Hustler Casino Live completes investigation of Adelstein/Lew controversy, finds no evidence of cheating

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: December 14, 2022 10:07 PST

High Stakes Poker Productions LLC, the parent company of "Hustler Casino Live", has released the findings of its investigation into the controversial poker hand between Garrett Adelstein and Robbi Jade Lew.

As detailed in the report, the investigation found no evidence of cheating in the controversial and bizarrely played hand or in other alleged possible cheating hands. According to a High Stakes Poker Productions statement, "The investigation found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing in the J4 hand, or any other hand played that night."

In exonerating Lew to the extent they did, the show's owners did confirm that the third-party investigation into the show's framework showed that despite there being zero evidence of cheating by Lew and others accused by Adelstein, the show did have several security issues. These were discovered during the ten-week investigation by Bulletproof, the cybersecurity firm retained by High Stakes Poker Productions owners Nick Vertucci and Ryan Feldman, which found security gaps that theoretically could have been exploited by cheaters.

"While no direct evidence of cheating was found," a report on the investigation's findings declares, "Bulletproof found that cheating with the Sept. 29 setup was possible. Most methods of cheating the system can be avoided by tightening security in the broadcast booth, which HSPP has done. With the production booth secured, then all the other methods, such as electronic signaling, become less relevant. This is securing at the most important level first, which is the source; afterwards, additional security can be applied all the way down to the player level."

The September 29, 2022 HCL streamed game that included the "J4" hand between Adelstein and Lew saw a $269,000 pot shipped Lew's way after she called Adelstein's semi-bluff after the flop for her entire remaining stack of more than $100,000. The two then agreed to run the turn and river twice, and both runouts favored Lew, sending both halves of the massive pot her way. Minutes later, after replaying the unusual action of the hand in his head, Adelstein left the table, made accusations of being cheated by Lew, soon picked up his chips, and later made lengthy and public accusations about several people he suspected of cheating.

Major findings from investigation

The ten-week investigation into the cheating investigations saw Bulletproof, in conjunction with HCL, conduct a detailed technical audit of the systems and controls in place. The investigation also included a review -- aided by poker experts -- of dozens of hours of hands played on multiple streams by players connected to the allegations. HSPP's press statement declared these to be the investigation's primary findings:

1) The Deckmate shuffling machine is secure and cannot be compromised;

2) It’s extremely unlikely that any card-reading device stored in a water bottle, jewelry or object on the table could have intercepted a card signal;

3) RFID technology used by “Hustler Casino Live” is safe. Any device that intercepted a signal would receive a serial number, not the actual card;

4) Radio communication to the on-floor camera operator was not an issue in the Lew-Adelstein hand;

5) The PokerGFX system was free and clear of malware, installed programs or systems that could intercept hands.

"The investigation we conducted was extremely thorough and we found no evidence of wrongdoing in the September 29 hand. We cannot say with 100% certainty that no wrongdoing happened, just that we found no evidence of it," said Vertucci. "We promised to conduct a thorough investigation and that we would release the findings publicly, no matter what is found. That is what we are doing today."

Vertucci added, "Our cybersecurity team found a number of areas we could improve – and we have followed that guidance to significantly improve the security of our stream. We are confident with the measures now in place that our stream is among the most secure in the industry. Players and fans of ‘Hustler Casino Live’ should be extremely confident that our games are safe and secure."

Collusion accusations, Sagbigsal situation also addressed

The statement on behalf of the HCL streamed game also addressed collusion allegations made by Adelstein that Lew may have colluded with another player in the September 29 game, Jacob "Rip" Chavez, to somehow signal hand holdings to Lew. Those allegations also included claims of possible involvement by Bryan Sagbigsal, the former HCL employee who was seen on security footage taking $15,000 in chips from Lew's stack immediately after the streamed game concluded.

Regarding the Chavez/Lew collusion allegations made by Adelstein, the HSPP statement declared that the financial arrangement between Chavez and Lew was "widely considered unethical in the poker community" and has now been banned in all HCL games. The backing arrangement between Chavez ad Lew was in place on September 29 but wasn't disclosed to other players or the HCL show's producers or employees.

Nonetheless, the investigation found no incontrovertible evidence of collusion between "Rip" and Lew. "While Mr. Chavez and Ms. Lew appeared to communicate with each other at the table on Sept. 29, our investigation found no evidence that they shared information during a hand about their own hands or other players’ hands. Further, our investigation failed to uncover evidence of any inappropriate communication between Ms. Lew and Mr. Sagbigsal before, during or after the Sept. 29 hand."

The HSPP statement noted that the undisclosed financial relationship between Ms. Lew and Mr. Chavez could have created the appearance of possible collusion between the two players. Such conduct is widely considered unethical in the poker community and is prohibited in “Hustler Casino Live” games. In order to clarify that point, all players are now required to sign a waiver agreeing that they do not have arrangements to share their profit with other players in the game.

Regarding Sagbigsal, the statement reprised the known facts about his theft of chips from Lew's stack on the HCL set, while admitting that High Stakes Poker Productions did not conduct a sufficient background check on Sagbigsal prior to his employment in a casino environment. Sagbigsal remains wanted by Los Angeles County authorities on two charges of grand theft. The HSPP statement also includes a link to the felony complaint issued by the L.A. County district attorney's office against Sagbigsal, who remains at large.

Hustler Casino Live installs added security protocols

In light of High Stakes Poker Productions' acknowledgment that the HCL streamed game did have a number of potential security holes, the show's owners also announced several security enhancements moving forward, such as no phones being allowed at the tables. Ten separate security enhancements and protocols have been put into place for all future HCL streamed games:

  • HSPP reconfigured the production room so that only one monitor can display hole cards, and it can only be viewed by the director.
  • A wall and door were installed to the production room; the door is kept closed and locked throughout the stream. Only HSPP has the key to the room.
  • Production room employees must surrender mobile telephones and other electronic devices, which are kept in signal-blocking Faraday bags, before entering the production room.
  • Pre-employment background checks will be performed on all prospective employees.
  • All players must surrender their telephones, smart watches and other electronic devices before playing in the game. Other personal items are stored in signal-blocking Faraday bags and kept away from the table.
  • Players are required to sign waivers agreeing that they have no financial investment in any other players in the game.
  • Security personnel use a metal-detecting wand to screen players each time they enter the stage area. Players who leave the stage for any reason are re-screened before re-entering the stage.
  • Remote camera operator is no longer on open-production channel; the only way director can communicate with that person is to press a button to communicate directly with them.
  • Security video camera systems record all employees in production room from multiple angles. Security cameras will not view hole cards on director’s monitor.

Featured image source: Joe Giron, PokerPhotoArchive