The internet thinks Mike Postle is a cheat
October 4, 2019 5:15 PM   Subscribe

 
TIL that RFID poker cards are a thing.

Who thought that deliberately marking the deck was a good idea, even if it helps fans at home follow the game? At poker table ranges, you wouldn't have to be Tony Stark to be able to "read" all the cards in every hand.
posted by SPrintF at 5:41 PM on October 4 [5 favorites]


Broadcasting poker with hole cards exposed was a major turning point in the popularity of poker. It was originally done with cameras in the table, but RFID has caught on as it allows for automated on-screen graphics. So everyone in poker is very motivated to make it continue.

Because of the short range of passive RFID, even if a player had a concealed RFID reader in their hand it would be likely impossible to pick up other players' cards.

I've been following this story a bit, but not at the "watching 2 hour livestreams" level. Postle is obviously guilty as hell. He is a real pro poker player though, not some guy off the street. His past results are respectable but not extraordinary.
posted by allegedly at 5:59 PM on October 4 [5 favorites]


The biggest question is how many non-blatant people are getting away with something like this. Because Postle has been really damn blatant and he's apparently been at it for years.
posted by ODiV at 6:54 PM on October 4 [4 favorites]


Think I read the articles but, they haven't figured out how yet?

RFID seems super sketchy, but also what others have said about range. Feels like an inside job.
posted by Windopaene at 7:02 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


That's a good point. I am no seasoned conman, and even I have heard that it's important you never grift too hard, too obviously, that you lose enough to keep people from getting suspicious.

I don't know much about poker, but I'd assume if he'd still always been profitable, but had lost more low-stakes hands, his statistics might be more plausible?
posted by Acid Communist at 7:02 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


The biggest tip-off isn't necessarily the amount of winning and losing he does, though obviously that does raise suspicions. It's that in very similar situations he will do wildly different things that just so happen to be correct because of what his opponent holds. He will run insane bluffs in spots where, because of pot odds, his opponent would have to call with almost any hand, but they have nothing. He will call and lose the minimum with the nut flush instead of re-raising all in when his opponent has miraculously hit the straight flush. And all the while the commentators will be calling him a god.
posted by ODiV at 7:10 PM on October 4 [16 favorites]


From some of the threads, looks like most popular theory is that a person with access to the live feed was telling him (via phone or bluetooth headset or whatever) what the cards were. (While the broadcast feed was delayed, there are one or more people with access to the live feed during play)

Apparently there was a time (or times) when that person was not there and he played differently which makes this more likely (The threads are a little hard to follow as a non player, as they are full of acronyms and jargon)

And in general seems much easier than any RFID tech/etc. [by which I mean him having some RFID scanner or other theories]
posted by thefoxgod at 7:11 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


Feels like an inside job.

Well, lookie here:

He (Postle) also deleted his LinkedIn account, which indicated that he was connected to the company that ran the Stones Live broadcasts and had worked for them as a consultant in the past.

My guess is someone is feeding him the live stream, or the RFID information that the live stream uses, in some way.

Past that, I'm shocked to find cheating going on in the gambling establishment.
posted by nubs at 7:18 PM on October 4 [8 favorites]


This isn't the first time something like this happened. I remember way back in the day when this happened online - also an inside job. It was on the site Absolute Poker and the guy was Potripper. If you google it, you'll find stuff about it. Like this case, he was tripped up by taking too much advantage of his edge. Once all the hole cards of all players were revealed it was very obvious that he knew what hands people held.

This makes me think that if you were a little more circumspect about it you could get a very good edge and not get caught. Which makes me think there are probably guys out there who don't get caught.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:34 PM on October 4 [13 favorites]


I used to play in a Friday night game and I don’t understand how the TV guys are allowed to wear shades and stuff. In my game, any sort of prop to hide your facial expressions was basically considered cheating. Is that not a thing anymore?
posted by freecellwizard at 7:35 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


I used to play in a Friday night game and I don’t understand how the TV guys are allowed to wear shades and stuff. In my game, any sort of prop to hide your facial expressions was basically considered cheating. Is that not a thing anymore?

In a friendly home game these things would be considered douchey at best and maybe kind of angle-shooty. But guys have been wearing hoodies headphones and sunglasses for basically all of televised poker going back to the very early 2000s and maybe earlier. If you go into a casino you'll for sure see people doing it. Philip Laak is famous for wearing a hoodie and cinching it tight so you can't see his face at all in moments of big decisions. You can also stand up and turn your back or wear a bear suit or whatever.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:37 PM on October 4 [5 favorites]


Here's a historical thread on Potripper - note that it starts with the initial allegation and then unfolds in real time, it's a historical document not an article about it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:38 PM on October 4 [6 favorites]


Is that not a thing anymore?

I don't think it was ever a thing. We'd all make fun of the guy wearing a hat and shades and Hollywooding it up before folding his obvious busted flush draw, but it was never considered cheating.
posted by ODiV at 7:41 PM on October 4


It’s ridiculous that players aren’t expected to check their phones and other electronic devices before they play a serious tournament.

Plus, for a game where people pride themselves on their ability to bluff, it’s ironic that they hide behind hats, shades, and hoods. Learn to keep a straight face!
posted by explosion at 7:47 PM on October 4 [11 favorites]


IME players are on their phones all the time, including in live cash games and tournaments, including WSOP and circuit events etc. Guilty of it myself.

I have never felt the need to hide my face but I don't blame anyone for taking any advantage they can.

I came of age playing online, where no one can ever see you. I don't place great value in physical reads except against very weak players.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:51 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


The downside of premeditated, organized cheating is that doing it a little bit isn't worth the risk, and doing it a lot becomes obvious. I don't think there's a ton of undetected cheating going on in live poker - surely some, but it's difficult to pull off. Online poker has different and more widespread issues because people can use bots or collude with other players, etc.

It seems like Postle either has a confederate feeding him the info - the livestream is on a 30 minute delay with a very small pool of technicians working for the casino who can see it live - or maybe they've compromised the computer that is receiving the data from the RFID readers.
posted by allegedly at 7:53 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


Plus, for a game where people pride themselves on their ability to bluff, it’s ironic that they hide behind hats, shades, and hoods. Learn to keep a straight face!

They pride themselves on their ability to win. Why sacrifice an advantage?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:57 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


Well, I've never tried premeditated cheating but I feel like it could probably be done without getting caught. The trick is to try to gain yourself a few bets and hour instead of trying to force a win. In the long run you'll make a lot more.

Tournaments are tough, I don't know where I'd begin but in cash games a typical win rate for a good player might be, say, 5 big blind/hour. If cheating could get you to 7 or 8 bb/hour that would be huge. Your take home would be higher and your relative variance would be a lot lower. You'd just need to make one really good bet or fold every few hours.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:01 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


The trick is to try to gain yourself a few bets and hour instead of trying to force a win. In the long run you'll make a lot more.

The whole problem with that strategy is human nature.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:09 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


The whole problem with that strategy is human nature

I don't disagree. It was really eloquently laid out in the book Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, although I'm sure its been expressed other places. Given perfect knowledge of a situation, how do you act in a way that doesn't betray your perfect knowledge, so that you can continue to exploit it over time.

I guarantee you, without considering this notion, you *will* fail. It takes iron will to call a losing bet that you know will lose, because you "have" to.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:14 PM on October 4 [9 favorites]


This screams “inside job” to me. It’s by far the easiest way to cheat this kind of setup, and he has past social connections with the operating organization. I’m an okay but not great poker player, but I work with several who ARE quite good (they’re professional HFT traders, quite a bit of skill overlap there). We have a company tournament every year, I get to see how it’s done (and even placed in the money a few years back). This guy sounds like he deviates from both rational play and emotional play in a very signaling way. And the hand histories are public. He’s boned.
posted by notoriety public at 8:18 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]



I have never felt the need to hide my face but I don't blame anyone for taking any advantage they can.


Wait isn't the real game using your face to broadcast incorrect signals, but only when it matters, so people believe you?

Without that, why do the players even have faces?
posted by aubilenon at 8:35 PM on October 4 [5 favorites]


Poker isn't what people tend to think it is. It's a game of information. You aren't required by the rules to leak that information. This is like being mad at people wearing helmets while batting in baseball or shin guards in soccer.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:41 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


Wait isn't the real game using your face to broadcast incorrect signals, but only when it matters, so people believe you?


I think this is just in fiction.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:41 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


They've made an AI that can play poker (very well, too) - and it doesn't analyze faces at all. Only betting patterns.
posted by Quackles at 8:56 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


Why not just run players through a metal detector or airport scanner before they hit the tables? Short of an implant of some kind, it seems like an easy way to see if players are carrying electronic devices that can help them gain advantage.

But when gambling is all about gaining an edge at all costs, no matter how dishonestly or unfairly, it is fascinating to see people upset. Isn't cheating ultimately about information; isn't cheating about taking a game based on perfect information to its logical conclusion? If you cheat, you simply have gained more information than your opponent. Cheaters deserve to win — if they get away with it.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:57 PM on October 4


The real solution is to shun kid’s games like poker and play a game of skill and honor like Bridge, where you can sow off your skull (or lack thereof) no matter what your hand.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:04 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


If true, this allegation is pretty damning:

Postle doesn’t play in other nonstreamed live games at Stones, or anywhere else in the Sacramento area, and hasn’t been known to play in any sizable no-limit games anywhere in a long time, and that he always picks up his chips and leaves as soon as the livestream ends. I don’t really need any more evidence than that. If you know poker players, you know that this is the most damning evidence against him. Poker players like to play poker. If any of the poker players I know had the win rate that Mike Postle has, you’d have to pry them up from the table with a crowbar.

Or as an ESPN commentator put it:

“If you're the equivalent of a guy that shows up to play pick-up basketball, and you never ever missed a shot for a couple of years, wouldn’t you go play in the NBA? If you’re some sort of poker God who almost never lost, who made the right call or fold virtually every single time... If you were this good, why would you be playing in games only with a video feed at a $1/$3 table at Stones poker room? Why wouldn’t you be in Vegas, winning all the money in the world?”
posted by mediareport at 3:11 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: where you can sow off your skull
posted by Segundus at 3:21 AM on October 5 [27 favorites]


I assume that in any poker game, there are people who cheat. A thing I learned early on is that I'm not very good at poker. I don't actually know if my teenage friends were cheating, but I sure couldn't win. I took that to mean that I wasn't any good at it. Later, in the Army, I watched a game for a while, and was invited to play. I declined. Later, the night's big winner came up to me and asked if I saw "how I was doing it." He was apparently worried that I'd blow the whistle on him. I told him I didn't; I just knew I was no good at poker. Couple of years ago, I went with my brother to play a low-stakes game with his friends, just for fun. I made a little money, but quit playing when a friend of one of the friends won a big hand in such an improbable fashion that he had to have cheated.

I notice that the article never says just how Postle was cheating, but RFID cards really sounds like an invitation to cheat.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:35 AM on October 5


The trick is to try to gain yourself a few bets and hour instead of trying to force a win. In the long run you'll make a lot more.

The problem is if you have confederates then you have to also make it worth their while as well. And "worth their while" has to factor in the risk and costs of getting caught. And once you add that in then you are not simply talking about gaining a few bets.
posted by srboisvert at 5:41 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Given perfect knowledge of a situation, how do you act in a way that doesn't betray your perfect knowledge, so that you can continue to exploit it over time.

Seems to me the trick would be to NOT have perfect knowledge all the time. A couple minutes burst of cheating (listening to the feed, reading the cards, whatever) every hour, and play normally without the cheat the rest of the time.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:32 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Poker isn't what people tend to think it is. It's a game of information. You aren't required by the rules to leak that information. This is like being mad at people wearing helmets while batting in baseball or shin guards in soccer.

Yeah, everybody knows that people wear shin guards in soccer to hide the information that they have shins.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:08 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


Why not just run players through a metal detector or airport scanner before they hit the tables? Short of an implant of some kind, it seems like an easy way to see if players are carrying electronic devices that can help them gain advantage.

Why haven't casinos and cardrooms thought of this before? Just bring in the full post-911 security apparatus. People will love it! Won't be able to keep them away!

But when gambling is all about gaining an edge at all costs, no matter how dishonestly or unfairly, it is fascinating to see people upset.

Where did you learn about gambling? You take that to its logical conclusion and you just end up with armed robbery at every card game. Of course there are limits to the "costs", agreed upon in advance. A lot of these restrictions are put in place by gaming commissions and even laws.

Yeah, everybody knows that people wear shin guards in soccer to hide the information that they have shins.

They're saying you don't have to leave yourself vulnerable. Not that soccer is a game of information.
posted by ODiV at 9:40 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


It seems that the bigger issue is that Stones Casino is a cheat. Why does anyone play there?
posted by JackFlash at 9:52 AM on October 5


FAQ:

Q: Who is Mike Postle?
A: Mike Postle is a long time poker pro. He is suspected of having cheated at the video-streamed pokertable at Stones Gambling Hall in Sacramento

Q: How much money has Postle won from other players in these games?
A: Approximation is $250k (source https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showpost.php?p=55473696&postcount=1066 )

Q: How statistically deviant is his play?
A: Very. Some calculations put it as more unlikely than 1 to the number of atoms in the universe. See bb/100 vs VPIP graph: https://i.gyazo.com/9640d7665da6f5fbc37ad6c935334fbb.png (Source unknown)

Q: How do people think he cheated?
A: Likely via getting the exact holecards of his opponents relayed to his phone which he keeps very discretely between his legs while playing, and/or to bone conductive headphones hidden under his hat. This would likely require access to the actual live feed from the RFID/tech-room

Q: Who is Justin Kuraitis?
A: An employee and TD of Stones Gambling hall. He's responsible for the tech team that runs the livestream. He's for a multitude of reasons suspected to be Mike's possible inside man in the possible cheating scheme

Q: But Postle doesn't always win when he plays
A: True. He has had losing sessions on stream where he plays quite normally. They seem to coincide with Justin Kuraitis being out of town.

Q: Is the stream commentated on in real time when the play takes place, or on delay?
A: It's commented on delay, as all streams of this kind are. Only the RFID tech room has (read: should have) access to the actual live footage and hands. They then set up the graphics etc, and transmit that footage delayed to the commentary booth and viewers.

Q: Who is Taylor Smith?
A: Another tech team employee of Stones Live Casino. Some consider him suspect due to his involvement in correcting holecards for a crazy hand Mike played, among other things. It's still unclear what Mike's actual holecards were in that infamous hand (68o, or 89ss). T.S may be entirely innocent and should be treated as such, just as Postle and Kuraitis should be until found guilty in a court of law

Q: Why is this blowing wide open just now this week?
A: A former employee and commentator of the stream, @Angry_Polak, took to twitter. @joeingram1 took her allegations seriously, as opposed to many others she had previously raised her suspicions to, and then the ball started rolling

Further reading:

Longer cliff-notes/Summary: https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showpost.php?p=55473579&postcount=1045
posted by Ahmad Khani at 10:45 AM on October 5 [13 favorites]


LOL I didn't know Postle was winning at 1000bb/100. That is insane.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:04 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Joe Ingram's videos are also worth watching. He makes it pretty clear what is going on.
INVESTIGATING Mike Postle Hand Histories from Stones Live

posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:22 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I know with modified non standards compliant readers you can get at least a three foot read range. Since passive RFID afaik operates as an RF retroreflector I wonder how far you could get with no regard for the law or FCC? Or if the emitted field from the chip is guaranteed weak maybe the player wears an antenna array?

I wonder if casinos monitor the RF spectrum for anomalies?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 3:28 PM on October 5


To people wondering about the grifting too hard, I’ve played and followed high level magic the gathering and oh my god, once you grift, you can never stop.

It’s addictive or your ego just won’t let you based on all the pros I’ve seen do it ON. CAMERA. over and over.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:05 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, also the thing about immediately leaving when the stream ends and only playing that for low stakes. I need literally no other evidence dabbling and knowing many professional card players.

Like... really. It’s not even worth more words. We like to play. In many contexts. That would be the most odd thing from someone choosing that one specific game to only engage in during one particular scenario.

...and the guy was a pro before?!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:12 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


@Angry_Polak also posted her last broadcast when she was in the booth giving commentary on the steam. The interesting part is that you can see her reaction, as an honest player in the game, and compare it to the other commentator.

In this hand, Postle has top pair and a straight draw (QJ on J984). It's a good hand. Postle however plays 40% of all hand he's dealt, so for him this should be a damned great hand. Yet he plays it check/call on the flop, and check/fold on the turn. He gives up without even making his opponent call a bet.

For the benefit of non players here, Postle's play is completely unreasonable. He's gambling, getting a good outcome, and then folding. He has no chance to win playing like this. It can only make sense when he doesn't have any chance to win the hand anyway, when his opponent holds an unbeatable hand. Which in this case his opponent does.

In the stream you can see a poker player's reaction to this: confusion. Postle's play is shocking. Angry_Polak says, "It doesn't make sense. It's like he knows. It's weird."

Meanwhile, the other commentator goes on about how freakishly good Postle is, that he can play 40% of his hands, bluff all the time, and yet make this fold. "Welcome to the game of Postle!" It has this feel, where we are witnessing play that's literally unbelieveable, seeing results that are mathematically impossible, and being told how exciting it is. It's why a lot of us in the poker community suspect that the live stream and certain commentators in particular, are in on it.
posted by cotterpin at 11:49 PM on October 5 [13 favorites]


It seems just absolutely crazy that he is allowed to play while spending the whole time looking at his phone, which is concealed from view.
posted by thelonius at 3:35 AM on October 6 [5 favorites]


It's why a lot of us in the poker community suspect that the live stream and certain commentators in particular, are in on it.

IDK if that is the commentator being in on it, or just the commentator-enthusiasm effect, and his not caring. You see the enthusiasm thing in all sorts of programs -- sports, politics, the History Empire's shows about the military, and more. The commentator is excited about whatever they're seeing, and gushes about it uncritically. Angry_Polak deserves major props for not continuing that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 AM on October 6


It's worth noting that Angry_Polak plays in these games, and only was part time in the commentary booth. I assume her job is to give commentary as a player and not primarily to hype the game.

Nonetheless I have more sympathy today for the commentators, because they're being asked to do something which is impossible. They have a player who is killing the game, and they are tasked with explaining his decisions when the decisions are not rooted in strategy. How can you explain the decision making behind the QJ hand?

All the commentators can say is that the guy is freakishly, supernaturally good. Obviously they cannot suggest he might be cheating.
posted by cotterpin at 10:07 AM on October 6


"Given perfect knowledge of a situation, how do you act in a way that doesn't betray your perfect knowledge, so that you can continue to exploit it over time."

"Congratulations on your managerial promotion here at the National Intelligence Service! We're going to begin training today by teaching you to do nothing."
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:06 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


I have been down the rabbithole reading the 2+2 thread about this and I now know way more about it than I want to, even if I've been reading some of the posts out loud to my husband because I know they're all English words but I don't know what TF they mean. I've been reading that thread for a big chunk of my lazy Sunday and I'm not even halfway through it.

This is fascinating even to an outsider, and the Joe Ingram research videos are incredible (as are the many other graphs and charts posted in the 2+2 thread). I'm so glad this was posted.

It's inconceivable that Postle didn't cheat.
posted by biscotti at 3:15 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


I've been reading some of the posts out loud to my husband because I know they're all English words but I don't know what

It's very simple. If he had not lost a semi-swizzle earlier, he obviously would have played for a submarine in the hemiola.
posted by thelonius at 3:41 PM on October 6 [9 favorites]


Yeah poker has a lot of inside terms, for sure, that are impenetrable.

I had a conversation about this with a friend of mine today who started playing poker a bit before I did (which was I guess like 17 years ago). He said "do you know what stood out to me above everything else" and I was like, yeah, that weird thing he said on that turn and he was like YES. And then when he saw the win rate he said, for any serious poker player that by itself is enough.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:41 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


« Older Shenmue 3 is more Shenmue.   |   This heart yearns for the salt of unsmelt air... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.