HCL retracts statement on casino’s contact with California regulators as protagonists’ war of words expands

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: October 13, 2022 4:38 pm EDT

The alleged cheating on an episode of “Hustler Casino Live” centered on Garrett Adelstein’s accusations against Robbi Jade Lew continues to dominate talk throughout poker and beyond. The latest developments include an acknowledgment from HCL livestream owners Nick Vertucci and Ryan Feldman that the show’s hosting venue, Gardena, California’s Hustler Casino, has been in communications with California state gambling regulators about the alleged cheating and about the HCL show itself.

However, as detailed below, HCL owners Vertucci and Feldman later retracted the statement for improperly speaking publicly about Hustler Casino’s separate interests.

Meanwhile, allegations continue to fly in an expanding sphere of accusations and observations. The latest wave of controversy follows HCL’s discovery of the chip theft by staffer Bryan Sagbigsal and an expanded “report” published by Adelstein that cast aspersions on Lew, Sagbigsal, and several other players who have appeared on the popular HCL show.

California Bureau of Gambling Control aware of situation

On Wednesday, HCL owners Vertucci and Feldman first issued a brief update, their first since the announcement that security footage had shown long-time staffer Sagbigsal stealing $15,000 in chips from Lew’s stack immediately following the conclusion of the game where Lew won a giant $269,000 pot from Adelstein in a hand featuring unusual and arguably illogical betting.

The since-retracted update created possible confusion between Hustler Casino and the two entities owned by Vertucci and Feldman, Hustler Casino Live and High Stakes Poker Productions. While Hustler Casino likely has been in contact with California regulators, the statement by the HCL owners likely breached the casino’s business protocol.

The second part of the since-deleted HCL update appeared to indirectly address complaints made by numerous observers that the popular YouTube-streamed show should go on hiatus until its internal investigation concludes. Unanswered questions about the game’s security remain, and in some ways, have been magnified by the reported chip theft by Sagbigsal. Despite those criticisms, the owners’ decision to continue the game as normally scheduled stands for now.

As mentioned, HCL issued two follow-up Tweet in which it clarified that it was Hustler Casino that was in contact with state regulators, and not the show’s owners themselves. The first follow-up tried to clarify the original Tweet’s language, while the second, almost certainly offered at Hustler Casino’s request, read as follows:

Garrett Adelstein ‘report’ triggers more controversy

While Sagbigsal’s chip theft remains the saga’s most significant twist, a lengthy expansion of Adelstein’s initial written allegations continues to generate other conjecture, including a response probably offered by Sagbigsal.

Adelstein’s “Garrett Adelstein Report on Likely Cheating on Hustler Casino Live” published on the 2+2 poker forum expands on Adelstein’s accusations regarding the infamous “jack-four” hand, plus several other unusually-played hands involving Lew.

Besides an expanded analysis of the jack-four hand and links to video excerpts of other curious hands, Adelstein also asserted that Lew was secretly backed by another player in the allegedly cheated game, Jacob “Rip” Chavez. As claimed by Adelstein, Chavez backed some or all of Lew’s action in the game in a financial relationship that wasn’t known to the other players. Other prominent poker figures later affirmed some details about the presumed financial dealing between Chavez and Lew. Adelstein also linked to video of a possibly soft-played heads-up pot between Chavez and Lew when both players had A-Q and the flop came A-A-8.

Adelstein mentioned several other HCL stream participants in his expanded report, though in many cases the inclusions amounted to character aspersions rather than any direct evidence of possible cheating in the HCL game.

Sagbigsal response to Adelstein adds smoke

Adelstein’s report triggered a later response by Sagbigsal, the accused chip thift and former HCL staffer. Sagbigsal’s response professed his innocence regarding widespread accusations that he could be an “inside man” who somehow communicated opponents’ hole cards to Lew (or possibly Chavez) during the infamous stream. Podcaster Joey Ingram confirmed in the lengthy thread that the poster was almost certainly Sagbigsal, while Sagbigsal also mentioned other HCL staffers and offered a few images of internal HCL text messages that supported his identity as the poster through more than four dozen follow-up posts.

Sagbigsal also defended Lew as being innocent regarding Adelstein’s claims of cheating. However, Sagbigsal repeatedly refused to respond to other posters’ requests to verify that a lengthy text exchange between him and Lew — as published on Twitter by Lew — was authentic. The last of those images as posted by Lew shows her asking for Sagbigsal’s permission to publish the text exchange on Twitter, in which Sagbigsal, if the messages are authentic, admits to the theft:

However, where Sagbigsal would have agreed to allow the texts to be published is where Lew’s Tweeted series of images is cropped, adding to the questions about authenticity being raised by some prominent players and observers of the unfolding story.

Lew, meanwhile, continues to defend herself on social media. The relative newcomer to high-stakes poker had also declared that she will submit to a lie-detector test; such tests are highly indicative of truthfulness but are not infallible and are generally not admissible in court. Lew stated that she would take the test earlier this week, as administered through technicians retained by Maverick casinos owner and occasional HCL participant Eric Persson, but as of today had not released any specific results from such a test.

Lew has also flip-flopped on whether she will file a criminal complaint against Sagbigsal for the chip theft. Lew previously asserted that she would not press for charges against Sagbigsal based on being told by a Gardena police officer that Sagbigsal had no prior criminal record. That turned out to be false, as Sagbigsal has had several previous brushes with the law. California’s felony-theft statute applies to theft of cash or merchandise worth over $950, meaning it would apply to Sagbigsal’s $15,000 chip grab.

Lew also addressed the allegations that she faked the text messages from Sagbigsal.

Featured image source: Hustler Casino Live