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Historically Strange Poker Hand Leads To Dramatic Cheating Allegation

Adelstein stares down Lew after losing the hand.
HCLPokerShow/Twitter

Some truly wild poker nonsense went down during Thursday night’s Hustler Casino Live stream, which resulted in multiple Notes App statements on potential cheating, the flapping of a seemingly unflappable player, and more than a quarter of a million dollars being passed back and forth for reasons that nobody could quite figure out. It begins here with this clip, in which Garrett Adelstein, one of the best players in the world, goes all-in on an open-ended flush draw and loses to Robbi Jade Lew, a less experienced player, after she stayed in on a hand she shouldn’t have and won with a jack-high.

As you can see, Adelstein was stunned to lose to Lew on such a hand, and the most theatrically satisfying part of the six-minute clip is the minutes-long, open-mouthed stare with which Adelstein regards Lew after she takes his money. The crux of the issue here is Lew’s irrational betting pattern—specifically, her choice to call Adelstein after he went all-in upon the turn. Calling such a huge bet with nothing but a jack, a four, and no chance to hit the flush she couldn’t have known Adelstein was working on is gutsy to the point of recklessness. As a rule, you don’t call an all-in bet like that with worse cards, which, though Lew won, she had. To put it in more familiar terms: she did not display a mastery of the correct situations to hold ’em (shouldn’t have) or fold ’em (should’ve), though she won anyway.

“I don’t understand what’s happening right now,” Adelstein says as Lew luxuriates in her win. Adelstein asks Lew why she called his huge bet despite her mediocre cards. “Ace-high,” she says. “I thought you had ace-high.” Right away, this makes no sense, since an ace is higher than a jack. “So, then why call with jack-high?” Adelstein asked, to which Lew responded, “Because you don’t have shit.” At one point she also claims she thought she had a three instead of a four, which is a fairly ludicrous thing to believe or even say when the stakes are this high. Lew’s incoherency only further stoked Adelstein’s ire, which is difficult to do: Adelstein is a famously calm player, one who never blows up, even when he’s taunted or loses big to a big shit-talker. Back in February, he shrugged off Dylan Gang’s rude boasts after he lost a $186,000 pot to him. After the hand, Adelstein walked off into the casino, where he says Lew tried to “justify the play.” Once Adelstein told her their incident would probably go viral, he says “her face clearly melted,” and upon being told, “I think you know now, you fucked up,” he says she offered to pay him back, which he accepted.

To take Lew’s explanations at face value, she says she called Adelstein because she thought he was bluffing, with a hand that would have beaten hers and would have therefore made no sense. As Adelstein was looking for a flush or straight draw on the river, she could have conceived of her jack of clubs as a useful blocker, though, again, her hand turned out to be pretty bad and she only won due to some incredible luck. What Adelstein posited, however, was that it was not luck. In a six-part Notes App statement, Adelstein accuses Lew of cheating, opines on how she maybe could have done it, and gives his version of what happened on the casino floor before he got his money back.

Lew has played poker for money for many years, though she’s jumped up into tournaments with significantly higher stakes this year. In her own statement after the game, she was defiant.

It is worth pointing out here that several elite poker players have weighed in and are split on whether or not they think Lew was cheating. Proving someone’s guilt or innocence is an incredibly difficult bar to reach, as is the case with chess, though unlike chess, poker has an inescapable element of luck that complicates everything by an order of magnitude. Lew could very well have bumbled her way into winning this huge hand, though everything she said afterwards is, at best, incredibly confused. Did she know the cards in her hand or not? Did she think Adelstein was holding an ace or not? Does she know the difference between two-pair and a full house or not? That doesn’t prove anything, however, and as suspicious as this whole situation is, I don’t think we’ll get a straight answer on exactly what was going on here.