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A Cheating Scandal Rocking the Poker World (theringer.com)
295 points by indigodaddy on Oct 4, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 301 comments

For people who are not familiar with poker and dont understand why people are 100% sure this person is cheating, allow me to explain.

This player continously makes decisions playing poker that are theoretically unsound and manages to always win the maximum and lose the minimum amount of money possible.

So not only are his plays theoretically unsound, there is no observable underlying strategy to his play. He plays conservatively when the player he is playing has the best hand and he plays aggressively when the player he is playing has a worse hand.

The only thing consistent about his play is that his decision is the perfect play he could make if he had access to the other players cards.

This kind of play is possible in a very small sample but this person has been playing this way consistently for a year now.

Looks like it's been figured out [0].

[0] https://mobile.twitter.com/vdthemyk/status/11798924471424491...

There are some interesting ideas here. It seems extra risky to involve a second person. Does a second person always show up with him? Maybe he built an app that allows him to read that data on his phone without needing a second person.

That's just more speculation.

Whether this is true or not, if Stone Live's systems are unsecured, it's an easy security hole to plug.

Can you point out those magic plays with yt links (on the full vis)?

How do you falsify his claim that he can read his opponent's faces and tell what cards they have? Isn't that a common skill in high level poker?

A couple of responses here:

First, the issue is that he's winning at a rate that is 10+ standard deviations above what the typical winning/profitable player is achieving. These results are accomplished across a significant sample of sessions (39 live streamed ones), and across almost a year.

If you consider some of the players considered the best "live readers" in the history of the game (Ivey, Negreanu, etc.), none have won at the rate that he has.

Secondly, he's playing $1/3 and $5/5 poker in a city (Sacramento) that is not exactly a gambling mecca. You would expect someone who is as good as he is to play higher stakes games. $1/3 and $5/5 are stakes offered at nearly any casino.

Third, he's performed well against some elite pros. Matt Berkey (who regularly plays the highest stakes in Vegas) was in a streamed game against Postle, and Postle performed extremely well in heads-up hands. Given that Berkey is playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars on a nightly basis in Vegas, and seems to be a profitable player in those games, are we supposed to believe that Postle somehow has identified body language tells that no one else has discovered?

This is not even considering other facts like:

* Postle used to consult for the production team behind the streaming for the casino

* Postle used to claim to run some kind of app development company, and has since deleted his LinkedIn

* The extreme winning sessions seem to only have taken place during streamed games

Sure, it's possible that there's a benign explanation here, but it's looking far and far more unlikely.

Not to mention the guy is earning close to a thousand dollars an hour playing low stakes poker. If he were that good on his own he would surely play higher stakes or play as much as he possibly could. Instead, he only plays at this one casino and only during the streamed matches that include RFIDed cards.

Mighty suspicious.

I remember reading somewhere that most good poker players are better at taking money from less skilled players than other good players. It's not ridiculous to think someone simply likes to play with less skilled players in general. It's easy money.

He is not playing just against less skilled players, he is playing with very good players as well. Regardless of the opponent he can always make the right decision and only time he loses is if he bluffs and someone makes a extremely tough call with a weak hand (something most people wouldn't do).

There is no situation when he bluffed against a better hand.

Not only this, but if he was as good against weaker players, he'd play all the time, not just when it is streamed and RFID is used.

I think you mean there is no situation in a god-mode session where he bluffed into a semi-nutted+ hand.

I was trying to talk in laymen terms, not everyone knows poker lingo. Exactly, either Postle has superhuman mind reading skills or he gets info from outside. It's not certain whether he knows exact hands, maybe it is just "AHEAD/BEHIND" which can be really easy to pass along.

Not definitive by itself, but the hat is very suspect: https://www.vegasslotsonline.com/news/wp-content/uploads/201...

I find it astounding that personal accessories like hats and sunglasses are not only allowed but apparently not adequately inspected in a game where the subtlest body language and facial tics can affect who ends up winning thousands to millions of dollars.

(My poker experience amounts to two years' worth of high-school lunch hours, so admittedly, I'm commenting on something I don't know much about)

Did anyone else read to the end of this linked story expecting the "discovery" or answer at the end? Like... how he cheated?

Instead it just ends implying he must be cheating because statistics. Great, he probably is. But if he's actively cheating and people are onto him he'll be discovered eventually, just write a real article once that happens.

less suspect that someone with actual headphones? https://youtu.be/Eg34YTF-meA?t=13155

Yeah, looks like a high probability of electronics in the hat.

well then let's just hope those electronics don't fall out of the hat the way he moves it around...

https://youtu.be/Eg34YTF-meA?t=7502 (yes, url with timecode :) )

The real, true secret answer is obvious enough... He's a mentat.

"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion..."

Does no one here who downvoted have a sense of humor? or a memory of Dune. It was a joke, that's all.

Trouble is maybe 10% don't have a sense of humour / don't get it and they downvote more than the others up it.

There are hands that make this virtually impossible. In one well-known hand where both his opponents have AKo and Postle goes all in. AKo is a very good hand, but it's a much worse hand if two people hold it. Even if Postle had magic face-reading abilities that allow him to always discern good and bad hands, it's absurd to claim he can read exact rank and suit from faces.

This argument makes no sense. People throw away quads because they sense something or get scared. By a small fraction cards aren't the winning factor in poker.

We're talking about pre-flop actions. It's literally impossible to throw away quads pre-flop in hold-em. You may be thinking about a different form of poker.

> It's literally impossible to throw away quads pre-flop

Glad to see someone using "literally" correctly.

Sorry no previous poster talked specifically about pre-flop actions.

np, I was probably sloppy in my description. In the hand, two players hold AKo, there's another deadcard king in a folded hand, and Postle calls a all-in pre-flop with 54o. That's a +EV call, but only because of the exact combination of cards held by multiple players. There's no way a tell can give him this information.

Maybe saying "opponents have [2 cards not 5]" indicates pre-flop? The communal cards are often referred to as what someone "has" despite being communal.

Cards aren't the winning factor... only to the extent that the winning factor is figuring out what your opponent's cards are better than they can figure out yours. Knowing them because you're cheating is a pretty effective way to do that!

He only plays in the specific circumstances that are set up for this particular streamed event. He could easily prove himself innocent by playing and winning similarly in literally any other poker venue.

> How do you falsify his claim that he can read his opponent's faces and tell what cards they have?

This would be super easy to test. Since the cards are RFID spied-upon by the House, a player simply has to pretend to look at their cards while never actually seeing them. The RFID chips are still active and the likely source of the leak.

So just don't look at your cards, he'll still know what your cards are even though you don't!

Personally, that's not poker to me. Removing my ability to control the information about my cards - specifically letting the House know my cards before I do! - seems to violate the basic tenets of what makes poker poker. Shouldn't a player be allowed to fold and drop that information into a black hole? It's not poker if you can't do that! Key player strategies have always included selecting which information to reveal to other players. Removing this ability from the players changes the game, dramatically, as seen here.

The control of information has been wrestled from the player and forced into the hands of the House. Any amount of cheating should be expected in such a weird system of convoluted rules and specific data leaks planted into the system on purpose.

RFID on the cards?

You are right. That is not poker. There is no reason for the house, or anyone, but the player to have the data on the cards.

I just caught wind of this here on a lark.

The house knowing the cards is extremely, highly suspect.

Great comment. I agree across the board.

This isn’t the case of a casino tagging cards without the players knowing it’s happening. RFID’d cards are used because these are publicly streamed games. To provide a high-quality experience for the viewer requires someone (or something, in the case of a piece of software) to know the table state to build display graphics and compute in-hand odds.

I haven’t seen a copy of the video and audio usage release form _Stones Live_ uses but I find it extremely unlikely a player would be unaware their game is being streamed.

A properly locked down network vastly reduces the potential for external actors using the game state information maliciously. It does not prevent insiders from abusing their legitimately granted credentials but that’s a separate consideration.

I don't care. The games can be streamed without the cards data also being public.

No self respecting player should agree to that. There is no real security that way. Everybody knows that. What we can get is good, but never perfect.

Poker has been plagued by bots already. Prior to that, a family member, who can play at top ranks, made insane money online. Bill Frist made that difficult where I live, so we transitioned to table play. Medical issues made that tough...

I put that there because we have played this game. (I am solid, by their teaching and do play on occasion today)

There is the player choice to tell. Sometimes it makes sense not to, and nobody else needs to know.

Publishing card data devalues the game. Makes it less.

A game streamed old school tells anyone watching all they really need to know. From there, start to play. That tells them more.

I do not like the card data being published. Yes, players consent. They shouldn't, but their call.

Same as I get to talk it down. I wonder what Brunson would think about this. I bet not much.

We all have our reasons.

In theory there is a thirty minute delay between live play and streamed play...except in cases of manipulation and an insider shares the information in real-time.

Edit: Ah, missed the comment about not liking sharing of cards in any case. I will need to think about it more but it’s an interesting position if you want purity in the game.

It is about our agency as players. Being forced to show all bluffs and or body language as cards received, depending, means being more transparent than likely intended.

There are things a player would rather others have to work for, or at best, infer at a coarse level, that RFID card play make known.

And that data is out there for future players to benefit from too.

This may impact you as a player.

After thinking some, I realize streaming card data actually forces a player to share high value information whether they like it or not.

That is definitely not poker.

Bluff data is extremely high value! It is common to see a killer bluff shared as a sign of respect, for example. But, not sharing it is also common.

Others can profile a successful player and reduce the advantage they have in future games. Doing this old school, by reading people and deduction from known card data is an important skill.

Those who can do that, sans card data, are very potent players.

By streaming card data, players are forced to allow profiling with a precision and accessibility well beyond what would otherwise be possible, and all of it is accessible to any interested player! And archived (you all know it will be) for all time!

All of this not only devalues the game, makes it something not POKER in the most basic sense, even though the mechanics are the same, but devalues players too!

Just putting this here to augment my earlier comment.

And none of it is a slam against the tech. I do not mean that.

But, like bots, this is definitely one of those "just because we can, does not mean we should" type innovations.

It's not high level or high stakes. It's a $1/$3 game--the games Vegas weekend warriors and tourists play. If he really has this superpower, why isn't he playing 100-1000x those stakes in Macau?

Isn't that possibly self-explanatory? He could play the lower level because it maximizes his profits. Better players might bluff better or mask their tells.

Sure. There are "whales" at every stakes level, but maybe he's decided that this particular $1/$3 game at this particular casino [using those particular RFID cards] is the combination that maximizes his profits. It's an amazing story and I can't wait to see the run-out.

No, it's not. It's just something that happens in the movies. Real people at high stakes poker tables don't exhibit tells, especially not ones that allow you to be 100% accurate.

Personally I'd be willing to believe that he has some extraordinary ability, as humans sometimes do. But only if he could win anywhere, not just in a particular streaming venue with RFID in the cards.

I played poker professionally for years. Nobody has the ability he'd have to have.

Extraordinary ability in poker means you win like 55% of the time. Not 100.

Imagine if you had a video of every player (a huge dataset across players and events), along with just the information that you're supposed to have. Now you code up a neural net or whatever fancy algorithm you can think of. How much do you think that extra data is actually going to help?

If your answer is very little, you agree he's cheating. Like me.

If it's a lot, then you're saying looking at faces is critical to poker. And yet how much do poker players say about reading faces? There would be other people who'd also discovered that reading tells is useful, and they would be somewhere in between the naive people just reading the cards and this guy, who seems to play optimally given all information, even that which isn't normally public.

The easiest way to tell would be to compare his performance at games with cameras vs without

If that was the case, why isn’t he playing with the big boys? If he was this good, he should be making millions and millions a year. Even if he doesn’t have the money, someone should be willing to sponsor him for millions or even tens of millions.

While no concrete evidence has been provided, there is a lot of statistical evidence (he’s on a practically impossible part of the bell curve), Occam’s Razor implies that he’s cheating. Moreover he only plays when twitch is rolling. The most likely explanation is that he’s giving a percentage of his winnings to some tech guy processing the feed, probably more than 50%.

It seems to me that security at the venue is extremely inconsistent. They care enough about cheating to time-delay the stream (even to the announcers), but players are allowed to have phones and keys and things at the table? Maybe don't allow that?

A 30-minute (minimum) time delay on a live stream is usually a legal requirement in most jurisdictions, enforced by the state gaming commission.

Most poker rooms also allow you to use your phone, as long are you're not a participant in the current hand. The alleged cheater (Mike Postle) is said to have hid his phone under the table, in his crotch area. Obviously, it's going to be pretty hard for other players and the dealer to check for that at that angle.

In the end, the no-phone rule in most poker rooms is going to be largely an honor-system based thing.


Jason Somerville, who founded one of the most popular poker streaming companies (Run It Up), has described how stringently the Nevada Gaming Control Board inspects casinos that are hosting streams. E.g. multiple inspections of the streaming equipment, a requirement for a guard at the streaming booth, etc. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS47DB94-vk). He mentioned that California does not seem to have the same level of on-site scrutiny.


On TwoPlusTwo (the popular poker forum), long time players at Stones Gambling Hall (where the alleged cheating took place) mentioned that their poker room did not institute a no-phone policy until sometime into the alleged cheater's crazy run of success.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board doesn't mess around. I remember there was an HN thread about reproducible builds, and someone who worked on slot machine software mentioned that the NGCB would walk up to a slot machine on the floor of a casino, dump the filesystem onto a memory card, hash it, and the hash had better match what they had on file or someone was getting dragged into court.

I usually hear that in the context of comparing to our (much worse) voting machine security...

That strikes me as pure security theater. There’s no relationship between what the machine is doing and what is contained on an apparent copy of the machine’s purported storage device. Just like TSA booting my laptop ... when they do it my laptop boots into a Microsoft Windows environment that I’ve literally never used. When I boot the same machine I get netbsd. Weird, right ?

Just because a test doesn't catch all attacks doesn't mean that performing the test is security theatre.

It's a bit like saying that ASLR and stack canaries are security theatre because they can be defeated by information leaks.

The number of people who can change the code on the machine is much larger than the number of people who can change the hardware on the machine to hide code changes. Checking the code prevents that group from having the opportunity to cheat.

It's basically an ad hoc attestation mechanism. In your case, it would be as if the TSA hashed your hard drive and you had already been compelled to give them a copy of it which they could analyze at their leisure. They could only tell if you had changed it, but in this case that's a smoking gun.

wait, TSA boots your laptop now? I don't even understand what they'd expect to find?

Obviously, a laptop shell filled with semtex won't boot up. I think it's also possible that explosives or drugs packed into the shape of battery cells might not be distinguishable from real batteries on an x-ray. So even though they don't want to snoop through your data (customs does that), they want to verify that it is a real working laptop.

It's a pretty crude test, since you could always gut the laptop (e.g., replace the battery with a tiny one that could only run the laptop for 20 minutes) and fill the remaining space with explosives. But as with any security, it does mean more technical skill and planning required to pull off such an attack.

Yeah I mean it’s pure theater. For one thing, plenty of actual, authentic laptop batteries have exploded on airplanes. So the whole dichotomy between battery and explosive is false.

That's a good point. My Macbook is currently banned from airplanes.

Ah, classic bureaucratic thinking at work.

Let's boot the semtex filled laptops right in the middle of the most crowded, heaviest choke point at the airport. Right next to the 30 gallon trash cans filled with liquid explosives and other combustibles we force people to discard.

250:1 kdr. Gg no re. See you later alligator, after 'while crocodile, don't forget to write.

Found the counterstrike player.

But seriously though, 250:1 kdr at the tsa checkpoint wouldn't have the same effect as a plane being taken down and a much lower kdr. If a clever terrorist was going to create such a device they'd better have a better choice of detonation button than the power switch.

There also better off with one of those monstrously bulky windows gaming laptops than a MacBook air.

It'd be worse than taking down a plane. Us millennials are desensitized to that. But if you took out a security checkpoint, or all of them, airports would be forced to move screening to before you even got inside. There would be car checkpoints. It would take hours to get to your flight.

Also a bit disappointed the Blaine the mono reference went unnoticed

I had customs boot my laptop once and they just searched for jpg and gif images. While the search ran she turned to me and said, "What kind of images am I going to find on here?". I had just got a new DSLR a few months earlier so it took about 30 minutes for the search to complete (2006 windows computer). She didn't say, but I guess they're looking for egregious images?

They are looking for child porn.

Or the classified images from Jason Bourne's personnel file.

Where was this!? They not only boot the device but they search it too?

Yes, customs has legal authority to search all of your belongings which includes the files, emails, photos, text messages, etc on your devices.

My only other option was to forfeit my computer. Since I like my computer and don't do anything illegal I allowed them to violate my privacy so I could keep my computer. After they had a good look I was on my way.

From what I understand, the process has changed. These days they just image your hard drive and you're on your way after that. Then they upload your drive to a cloud system that looks through it for illegal activity. No joke. Again, you can forfeit your computer or phone but they will still try to image the drive.

Customs is not TSA.

I agree. I never said TSA.

> Just like TSA booting my laptop ... when they do it my laptop boots into a Microsoft Windows environment that I’ve literally never used. When I boot the same machine I get netbsd. Weird, right ?

What environment do devices with explosives instead of batteries boot into? Windows or *BSD?

...you’re insinuating the TSA can install Windows on your machine in a matter of seconds somehow?

No, just that they can show the TSA a Windows installation, and they will take it at face value. Just like the Gambling Comission is taking it at face vale that whatever they are "dumping" from the slot machine is what is actually running on it.

Almost every poker room allows phones at the table. Turns out poker's a really boring game when you're at a table for hours and hours. Many of them technically don't allow use of them during a hand, but those rules tend to not be strictly enforced. Often players at the table are even playing online games against each other concurrent with the poker game - sometimes gambling on things like open face chinese/pineapple, or just regular games like Words With Friends.

Source: played thousands of hours of high stakes live games, and I'll bet that some of the regulars are among the best Angry Birds players in the world.

I play at Stones a bit, and last time I was there, there was this dude with a laptop open on his drink cart playing a few tables online on the side while playing live. They are very (too) lax about technology there.

This is also not uncommon. I've seen similar at Oaks, Bay 101, Wynn, Casino Arizona, Commerce, and probably others as well. I tend to believe that it shouldn't be allowed, if only for the pace of the game, but it's not unique to Stones.

Seriously, even a phone without internet seems like a massive opportunity to cheat. Simply create a custom app that allows you to input all available information via accelerometer input or volume button clicks which is fed to a poker engine and the then the app communicates the result of the engine's decision via vibration pulses.

Even IF you allow phones though, it seems insane not to make players play in an RF-shielded room so that radio signals can't enter or leave.

It sounds like your idea is just calculating odds - this is a slight advantage, but most pro's have learned to do this in their heads already. Poker math isn't very complicated.

I expected better from this site than multiple commenters spreading false info!

This is wrong. Making optimal decisions IS very complicated. Just a heads-up no-limit match between the two best players in the world is far from the Nash equalibrum (a game theory-optimal solution). In the 2017 Humans vs AI match, a bot destroyed very good humans by 14.7 big blinds per hand. This is without caring at all about what strategies others play. If you analyze other players and you find what mistakes they make, you can do better and it's even more complicated. And vs multiple players like here, it's more complicated again (optimal strategy can only be calculated assuming there is no collusion). A 6-person game was only finally beaten a few months ago! https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02156-9

Source: used to play poker (up to the main event WSOP and $5/10 level during the poker boom) and wrote a simple game-theory optimal solver for fun.

As an addendum to this very good comment, that Nature article had a couple of big asterisks.

* Bet sizes were restricted. E.g. humans and the the bot could only bet fixed bet sizes, like 1/4 pot, 1/2 pot, full pot etc. Creative bet sizing is one of the skills that distinguishes top pros.

* Stack sizes were reset after every hand. E.g. every player in the hand was given the same amount of chips at the start of every hand. How you performed previously in the session thus did not matter. Anyone who has played poker knows that this is highly unrealistic. Larger stack sizes convey an ability to bully smaller ones, and stack sizes greatly affect what range of hands you can reasonably play.

The point being, even a supercomputer running the most efficient heuristic based poker decision making programs has not yet been able to beat humans in a game that resembles what a real 6 or 9 person table would reflect.


Just as reference, on a four-year-old quad-core/8-thread Intel i7-based desktop with 32GB of RAM, to solve a SINGLE hand in PioSolver (the most popular poker solver) from flop through the river takes my machine about 7 minutes. The game tree alone takes up 4 GB of RAM, and in this scenario there are only two players, and each player is restricted to 3 bet sizes.

The idea that this kind of computation can be done on a phone is ludicrous.

Hmmm I could be wrong but I believe it's not true that humans could only bet fixed sizes. Instead, the AI was only pretrained with fixed sizes and had to do some kind of live search algorithm for any size outside of those values, which could be what you're referring to.

Stack sizes were reset to keep the research minimally scoped, taking stack sizes into account likely does not require a quantum leap in research.

This is getting pretty off topic, but the computation could be done online.

Yeah, seems like you're correct here.

I went back and re-read the pre-print here (https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~noamb/papers/19-Science-Superhuman.p...). On page 2:

> To reduce the complexity of forming a strategy, Pluribus only considers a few different bet sizes at any given decision point. The exact number of bets it consid-ers varies between one and 14 depending on the situation. Although Pluribus can limit itself to only betting one of a few different sizes between $100 and $10,000, when actually play-ing no-limit poker, the opponents are not constrained to those few options. What happens if an opponent bets $150 while Pluribus has only been trained to consider bets of $100 or $200? Generally, Pluribus will rely on its search algorithm, described in a later section, to compute a response in real time to such “off-tree” actions.

Good catch, and thanks for the correction.

Regarding the effect of stack sizes, I'm not certain on this, but my intuition is that there is some effect on perceived ranges of the other 5 players at the table if stack sizes vary. Since Facebook AI will not be releasing Pluribus code or pre-trained models/weights, we can't be certain, but things like stack-to-pot (SPR) ratio would seem to matter.

Of course, you could always make the argument that human players in a cash game can re-up/refill to the maximum buy-in whenever they're short, but that's another discussion altogether.

Do you still have that GTO solver kicking around? How'd you build it?

I do! But it would take a few days to prepare it to make it a usable github repo. I'll try to get it sometime. It's written in C++.

If you don’t mind, it’d be awesome if you could email it to me (in profile). We’re both engineers here, I don’t need anything super polished. :)

Just interested to see your approach as I’m in the middle of writing my own my own.

maybe this is just my ignorance showing, but really? people can just computer large factorials and binomial coefficients in their heads fast enough to participate in the game?

I had always thought that knowing the odds exactly just wasn't that useful because there was a lot of missing information and it was more important to read one's opponents.

It's usually not anywhere near that complicated. To use an example from the article he folded a QJ against a QT with 89J on the board with no flush possibilities. In this case there are not very many hands that can be beating him: the pocket pairs AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 99, 88, stuff that makes two pair like J9, J8, 98, and the straights QT and T7. Overall this is going to be close to the chance when holding 77 that your opponent has a higher pair, which most professional players will "just know" is about 3-4% because they memorize tables of such facts[1]. This means he should believe he's a pretty substantial favorite and why the fold was so unexpected.

[1] https://poker.stackexchange.com/questions/1203/pocket-pair-s...

It is that complicated if you’re trying to factor accurate ranges, card removal and bet sizing. He’s obviously not doing this because he’s playing an exploitative style. In otherwords, he’s guessing perfectly based on his perceptions.

For the mathematically perfect, they spend hours studying solvers which takes considerable processing power to generate the trees. A human player can calculate aspects of it but they can really only memorize what the solver would do. And some high stakes online players are using custom software to augment their decisions.

Depending on the bet size, the solver could call the turn a % of times. And depending on blockers, unblockers and the bet sizing, the solver could advocate to call/raise/fold.

Unless you are playing at the absolute elite levels you do not need to perfectly calculate your own range or another persons. But yes, the better you get the more complicated the math is.

> It's usually not anywhere near that complicated.

Top pros play millions of hands and if you truly have a knack you remember... everything.

"Read one's opponents" isn't about reading a person's soul sitting across from you. That whole aspect of poker of picking up tells plays a much smaller role than simply understanding what hands your opponent is likely to have in each possible specific situation or knowing your opponents playing tendencies, such as how frequently do they raise, call, fold, and in what cases would they do those actions. Tells can still be important but most experienced players will have learned to control their emotions to the point where it's far more reliable to rely on your understanding of the game than to rely on some psychological meaning behind someone splitting an Oreo cookie before making a decision.

As far as computing "large factorials and binomial coefficients in their heads", I don't know what makes you think that that's what poker math entails. It's nearly all just basic statistics.

> As far as computing "large factorials and binomial coefficients in their heads", I don't know what makes you think that that's what poker math entails. It's nearly all just basic statistics.

honestly I've never played much poker, but I remember doing lots of poker odds problems from my discrete math class in undergrad.

In practice,

a) most situations that come up in poker just aren't that complicated -- if you're good at mental math, you can compute the exact odds for the most common situations in your head with some practice

b) there are some simplifications/heuristics you can apply if you're willing to be off by a small margin of error -- e.g. "if you have x outs, you have approximately 2x% to hit one by the river for each card remaining" is accurate enough for most players in most situations

c) this math ends up being extremely useful in practice, because "reading" someone (which is usually just logically deducing reasonable possibilities for what is in their hand) is only useful if you can then use the information to determine whether it is profitable to make/call a bet, which requires knowing your likelihood of winning.

Texas hold'em is straightforward to calculate odds for. There are 52 cards in the deck. Two are in your hand, and after the flop three are on the table, leaving 47 unknowns. That means if you have N outs (cards that will improve your hand), the chance of hitting one on the turn is N/47, which is about 2N per cent. Likewise the chance of hitting by the river is about 4N%.

The hard part is calculating the implied odds: there you need to play out scenarios of what your opponent might hold, and what cards would cause them to bet or call with a losing hand.

Tells are overrated in poker. It's all about implied odds and grinding it out.

There are a total of 169 starting hands and at most half are relevant. Most people you can put on a range of 40 or fewer hands. All the math you need can be inferred from about 100 things you need to memorize, most of which are fairly intuitive.

only recently have very powerful computers gotten better at poker than good humans. a phone probably can't do it yet. but a phone could be used as a way to do various kinds of digital spying or communicating with other people etc.

If it's an inside job, the phones are not even necessary. Body language could communicate the state of competitor's hands against his.

And because the stream is delayed, there is not even a need for hand states to be revealed by RFID. This info can be retroactively added with better techniques.

A poker engine wouldn't really help you since it can't read players and intentions, also most decent players can calculate odds in their heads.

There's a lot of focus on his phone. If this guy is really cheating it's probably way more sophisticated than that.

There are super tiny hidden in-ear earbuds that would easily go unnoticed unless someone really looks for it. https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/E~0AAOSwqABbH4mT/s-l640.jpg Or vibrating devices hidden anywhere else on the body. This paired with some information from the RFID stream, either through some insider or by hacking the Wifi.

As you say there are also lots of other items brought in and worn by the players, looking at the video i see people wearing hats, shades, bags and bulky clothes where you could easily hide all kinds of equipment.

having phones near the table is so dumb. chess has already dealt with similar challenges, people should have known. maybe they did!

Poker is a very slow and boring game and with people's attention spans these days it's going to be hard to ban phones outright. Maybe only at the highest stakes tables.

But apparently people watch streams of other people playing poker. How is this not considered an unsporting behaviour as it clearly disrespects the audience?

I've heard several theories that it was an cyber security failure.

Using phones at poker tables, especially ones without RFID systems, isn't really a risk.

It's a massive risk - it's the only external source of information he has at the table, without it, cyber security failures mean nothing

This could easily have been an inside-job situation with Postle knowing someone on the tech team who feeds him the information and the split earnings.

The fact RFID is observable wouldn't make much difference then.

how do you figure out if the phone has an rfid system?

Poker tables with or without RFID systems, I think, is the issue.

It's very common to use your phone at a poker table at casinos.

Is it just me, or do others find it disturbing that very serious accusations are being made and promoted with nothing but very circumstantial evidence.

I read the article expecting to find some solid evidence of cheating, but instead is just a bunch of speculation and innuendo.

I agree that this article focuses primarily on the "how" he cheated and the circumstantial pieces, but I've followed the story... It's a lot more than just that. I'm struggling to find the source right now (know it was via Haralabos Voulgaris's Twitter account [0]), but his win rate is something like 31 standard deviations above the mean. He also never plays high stakes anywhere else, and only plays high-stakes when his alleged co-conspirator is working. There's a ton of data-backed evidence that he's cheating. Seriously, scroll back through Haralabob's timeline and you'll find it all.

[0] https://twitter.com/haralabob/with_replies

I don't know the guy who is doing the commentary in the vid but he is already very convinced of mikes guilty. Is there a list of scenes without commentary? I'd like to see few of the with context of the whole game to get a clue.

> he is already very convinced of mikes guilty.

Why do you suppose that is.

He's not always in super-user/cheat mode. In 2019, he mostly is though. When he is, his phone is nowhere to be seen during action/hands (vs phone in plain sight during hands when not in super-user mode, eg, not making incredibly suspicious plays based on hand context, and not always making the perfect play according to what opponents have, almost never actually gets into those types of hand situations when not in God mode), he is very clearly looking down at his crotch when pretending to look at his cards before decisions, etc. It's plain as day when you start looking at the videos when he is "winning like god." And also when he is "normal," you see all the things that are not happening anymore that I described.

Take a look at this hand you which I find about as damning as any that you will see:


Maybe I'm just clueless to poker, but I find this video impossible to follow.

I'm not an expert, but as far as I can tell: - His 'hole cards' (the two cards you are initially dealt) are very weak. Statistically, from the outset, he has a very very low chance of winning. - On the flop, he hits a pair of 8s, which seems good. But it's incredibly dangerous for him to continue to play, because the flop opens up a ton of possibilities for strong hands for the other players at the table (straight draws, flush draws). Postle has no chance of hitting a flush, and though he could complete a straight, other players have a higher chance of hitting one (as one of his hole cards, the 8, actually lowers the chances of him hitting a straight, whereas another player could have a hand like 6-7 or A-2. - The turn card (4th card revealed) increases the chances of an opponent having a straight, and, I think eliminate postle's chances of hitting a straight. It also is another club, putting three clubs on the board, and so anyone who limped into the hand with two clubs has just completed a flush.

The opponents bet strongly, and both have a flush draw. It makes absolutely no sense for postle to play this hand (as the second hand of the evening) unless he knows that the other two haven't hit a straight or flush. His hand is comparatively very, very weak, and (again, I'm no expert), he isn't even playing a long shot. I don't think there are any major hands he can complete on the river.

Joey can get technical at times. On top of that, he's more of a Pot Limit Omaha player, than Texas Holdem. So he tends to gloss over the nuances of Texas Holdem.

Doug Polk is more "user friendly" if you want to learn more about high level poker.

It's a 4 hour video. If you got any specific questions, shoot.

According to one conservative estimate, he’s 6.1 standard deviations above his expected winrate (of the best players in the game). This is about a 1 in 200 billion chance.

What he’s doing is basically mathematically impossible. Combined with all the other evidence, he is 100% cheating. When he doesn’t have an advantage, he plays dramatically different and does things he never does in the other 90%+ of sessions.

Poker returns are not normally distributed, so you can't go from standard deviations to probability of it happening.

As I read it he got too greedy and started playing in a way that was statistically impossible. Like 10x better than the best non-cheating players in the world.

It would be kind of like if someone bought a single lotto ticket every week and every week they won the grand prize. You may not have physical evidence that they are cheating, but you also know that they're outside of what should be possible in the lifetime of the universe.

> You may not have physical evidence that they are cheating, but you also know that they're outside of what should be possible in the lifetime of the universe.

Right, it is a very good clue that something is going on so an investigation should be opened and some of the anti-cheating mechanisms changed / improved.

However, I don't think that you can say you have definitive evidence that there is cheating (as this article does) until you can say how it is being done.

I mean if a guy wins a coin toss 1000x in a row is that definitive evidence?

That's basically what you have here. With the added extra of being able to see him check his phone before making ridiculous bets.

If there's a lot of money on the line? Yes. I'd be much more inclined to believe the coin was rigged than that I "just happened" to see an event that should only happen once or twice in the history of the universe.

People are bad at probability. This shouldn't happen even once or twice.

If each human who ever lived flipped 1000 coins a trillion times, it shouldn't happen.

If there were a trillion planets, each with a trillion people, each flipping 1000 coins a trillion times, it shouldn't happen. Not even close.

> People are bad at probability. This shouldn't happen even once or twice. If each human who ever lived flipped 1000 coins a trillion times, it shouldn't happen.

Yet, if you get 20 people in a room, there’s a near 50/50 chance that 2 folks have the same birthday. Equally mind blowing.

So yes, people are pretty bad at probability.

I think that your example shows an unexpected outcome, but not as shockingly so as the examples that it replies to.

The naive (and incorrect) deduction that one might make is that you start with 1/365 chance, so by adding twenty people you make it 20/365 that is 5%. So instead of the estimate of 5% the correct results that account for all possible comparison ends up being 50% - an order of magnitude higher.

The difference is substantial but it is not on the same orders of magnitude that this problem or the other examples are.

It doesn't necessarily mean he is cheating. He could have simply invented a time machine. ;)

That would still be cheating though?

I'm not saying there is no evidence, but the evidence is circumstantial and not definitive.

> I mean if a guy wins a coin toss 1000x in a row is that definitive evidence?

That he's cheating, not really. It is evidence that something strange is going on that should be looked at. If there is money being bet on the coin tosses, there is good reason to believe that the strangeness may be related to cheating.

The context here does make it very likely that there is cheating going on, but it still doesn't provide "authoritative and complete" evidence that cheating took place.

I want evidence as to how the cheating took place. The "How" is really far more interesting and important here than just the fact that some cheating took place. If you catch a cheater but don't unmask the methodology you run the risk of other cheaters using the same system in a lower-profile manner.

> I mean if a guy wins a coin toss 1000x in a row is that definitive evidence?

Nope. Just extremely lucky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHU-L3BLd_w (Or just spending over an hour and half trying to get 10 alternating sides in a row for a YT Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=917VgVGVkpc)

But even though its extremely unlikely to happen doesn't mean its definitive evidence.

1000x in a row is 1.046e+298 times harder (that's nearly Googol ^ 3) than 10x in a row.

That is: if you expect to see 10x in a row happen in 1.5 hours, you can expect to see 1000x in a row happen in 1,569,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000... (295 total zeros) hours.

Heat-death of universe will happen in roughly 10^100 years from now (one googol). So over the lifetime of roughly googol-squared universes, if you do nothing but flip coins... you'll see 1000x in row.


Encryption is only ~128-bits to maybe 256-bits worth of protection. If you can "guess" heads / tails on a fair coin 128 times in a row, you can "guess" people's encryption keys.

I didn't say it would be easy (Nor expecting anyone to brute force it), just that it wouldn't be imo definitive evidence that someone was cheating instead of having exceptional luck.

Is guessing 1000x coin flips possible? (forget how unlikely it would be, just that would it be possible?) If the answer is yes then I can't say that if I saw it happen then I could say "that person obv cheated".

By that metric, it's impossible to say that anything has ever happened.

I would stake my life and the future of our civilization on the judgement that a coin flipped heads 1,000 times is not a fair coin (or the flipper is not an honest one). It's not random happenstance if that occurs.

Yes, you can calculate the odds of it happening by chance, and arrive at an answer that's not exactly 0. But you can do that for anything else you'd call "definitive". Which means we've created a requirement for that term that's impossible to fulfill.

For example, the poker player in this article. What if we found text messages on his phone that said. "OK, going to the casino for another round of poker cheating!" Would that be definitive? There is a minuscule chance that someone at Verizon conspired to plant those text messages in their records, and use a 0-day exploit to make them appear on the phone. I'd wager the odds of that frame up are much better than flipping heads on a fair coin 1,000 times in a row.

They could find electronics embedded in his hat (with radio and bone-conducting speaker). But there's a small chance that the Under Armor factory mistakenly sent him that hat instead of the normal one he ordered. (The cheater hat being intended for a blackjack player in Missouri instead!)

When we're talking about a small number (0.000...) with a googol^3 zeros after the decimal point, we're talking about 0 itself. At least when trying to determine if evidence is "definitive" or not.

> hey could find electronics embedded in his hat (with radio and bone-conducting speaker). But there's a small chance that the Under Armor factory mistakenly sent him that hat instead of the normal one he ordered. (The cheater hat being intended for a blackjack player in Missouri instead!)

See here is the problem I see with that. The hat alone with the speaker in it would be only one part of the process. How does the hat read the cards? Personally I would say the hat would be just the speaker which is tied back to something that is the actual "tap". So the hat alone but be an indicator but still not proof imo.

See if Postle had some sense (And this is presuming he did infact cheat) they should of got fitted for a pair of Widex smart hearing aids (Or something similar, sure they are costly, but think of it as an investment against your future winnings). Those things allow you to use them as headphones as well as use them as hearing aids and who is going to question the hard of hearing person if they had been wearing them from day dot (Or allowed some time to, say months of turning up wearing them, not cheating before enabling the "god mode" app on the phone)

But at this point the electronics in the hat is just a theory, none have been found as of yet.

Having electronics in a hat that wasn't supposed to have them in stands out like a swore thumb and would be grounds to investigate further, ban them from taking part until that investigation has taken place (Or just outright ban them from taking part ever again), heck even call in law enforcement. I'm not sure of the law's in the state this game is being played as I didn't check where this game is being played but you can be questioned and detained in a Las Vegas casino by the casino's security. But your not going to be labelled a cheater to the world at those early stages as I can see that leading to a defamation case.

Back to the coin flip, Sure check the coin after the flips, if you were running a contest to flip 1000x times hand them the coin they need to use to flip. Heck investigate the person after the event. But just the act of it being done imo is not enough evidence to say it can't be done fairly.

EDIT: Btw I'm not saying that if someone comes up to you in the street and says "Hey I can flip 1000x heads in a row" you don't presume that they don't have a trick up their sleeve. But if you ran a contest for someone to do it then you take the act of someone completing the challenge as proof they cheated in order to do so.

I'm not saying its easy, I'm not saying its likely, I'm not saying I would even see it done in my life time if I got the whole worlds population doing nothing but flipping coins for the rest of my years. I'm just saying the act of doing so isn't imo definitive proof they cheated in order to do so.

> But if you ran a contest for someone to do it then you take the act of someone completing the challenge as proof they cheated in order to do so.

That's exactly what I would do. If I provided the coin, and someone flipped 1,000 heads in a row, then they either figured out how to control the outcome of those coin flips, or they swapped coins. There's no chance they accidentally flipped 1000 heads in a row.

1/(10^100)^3 is === 0 for everything we make judgements on in life. If every single atom in the universe (about 10^100) were to do these flips for 15 billion years (about 10^19 seconds), we would not expect to see 1,000 heads in a row, never mind your lifetime. That's how vanishingly small the odds are!

You are far, far more likely to win a lottery jackpot (about 1 in 10^9) every single time you play the game, for the rest of your life, than you would be to flip 1,000 heads in a row. But if there was such a person, we'd know for certain they were rigging the game, right?

Any other explanation is going to be overwhelmingly likely against those odds.

You're falling victim to the base rate fallacy here, sure the evidence isn't definitive but it is alarmingly close. The probability that his win rate is in fact ~1000bb/100 is effectively zero whereas even if there were only a single cheater on earth the base rate for that would be on the order of one in single digit billions.

Then what is definitive evidence for you? For the many criminal cases, fingerprints, DNA, and eyewitness testimony are all considered to be strong enough evidence for conviction. And all are less mathematically solid than the odds of this guy’s poker success.

And fingerprints, DNA, and eyewitness testimony has all lead to people being wrongly convicted.

EDIT: Pasted wrong link first time - sorry https://daily.jstor.org/forensic-dna-evidence-can-lead-wrong...



For a light hearted break down of such failures see this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScmJvmzDcG0

To answer your question, I would feel better with multiple forms of evidence as a collective instead of a single piece.

EDIT: Also I'm not saying that this guy isn't cheating. I'm saying it is possible that 1000 coin flips could come up heads in a row and doing so isn't proof of cheating. Unlikely, but possible.

> I'm saying it is possible that 1000 coin flips could come up heads in a row and doing so isn't proof of cheating. Unlikely, but possible.

FWIW, I think the '1000 coin flips' thing was an exaggerated analogy used to illustrate the point; I doubt the evidence here is anywhere near that strong, even if it is extremely strong.

But the problem that people are trying to point out is that you seem to be asking for a literally impossible standard of proof (think about it: for any evidence you could possibly gather, there's a non-zero chance that it has all been fabricated, or you're consistently misreading the data, or your memory is playing tricks, or...).

If your point is not that 'proof requires literal 100% certainty', what is it? It seems that you might be bothered by the idea of convicting someone based on certain types of evidence? (Maybe you're intuiting that when someone claims statistical evidence at the '1000 coin flips' level, the actual chance of a false positive is much higher than the claimed amount, because of the possibility of human error or mendacity?)

The problem is that you are conflating things.

The only explanation for observing 1000 coin flips coming up as heads is that something other than random chance made that happen.

Simply observing a series of events does not immediately explain the source and reason those events occurred.

Naturally, there could be several explanations - the overwhelmingly most likely is that he was cheating.

> The only explanation for observing 1000 coin flips coming up as heads is that something other than random chance made that happen.

> Naturally, there could be several explanations - the overwhelmingly most likely is that he was cheating.

But you can't have it both ways, You can't say their could be several explanations and something other than random chance made that happen for the same thing.

I'm not trying to say its likely. Just thats its possible and because its possible that can not be the sole basis to prove guilt. You say "overwhelmingly most likely" and yes I agree its very unlikey but its still possible and because it is possible we shouldn't use that as the sole basis to prove guilt.

Use it as a pointer to start digging into them sure. find other things to build your case. But don't use that sole thing as the basis of guilt.

All I've been saying all this time is that its possible. And because it is possible that I personally won't "throw someone under the bus" because its improbable and not impossible.

You're still ignoring the point everyone is trying to make: whatever set of evidence you have, however strongly it points to someone's guilt, there are always possible alternative explanations. 100% certainty is a requirement that will never, ever be met.

Sure, each individual instance of suspicious behavior is circumstantial evidence by the formal legal standard. But this isn't a court of law, and as a fellow poker player, I want to know about this asap and not wait until it's been "proven" - I'm completely comfortable with the minuscule chance this is a false positive, as it's not a matter of life and death, but it is a matter of integrity of any game this guy would sit at. And the statistical evidence it's quite compelling - the guy is simply winning at a rate that no other players, even world class ones, achieve.

Even in a criminal court the standard is beyond _reasonable_ doubt. If the defence present a doubt that the jury judges not to be reasonable, they can dismiss it without seeing any evidence that isn't true. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I tell you that Martians using mind-control rays executed this bank robbery, framing my client". No, I don't think so, I think your client is a bank robber. Guilty.

For example I was in court last week for among other things the sentence of a man done for VAT fraud. He'd presented laughably bad forgeries to the inspectors when they put it to him that his claim for a refund was fraudulent, and he continued to say, even at sentence (so after being found guilty) that the documents were genuine. The judge had to more or less tell him to shut up because he was representing himself so he didn't have a lawyer to tell him.

For a jury this will have been easy, the defendant's claim is that these forgeries are genuine, but the jury can see for themselves (no need for an expert on document forgery) that these are childishly bad, incompetent. Is it in some sense technically "possible" that real documents look exactly like a toddler with learning difficulties tried to make them? Sure. But it's not "reasonable" to think that's the truth and so the jury were right to convict.

Occam's Razor.

They need to rip the RFID tags out and watch his performance completely suffer.

I fired up the last live stream and it seems they put in a "electronic devices need to be away from the table" rule. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/489058455?t=13m51s

But it doesn't seem to be a rule they enforce all the time (as one player said "that would be a good rule to have all the time") but the other players said they liked the rule simply cause people actually pay attention to the game instead of their phones now.

If it is how others have suggested in this thread, he has a tap into the system reading the cards and they if they only have that card reading system enabled during the live streamed games (Postle only seems to play during the live games and would be constantly looking at his phone) then that would be "enough".

If he is using a large reader in a bag or something then surely something powerful enough to read his opponents cards would also be picking up the cards in the dealers hands (the rest of the deck) esp if his opponent is on the other side of the table with the dealer in-between them.

That's just my speculation on the matter.

EDIT: Though he does seem to have his phone in his breast pocket. And if he really does have a tap into the system it wouldn't take much to create some easy to conceal device to feed him data via another mean other than a phone screen.

Some of the other games seem to happily have some of the players wearing headphones and the like so unless there was an outright ban on electronics near the table their would still be "issues".

If he does indeed have an "in" to the system then even ripping out the RFID system and replacing it with cameras (like in other televised poker games could be a data leak unless they ripped out the WHOLE thing and started a fresh with another company supplying the tech.

I was pretty astonished, reading the original article, that a poker game would allow having RFID chips in the cards in the first place. It makes sense from the POV of wanting to stream the games without needing a set of cameras for the table, but dang if it doesn't sound like an incredibly bad idea to begin with.

And yes, you're 100% right, just make the guy play under any other circumstances and see if he's still as good. A few people in this thread are pointing out that there's no conclusive proof, and while that might technically be correct, there are way too many independent red flags here to let this guy continue to play without checking it out somehow. I could believe that a random guy in Sacramento was truly the best poker player in the world without the part where the cards have transmitting technology embedded in them, but with all the facts here you have to admit something smells a bit fishy.

Really interesting story though, I'm convinced he's cheating and I'm really curious to see how (if) they ultimately figure out he's doing it. Seems obvious the RFID cards are responsible, but I'd like to see exactly what information he's getting (his opponents' full hands, or just "CALL" or "FOLD") and how he's getting it (hat? phone? microscopic in-ear audio transmitter? x-ray glasses?).

his results are preposterously good for a poker player of his style. he's far and away the greatest of all time if he's not cheating and should be in macau 24/7, never leaving the table.

This evidence is not circumstantial. This person is cheating and there is no question.

He keeps his phone on the chair between his legs. He glances down at his phone before making a decision.

Why is that even allowed?

Why is he, or anyone else, allowed a phone in the room at all?

I mean, the mere presence of a phone is just such an obvious vector for cheating.

This is so obvious it is not even ridiculous. Like: hey this pupil keeps his phone under the table while the other ones put it on it during an exam. And he aces it!!

Taking a look at his BB/100 (big blinds per 100 hands) versus "normal" players (and against potripper, a known cheater) shows just how out of the ordinary Postle is playing: https://i.imgur.com/66i3Tii.jpg. Admittedly, the sample size is small (live poker is much slower than online), but his win rate is outrageous.

For context: against good players (e.g. perhaps NL1000 in the bay area, and maybe NL50 online), a winrate over 10BB/100 over a long period of time is considered very good.

For additional context, at most stakes being a 5-10bb/100 winner is considered being a very good player. The thin cluster of people winning around 100bb/100 are the actual top tier players representing the top ~1% of the player pool. And then there's Postle off to the side doing 10x better than them.

I don't think anyone wins 100BB/100 long-term. I'd say those are players who have won large pots and haven't had time for the law of large numbers to catch up. Back in the 2000s when I played online, four or five BB/100 was considered crushing it at anything above a penny table.

Yea that's fair. But the point is it's possible/normal for some amount of the player pool to put up those numbers over some time span, whereas 10x that is an outrageously far outlier. Who knows, some of the in-band high winners might be cheating too, but just doing a much better job at hiding it.

Also FWIW I think some live cash crushers can land in the 20-40bb/100 range with some consistency. The online cash player pool is known to be much tougher per capita.

> Also FWIW I think some live cash crushers can land in the 20-40bb/100 range with some consistency. The online cash player pool is known to be much tougher per capita.

Yeah, that's true. Especially in live games where there's a steady supply of players who are happy to show up just to gamble.

This screenshot of a spreadsheet of his 2019 winnings summary also sheds light:


Is this the number of Big Blinds that he eventually wins or something else?

It's your total winnings divided by the amount of the big-blind (to normalize the stakes) divided by 100. So Postle averages a net positive of almost 10x the big blind per hand which is absurd.

The VPIP (Y axis) is on what percentages of hands he voluntarily put money in the pot (i.e. called without a blind or raised with a blind). He is on the high-end for VPIP which means he plays looser, and has higher winnings per hand. This is already looking bad, but playing so loosely should at least mean he has some big losses to go with some big gains, but looking at individual results he really doesn't.

VPIP - Voluntarily put in pot - So % of preflop hands where the player bet money. How 'active' a player is in terms of betting.

BB/100 is a calculation of how many 'big blinds' the player has won per 100, where big blinds is a specific $ amount. Effectively it's how profitable the player is.

As you can see, he's high on VPIP, which means he bets on a high percentage of hands. At the same time, his play remains highly profitable. It's so far out of the norm there's only one plausible explanation.

> It's so far out of the norm there's only one plausible explanation.

The greatest poker player that ever lived? :)

> there's only one plausible explanation

Lets not rule out time travel just yet

It's basically how many times he's willing to make what should be an extremely risky bet. Normally that kind of play would be reckless and exploited by the other players, but for some reason it almost always works out for this guy.

No that's not what the graph shows at all. It's just his win rate in terms of how many big blinds he's won per 100 hands played, against the percentage of hands he's choosing to play.

How many hands is that scatterplot over?

For those who say there is no conclusive evidence.

CERN considers 5 sigma as the level where they are confident of announcing a discovery of new scientific result. 7 sigma for Higgs Boson. Statistical evidence against Mike Postle's game is stronger than that. It also only happens during streamed games with RFID chips in a single casino.

Either world's best player is playing for peanuts (relatively speaking) in single venue using high variance style without variance or he is cheating.

That's all fine and good, but where is your proof?

It's incredibly funny that you don't seem to realize what you are admitting here: https://twitter.com/jmattheij/status/1180805448427098112

From your other comments, it is clear that you will not allow yourself to be wrong here no matter what anyone says to explain it to you.

at some point, statistical proof is proof.

that's how DNA evidence works, after all.

No, it really isn't. The DNA is the evidence, the stats are used to bolster the weight of that evidence. Stats are just numbers, they are not proof. Nobody ever got convicted on 'just stats' as proof, it will always be in the context of something else.

Just saying something is extremely unlikely to happen by itself does not constitute proof, after all it just could be that that extremely unlikely thing happened. You'd need to corroborate that with something else to meet the burden of proof that is normally used in a criminal case.

Different legal systems have different standards of evidence before being allowed to consider a defendant proven guilty, as far as I'm aware nobody ever got convicted on math alone. There always was something else.

> Just saying something is extremely unlikely to happen by itself does not constitute proof

sure it does.

statistics are a measurement of something in the real world. in the poker example you are measuring the possibility of a series of hands succeeding in a given episode of play. In court you are measuring the possibility of a given DNA sequence occurring by chance.

What distinction are you drawing between the statistical certainty in poker vs. the statistical certainty in court (or in medicine)?

There doesn't need to be anything else, if you have a sufficient statistical level of certainty.

In most cases there is corroborative evidence, but nobody thinks it's necessary when the DNA matches.

> Just saying something is extremely unlikely to happen by itself does not constitute proof

That is literally what it constitutes.

That's the same kind of reasoning that sent a mom of whose babies died to prison for decades. (I can't remember her name so can't link, sorry - it's a well known story of a mother getting convicted for double child murder because a doctor did some shitty statistics in court).

Sure, the chance is high. But if there is no conclusive evidence, then there's no conclusive evidence.

That might be enough for angry Twitter mobs, but I sure hope that it's not enough for court.

You are thinking of Sally Clark:


> Clark's first son died in December 1996 within a few weeks of his birth. Her second son died in similar circumstances in January 1998. A month later, Clark was arrested and tried for both deaths. The defence argued that the children had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The prosecution case relied on flawed statistical evidence presented by paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who testified that the chance of two children from an affluent family suffering SIDS was 1 in 73 million. He had arrived at this figure erroneously by squaring 1 in 8500, as being the likelihood of SIDS in similar circumstances. The Royal Statistical Society later issued a statement arguing that there was no statistical basis for Meadow's claim, and expressed concern at the "misuse of statistics in the courts".

Your argument goes as follows:

There has been bad statistics in some completely different case. This argument uses statistics. We can conclude that this argument is also bad.

No, that's not the argument. The argument is that something that's highly improbable for this person to do is probable for someone to do.

Consider if you had 1,000,000 people flipping coins. You'd expect one of them to flip 20 heads in a row. However, if you took the person who did it to court, you'd argue: it's highly unlikely this person could flip 20 heads in a row. They must be cheating!

I don't know enough about this case to say if it's correct, but OP is saying more than "dur people use bad statistics". They're saying it's the same fallacy. In the woman with the babies case, SIDS is rare, but in a country with millions of mothers it can happen to the same one twice. In this case, playing perfect hands is rare, but in a country of millions of players, you'd expect someone to, somewhere, maybe in a podunk town of small scale games.

Of course, the fallacy doesn't make forward predictions. If he continues to win improbably after he's been identified, then it's not that.

It's not a fallacy; it's that using a purely probabilistic approach here is not warranted. It requires some Bayesian reasoning.

The main difference is in the SIDS case, you have a sample size of 2.

In the Postle case, we have hundreds of hands he is involved in; dozens of sessions. Multiple instances of where he makes incredibly good reads, contrary to optimal theoretical play. (the article also notably does not detail any incorrect reads).

We also have a good understanding of how playing lots (50 %) of hands should affect his variance, yet he seems to come out of almost every session a winner. He should be coming away a loser a lot more.

The idea in popular culture that great poker players can "read" other players like a book is overblown, and a bit obsolete. Modern live players have learned to conceal their intentions much better than in the past. Yes some players may still have slight tells, but unless his opponents' eyes are bulging out of their head like a cartoon wolf when they get a flush, that can only account for a slight edge.

So sure, if you take a purely probabilistic approach and say "well, somebody somewhere could go on that sort of run", then it looks like a fallacy. But if you take the other data: That he doesn't play in other cash games, that he cashes almost every time despite a high variance style, that he makes theoretically unsound plays at critical times and they always turn out to be correct, that other legendary players do not have these sorts of results...then it seems to me there is a very high likelihood that he is cheating.

> something that's highly improbable for this person to do

I don't think that's the case.

No, it merely means that there is no proof, there is just a very high likelihood. That may be good enough for you but in the case of a crime I love me some proof before getting to a conviction.

What is proof but just another way to increase the likelyhood of an event?

Got a DNA match on a murder scene? Sadly a match isn't unique and several people can be matched.

Got your suspect caught on the crime scene? Might've just been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A cop caught the suspect murdering? The cop might be the guilty one and just trying to frame an innocent.

This kind of statistic is as good as proof, proof isn't 100% reliable either.

Yes, but statistics should be used to corroborate, they are not proof in themselves.

Statistical evidence can be used as proof in the court.

Even if it's not given in mathematical form, common sense reasoning uses common sense statistics every day. You could always claim freak accident if that would not be the case.

Would it be conclusive evidence if you saw him cheating with your own eyes?

If yes would you say that the chance of your being mistaken is higher or lower than one in 10^100s.

The widely shared preference for certain kinds of evidence over others has nothing to do with certainty and everything to do stubborn human biases.

It is enough for civil court.

Different standards than a criminal case.

So, there cameras live-shooting the whole thing and another system that overlays rfid readings over it. The resulting footage than gets stored on some system and being broadcasted with a 30 minutes delay to twitch.

There's enough opportunity to leak this information in near-realtime via some previously planted backdoor (Postle is a former employee), or a current accomplice from within the company.

Wow, putting RFID chips in every card... gee what could go wrong?

How does that idea even get past the whiteboarding stage? Seems so stupid for any poker house to do that. I mean come on, there is real money at stake and you are putting RFID TAGS IN EVERY CARD???

It's a necessary evil to make the game more marketable. Watching poker without knowing the hole cards is pretty damn dull. They used to use cameras but RFID is cheaper and lower friction for players. FWIW major tournaments and other casinos with streaming shows have been using them for years without prior incident. It should be a fairly securable system in principle, just ban devices at the table, and don't let players have access to the equipment, but Stones was clearly way too lax.

> without prior incident

without being overly exploited such as to be recognized as an incident

True. It's certainly possible the industry will turn away from RFID because of this.

You're right, it's possible that this goofball has alerted the average poker player in streamed tournaments to a scheme that's been operating under the radar all over the place.

Unlike e.g. blackjack, the house usually has no stake in who wins. For this reason it's always been easier to cheat at a poker table than at other gambling places.

So why would anyone play with this guy at this point even if the casino won't ban him for lack of definitive evidence?

Oh they won't. This guy is never playing poker again in his life, except maybe in a jail cell. That's already guaranteed.

Edit: Just pointing out the obvious that no self respecting (or just self protecting) poker player would willingly sit at a table with this guy.

Couldn't each RFID tag have a UUID that maps to some in-house database to decode them to their actual card value? Each card/deck would essentially be "unique" and if you read the tags all you'd know is that your opponent is holding cards B8BB148A-1BA4-493D-A9C4-884A2AAA4491 and 1534DE97-B227-4292-817E-01112B9BC1E5.

What am I missing?

Usually only two decks are used at a table, one for the current hand, and one in the shuffle machine. That's only 104 unique tags. Decks tend to be changed out only every few hours at most, because it delays the game (new decks are visually verified by spreading them on the table to see that they contain every card).

Unless you never reuse a single card, then whoever is scanning the cards can know what a card is if it's played again.

Could be worked around by rolling the IDs every time cards go through the shuffler. That's beyond the capability of most commercially available RFID tags, though.

The vulnerability probably wasn't in the cards. That is, the cheater could not read the card RFIDs directly. It is more likely that he has been able to access, in real-time, the system reading the cards and storing the card values.

I'm curious how pervasive RFID tags in cards are in casinos, anyone know? I'm sure they're aware of how big of a vulnerability that could potentially be.

> Soon the thread on TwoPlusTwo resembled a detective’s corkboard with red string wound around pushpins, connecting the various dots that revealed the definitive answer to the mystery

What definitive answer? All I ever see in the article is speculation, circumstantial evidence and statistical analysis this indicates something is probably going on.

This article is very underwhelming and short on actual details.

To me it appears he has access to the system that scans the rfids of the cards.

Article mentions that he was involved with a company that consulted with the casino.

Someone should run some tcpdumps on their wifi.

That seems like a quite likely explanation. It doesn't seem like actual definitive evidence would be that hard to find (if the relevant people were actually interested in finding it).

Does it really matter if you have exposed one cheater who over-used the system when the system still has unknown and unfixed flaws that could be enabling other, more circumspect cheaters?

I don't understand why they need RFID if the stream is delayed 30 minutes... Just look at the cards afterwards and backfill the information onto the stream...

Postle was a consultant for the casino and knows someone who worked on the tech team there.

I'm guessing RFID security isn't the issue here. Insider threats tend to defeat all security theater. So any real-time streaming of all the cards would generate this possibility.

It's not real time (as far as I can tell) it is delayed 30 minutes...

The information is obviously being fed to their servers in real time. The broadcast is what is being delayed...

oh, right

That wouldn’t be practical. It would slow the game down to a point of being almost unplayable and the way cards are discarded currently would prevent that.

Can you be more specific in how exactly it would slow down the game and how cards are discarded? So people like me who never watched such poker streams in our lives could understand.

When you fold your cards in poker they're 'mucked' by the dealer i.e muddled in with the rest of the dead cards so you can't tell which cards came from where. This is to prevent cheating and confusion in ambiguous situations.

With experienced dealers and players, poker games move quite fast. It's quite normal for 5+ hands to be folded in quick succession pre-flop. Manually recording who had what cards would be really impractical.

The best place to record the information without disrupting the game at all is in each of the player's hands themselves. Traditionally this is done with either under table cameras and see-through spots on the table, or RFID.

RFID seems like it wouldn't be practical... how do you keep players from reading the signals?

Close range sensors and secure transmissions.

As long as the reader has to be within a couple of centimetres of the cards there's really nothing other players at the table can do to get the data that isn't obvious. It's not like you can lean over the table and scan your opponent's cards with your phone without raising a few eyebrows.

I'd guess the transmission of the card data from the table to the servers for the broadcast wasn't secure. Either because someone involved set it up that way on purpose to cheat, or because they had a 'password123' sort of password on it without thinking.

Have the RFID chip not return its unique ID, but

   encrypt(concat(ID, random()))

   encrypt(concat(ID, chip’s internal counter value()))
where encrypt is a good asymmetric cipher.

Doug Polk did a funnny YT takedown of this story a few days ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kDtE9vrRiA

He shows a clip with Mike's brother talking about how Mike will do anything he can to angle shoot (eg. cheat). Funny stuff.

Looks like it's been figured out [0].

[0] https://mobile.twitter.com/vdthemyk/status/11798924471424491...

While his neighbors keep their phones on the table, he always keeps his phone on his chair between his legs, with his left hand holding it in place beneath the table.

That casino allows phones at a high-stakes poker table? Duh.

I mean last time I was in Vegas was 2013 and couldn’t use my phone playing black jack

There are way too many red flags here(only playing superhumanly at the RFID games, in fact not playing elsewhere,etc).

There are some similarities to chess cheating here.

There were defenders to the infamous Borislav Ivanov too (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borislav_Ivanov) even though all decent chess players could tell he was cheating.

In the Borislav's case the cheating method was not found although many suspect it was a vibrating smartphone in his shoes.

Of course there are differences between poker and chess cheating as well.

Pure poker computer without the extra information would not be that much of a help to a good player.

What is similar is that both of these players make superhuman moves consistently.

Less greedier cheaters would not be caught so easily.

Like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igors_Rausis it was very suspicious (mostly because of his age) but until the smoking gun in the toilet it was still somewhat plausible that he was not cheating.

Don’t read the article, it lacks any factual evidence. It’s like a book without an end, where the murder hasn’t been found yet (if there was any).

No but it does point out clues: word hay AND phone under the table or not showing. Left hand not visible.

I would not let any student of mine do any of those things in an exam.

I don't believe in ESP, but I know others that do. I have pointed out to some friends that Las Vegas wouldn't exist as it does if there were people that really had ESP. They could use telekinesis to control the outcome of games or they could use clairvoyance and precognition to predict what was going to happen or they could use telepathy to read others cards. If ESP existed in a group of people I believe that many would reside in Vegas living off their abilities and not performing tricks for gulible researchers.

The fact that Postle doesn't cash in on this remarkable ability by playing in higher stake games makes his performance suspicious to me just as people that claim ESP that don't bother to take the casinos for millions makes he skeptical of their claims.

I think his "hack" is something far simpler than having a co-conspirator. As he helped setup the live streaming system, he also installed a piece of software that nicely calculates what to do at every step and simply sends him his own percentage calculation. This is far more difficult to detect and would require reverse engineering the entire system end to end to find the culprit. It could be anything from a backdoor in the RFID system to an AI that reads the video stream when it gets sent into OBS. There are tons of vectors that could easily be setup. I very much hope that the resolution here isn't just a Civil penalty but that the FBI gets involved and he goes to jail.

The FBI does sometimes take an interest in massive ongoing fraud...

Can someone give the tl;dr on whether it was actually proven? I tried to read the article but it's paragraph after paragraph of "As I enjoyed my chocolate cake on a patio at a Parision bistro, the sun pleasantly warming the table and people going about their business unaware of the wrongs of the world, my thoughts turned to the prime numbers and how they related to music" and almost none of it has any real information.

No, it has not been proven. All of the evidence (like his impossible winning statistics) lean toward cheating, but there's no smoking gun at this time.

Aye, verbosity is an existential threat.

So what is the consensus? He has an accomplice who is watching the stream and texting info? Does the stream show the players' cards (never seen it)?

I doubt he has an accomplice. I think he's intimately familiar with the RFID system, including having had direct access to the actual one being used on Stones Live (per his connection to them that was observed on Linkedin), and enabled a multiplexing debug feature to send his phone a stream of every card being read.

It could be pretty independant from the main system too. They could wireshark the system's network connections to see if any rogue data is being sent and find nothing.

But, what if the data is coming directly from the RFID readers? Depending on which boards they're using to read the rfid cards it could be a simple bluetooth broadcast that his phone picks up. His phone could constantly scan for bluetooth signals -- it wouldn't even need to make an actual bluetooth connection, the card data could be embedded in the advertising signal for anyone who knew the schema to pickup.

I was thinking that he could encode the already read card data in a modulation of the RFID transponder itself. If the signal were randomised then it would just look like a noisy power supply or something?

There were some hands where he made weird bluff and his hole card in graphics changed after the opponent folded. (so his hand changed from air to very strong hand) Someone said it was a bug in RFID but it happened only to him and not constantly.

I think he has an accomplice. Either someone working at the casino or with remote access to casino computers.

I actually think the "changing cards" situations were the stream employees seeing the action and finding it so implausible that he was playing a given hand that way, and inadvertently gaslighting everyone by overwriting the graphics based on their assumptions. So they weren't necessarily complicit, but were sort of forced to cover for him because they couldn't say "Hm, maybe he's just cheating" to explain the insane moves hew as making.

That doesn't make sense at all. There is no reason for them to change the card if they don't have a proof that graphics are wrong.

That wouldn't work because of the time delay.

Unless it's being relayed by someone on the production team who does has access to the live video/RFID feeds, as part of preparing them for the delayed streaming elsewhere.

Read the article dude, it explains it

I read it twice and there was only speculation on various ways that he might have cheated; no definitive answer to how he did.

I did read it. It doesn't actually confirm anything.

>He has an accomplice who is watching the stream and texting info? Does the stream show the players' cards (never seen it)?

From the 4th sentence of the article:

>and the game was broadcast on a half-hour delay so that viewers couldn’t relay information from the broadcast to the players during the hands

It's entirely possible that as a former employee he has access to the system that is responsible for introducing the streaming delay and gets a real-time feed on his phone or some other wearable device.

The article doesn't explain it at all. There's a lot of hand analysis proving that it is a statistical impossibility that he's not cheating, and a lot of speculation on possible methods, but nothing that explains how he actually did it.

The most likely method seems to be a RFID reader either in his keys or hat transmitting data to his phone, but from what I can tell nobody has nailed down his technique exactly.

> There's a lot of hand analysis proving that it is a statistical impossibility that he's not cheating, and a lot of speculation on possible methods, but nothing that explains how he actually did it.

While it does sound like he's cheating I don't see how you can get there with just statistics. He could be incredibly good at reading his opponents.

(But it's super implausible that he doesn't play anything but these specific games, and then wins by such a large margin.)

4 pieces of data for you that explain how he was cheating:

> While his neighbors keep their phones on the table, he always keeps his phone on his chair between his legs, with his left hand holding it in place beneath the table. He almost never brings his left hand up above the table. He puts his head down to glance at his phone before he makes decisions. It all seems so obvious now.

> Like the fact that he starts wearing a hat that has a strange bulge around the brim—one that vanishes after the game when he’s doing an interview in the booth. Is it a bone-conducting headset, as some online have suggested, sending him messages directly to his inner ear by vibrating on his skull? Of course it is! How could it be anything else? It’s so obvious! Or the fact that he keeps his keys in the same place on the table all the time. Could they contain a secret camera that reads electronic sensors on the cards? I can’t see any other possibility! It is all starting to make sense.

> He 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.

> The fact is, the mystery was solved a long time ago. It’s just like De Niro’s Ace Rothstein says in Casino when the yokel slot attendant gets hit for three jackpots in a row and tells his boss there was no way for him to know he was being scammed. “Yes there is,” Ace replies. “An infallible way. They won.” According to one poster on TwoPlusTwo, in 69 sessions on Stones Live, Postle has won in 62 of them, for a profit of over $250,000 in 277 hours of play. Given that he plays such a large number of hands, and plays such an erratic and, by his own admission, high-variance style, one would expect to see more, well, variance. His results just aren’t possible even for the best players in the world, which, if he isn’t cheating, he definitely is among. Add to this the fact that it has been alleged that 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.

So, does he have an RFID reader in his keys which communicates data to him via his phone or his hat?

Or, does he have a backdoor into the non-delayed feed with an accomplice?

Either are possible and he's definitely doing one of the above. If he wasn't cheating, he would be a world class all star poker player.

well, I think this whole thing is going a bit out of proportion. what do we have so far?

- a guy is doing something highly unlikely(not impossible, just unlikely)

- lots of speculation

- the whole internet seems to be out to get him.

In 2009 German speed skater Claudia Pechstein was banned for 2 years from the sport based on irregular levels of reticulocytes in her blood. Nobody could prove that she was doping, however this was the first case of a ban based on circumstantial evidence alone; no forbidden substances were ever found during her repeated tests. Later it turend out that she had a rare genetic disorder called Hereditary spherocytosis. While the court-stuff is still ongoing, science papers have been written, and the IOC has refined the test. still she lost 2 years at the top of her game.

I must admit that figuring out this riddle is rather tantalizing, I have been nerd-sniped by good riddles in the past, however my Cpt. Picard-sense is tingeling. let's keep the pitchforks at bay, shall we?

What is a plausible technical explanation for how he is cheating?

A phone in between your legs, though suspicious, is not enough evidence.

And who thought it was a good idea to put RFID in playing cards?

Simplest explanation would be an inside job.

The article says he worked for the casino as a consultant at some point in the past.

So he has a connection that works on the livestream production that has access to the RFID-provided hole card information in real-time (perhaps through a software backdoor?)

Then he has some kind of device attached somewhere on his body that receives some signal that tells him what other players have, sent to him by the insider setup.

This could be a BLE device connected to his phone that vibrates morse code or some other signal, etc..

As per another comment, the visualization software can be configured to send the card data via wifi. Anyone on the same network knowing the password (assuming one is set) can receive them. He also worked with the casino beforehand, so there is a good chance he knows the infrastructure.

Some way of transferring the info to him is rather easy, then, either by his phone or hat.

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