. The players who are making these hand positions seem to outnumber the ones who are not.
So the key question becomes: are there people in the game who are NOT in the know?
I don't know the answer for certain, but I suspect that the answer may vary from stream to stream.
If there do exist people in the game who are NOT "in the know," and the "fake pots" theory is correct, then a couple of ramifications might be as follows:
To end PART 1, I'll leave you with a few more two-finger hand positions from other players:
Two-finger hand positions from other HCL players
Nik Airball (two fingers rubbing face)
JRB (after the hand)
Additional video links
PART 2 is planned for a future date (possible content is listed at the top of this post). There is no target date at this time.
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Hustler Casino Live is a live stream poker show at Hustler Casino in the Los Angeles area. Хастлер — танцор, исполняющий хастл. Хастлер — в американском сленге, человек занимающийся нелегальной или полулегальной деятельностью (но не исключая легальную), например наркоторговлей, сутенёрством, при этом не являющийся гангстером. Hustler Adult Magazine February 1991 Volume 17 #8 1 copy: Order: 1991.02: Hustler March 1991 the Jack Ruby File 1 copy: Order: 1991.03: Hustler April 1991 1 copy: Order: 1991.04: Hustler May 1991 Madonna's Butt by Hustler Magazine 2 copies: Order: 1991.05: Hustler Adult Magazine, June 1991 (The Shocking Sex Rites of Islam) 1 copy: Order: 1991.06 The Hustler 1961. Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C Scott, Piper Laurie The story of Fast Eddie Felsen (Paul Newman) and his adventures in the world of professional pool. Fast Eddie is a young hopeful on his way to challenging Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) for his world title. When he starts getting feelings for a woman, he gets into a dilemma. Новый же Suzuki Hustler стоит 790 тыс. рублей. Важно отметить, что машины оснащены правым рулём. Suzuki Hustler лишь немного больше «Оки»: его габариты составляют 3950 x 1475 x 1680 мм.
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