A Poker Pro Accused of Cheating Wants $330M in Damages

Mike Postle, a 42-year-old poker pro who has been widely accused of cheating on livestreamed games at a Sacramento casino, has never wavered in his claims of innocence. From the moment in late September 2019 when Veronica Brill, a fellow player, tweeted out her suspicion that Postle’s winning streak at Stones Gambling Hall was too good to be true, Postle has maintained that he’s the victim of a conspiracy.

When I reported on his story at length for WIRED, for example, Postle told me that all of the allegations against him were “fake news,” and that he had been inexplicably targeted by people who desire either fame or money.

Now Postle is hitting back at an array of poker luminaries who have publicly branded him a cheat. On October 1, Postle filed a defamation suit seeking $330 million in damages from a dozen named defendants.

Among those in Postle’s legal crosshairs are Daniel Negreanu, a Canadian pro who has won more than $42 million during live games; Haralabos Voulgaris, a former professional gambler who parlayed his success into a job as director of quantitative research and development for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks; and Run It Once, a poker training company founded by Phil Galfond, a three-time World Series of Poker event winner who recently launched a project to analyze thousands of Postle’s past hands. Brill, who told me this summer that she feared being sued by Postle, is also a defendant, as is ESPN, which aired a SportsCenter segment about the cheating scandal last October.

The crux of Postle’s lawsuit is that his accusers were aware they were lying when they called him a cheater on Twitter, YouTube, or other media outlets. “Not only did defendants, and each of them, have no reasonable basis to believe these statements,” the complaint says, “but they also had no belief in the truth of these statements, and in fact knew the statements to be false.” Postle claims that he has suffered grievous consequences as a result of the allegations against him, including a total loss of his poker career and a crushing amount of stress that has rendered him barely able to leave his house. (The latter claim is perhaps contradicted by the fact that, in early March, Postle called me and stated that he was at an airport en route to Florida.)

The complaint also contains some intriguing details that are sure to get the poker world talking. Chief among them is a passage that addresses the suspicion that Postle received tips about his opponents’ cards on the phone he often kept on his lap. The complaint states that Postle used the phone to check on his sports bets, and that “he began placing his phone between his legs when he started receiving inappropriate messages or pictures from women he was frequenting with at the time.” The complaint also contains a single line that hints that Postle’s legal team will seek to attack Brill’s character: “Defendant Brill has a history of wild accusations against multiple people over the years, none of which have ever been substantiated.”

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The bulk of the poker world, including many of the named defendants, seems to have greeted the news of Postle’s suit with derision. In response to my tweeting about the case, for example, Negreanu posted a GIF of Will Ferrell laughing. Another defendant, Todd Witteles, has called the suit “obviously frivolous” and has vowed to fight it. The prevailing sentiment in the community is still that Postle must have figured out a way to glimpse his opponent’s hole cards during Stones’ livestreamed games. There is no direct evidence of such a scheme—no accomplice has stepped forward to confess their involvement. But many elite players insist that Postle made hundreds of bizarre yet beneficial decisions that deviated from modern poker theory, an approach known as game theory optimal. They contend that someone would only make such decisions if they possessed a nefarious edge. Postle’s attorney, Jared Densen, did not respond to a request for comment.

Brill, who led the charge against Postle from the beginning, says Postle’s lawsuit is designed to silence critics. “I feel as though this is an aggressive scare tactic,” she told me. “If we all succumb to running away scared then we will allow a precedent to be set within our community, and people who want to call out cheating when it happens will be too scared to do so. We will set a standard in our community of people being in fear of speaking up for what’s right.”

Shortly after learning of the lawsuit, Brill started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her defense; she has collected more than $26,000 so far. “I also have a couple angel donors who want me to accept the lawsuit and move forward with discovery, and they’re willing to pay,” she told me. If several of her codefendants are similarly committed to the cause, the Stones cheating saga may just be getting started.

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