Accusations of cheating in live games are quite the thing at the moment. While chess is embroiled in the most peculiar of cheating allegations, it now seems the world of poker is having a turn. After an extraordinary moment in a live-broadcast high-stakes cash game, people are accusing poker pro Robbi Jade Lew of somehow cheating to win a hand worth $269,000.
While broadcast poker’s popularity has certainly waned in the years since Chris Moneymaker blew the World Series Of Poker apart with his shock win in 2003, there’s still a fair amount of interest in watching obscenely rich players bet the GDP of developing nations over a hand of cards. During one such live-streamed game from BETMGM, a showdown between some-time Instagram model Robbi Jade Lew and one-time Survivor contestant Garrett Adelstein, both pro poker players, ended in bemusement all around the table, and indeed the world, when Lew called Adelstein’s all-in on the turn, for a quarter of a million dollars, despite not having more than the pair on the board.
In that moment, Adelstein looked utterly furious, glaring at Lew and not speaking for minutes on end. Lew has since claimed that she was “pulled out of the game” and “forced to speak to him in a dark hallway.” She also stated in the same tweet, “He cornered me and threatened me.” Adelstein has denied this version of events. Following this, Lew offered to repay Adelstein the money, which he accepted.
Since then, wild and unproven accusations of cheating have been made, including—of course—that she was using a “hidden vibrating device.” Because god knows, you can’t suggest someone’s cheating any more without implying it’s using something suggestively vibrating.
Before we go any further, let’s just break down the hand in question. It is, without doubt, a very peculiar one. It’s heads up after only Adelstein and Lew are left in the hand following everyone else folding around to the blinds, with the pot at $4.5k. Adelstein has suited connectors, 7 and 8 Clubs, while Lew has junk, J Clubs and 4 Hearts. Adelstein raises to $3,000, and Lew calls. An odd call, but perhaps figuring she’s already in for $400, what the hell. These figures may seem crazy, but they’re relatively low numbers given that Adelstein is sitting behind a stack of $813k, and Lew with a mere $133k.
The flop comes out 10h, 10c, 9c, giving Adelstein a fair few draws, and Lew absolutely nada. It’s important to also note that right now, Lew has the winning hand. However, Adelstein has so many draws, with the potential flush, straight, and even straight flush, that the odds put him a good way ahead, 70:30 to win the pot. He bets a gentle $2,500, at this point seemingly just testing the waters, trying to get a read on where Lew’s hand might be at. However, Lew is playing so erratically that this isn’t really a thing he’s going to be able to do.
So Lew calls with rags, but again, it’s still “only” $2.5k. It looks like she’s messing about, rather than somehow having gained insight into Adelstein’s hand. Because, let’s not forget, he’s on a draw, and Lew is far behind. If she’s cheating at this point, she’s doing it in an extraordinarily strange way. Knowing what cards Adelstein has right now would cause any sensible player to fold, not call.
A 3 Hearts then comes out on the turn, and it really levels everything. Adelstein is only ahead 53:47, making this a complete coinflip. However, had any Club, any 6, or any Jack come up, Adelstein would have had the nuts. Heck, a Jack might have had Lew thinking she was ahead, and put her in a far more dangerous position. Adelstein, who is now on a one-card draw, bets $10k. Again, it’s a decent bet, he’s currently got nothing, but wants to stick around to see the river. Then Lew raises. It’s an insane move, it makes no sense, but then if you ever saw Gus Hansen at a table, you’ll be very familiar with someone making aggressive moves on diddly-squat.
And, in my ill-informed opinion, I think at this point it wouldn’t be a terrible move for Adelstein to fold. He’s chasing, and from his perspective, it’d be reasonable to assume Lew was slow-playing something here, trying to string him along, let him do the raising. Heck, trip-10s would be my immediate guess. Maybe that 3 on the turn had hit her pocket 3s, or even more likely, she could be on a far better flush draw herself. He’s 8 high here, it’s not like this is some crushing takedown of an epic hand. However, annoyed by Lew’s minimum re-raise, Adelstein goes all-in. He’s decided he has a read, and wants to push her off.
Lew’s call is batshit crazy. But you could also say, maybe she had an incredible read on Adelstein. Maybe she had found a tell, and was absolutely certain she was ahead. The point is, we don’t know. Lew then does a lot of pantomime, she puts out a time chip, she thinks on it like she’s got some big decision to make, despite almost certainly—from her perspective—drawing dead. A Jack on the river would be something, but not much. And yet, for whatever reason, she calls, for her whole stack.
They run the river twice, which gives Adelstein twice as many chances to find his flush or straight. But in the end, Lew wins the lot, doubling up with Jack high on both rivers. Adelstein’s shock is extraordinary, just sitting and glaring, what Lew later described as a “death stare.”
Now, obviously no one has provided any proof of cheating, and nor do we have any idea what the truth of the situation might be. Robbi Jade Lew is certainly embracing the moment, trolling people over her Twitter account, not least earlier today when she stated, “Call it cheating, lying, scheming...IDC. But if I hear the word #suss again, I just might have to change my story at least five more times.”
It’s certainly true that Lew’s explanations for the move at the table don’t make any sense. Lew claims she was playing Adelstein, not the cards, but that wouldn’t make sense given she’s only calling, not raising. When challenged for why she would think she’s ahead, she gives responses that don’t really make much sense, not least when she conflates her hand on the turn with the river. But all this can easily be put down to standard table bullshit banter, or simply the adrenaline rush of such a ludicrous hand.
More significantly, Adelstein’s accusations just don’t make any sense to me. What would a buzzing device have told her? That he had a far better hand than her, with so many outs that her having the higher card still put her behind? With any piece of information, beyond the impossibility that she could know the river cards to come, it would have guided her to fold. If she were cheating, she just wouldn’t have made the utterly bizarre decision to go all in.
Adelstein hasn’t been shy with accusations since. He’s directly suggested there could have been a “vibrating device in her pocket,” despite not suggesting what such a device could possibly have told her that would lead to this set of events. He also said in a statement, “of course I am going to accept my money back after being clearly cheated.”
Even more peculiarly, Lew refunded him the money, which Adelstein accepted, noting, “If I thought there were any chance I wasn’t being cheated, I would not have accepted the refund.” He also throws around other unproven and far-fetched theories, such as “hacking into the card reader,” all while never trying to explain why having any information would have led to her decision.
Meanwhile, Lew has clearly been having fun, giving multiple versions of events to explain her play. She’s retweeted someone saying she thought she had J3o, rather than J4, said “nailed it,” while acknowledging a lot of other people who’ve pointed out they’ve seen her make similarly peculiar plays over the years. And, as I noted above, then gone on to suggest she’ll keep changing her story should the accusations keep flying.
We’ve reached out to both players to ask for their perspective on the incident, and specifically what cheating would have accomplished in this specific situation, and will update should either get back to us.