In case you missed the recent fuss over allegations of cheating by a poker player named Mike Postle rooted in the live streamed cash games at Stones Gambling Hall, see my prior post here, and get yourself caught up.
Among many deeper dives into this story, I’ve been watching videos on YouTube of the originally live streamed session on January 19, 2019. The archived video is divided into two parts.
I began watching part 2 before part 1 and was immediately struck by the huge stacks of chips in play. It’s a $1/3 no limit hold’em game. The first chip count graphic, at the 2:57 mark, shows stacks ranging from approximately $1,200 to $9,200. Six players have over $3,000 each on the table, with two of them over $9,000. How does a $1/3 game become this deep in less than three hours?
The game is entitled “Veronica & Friends,” so named after its host Veronica Brill. Yes, the same Veronica Brill who launched the investigations into Mike Postle’s alleged cheating with her Tweet-storm on September 28, 2019.
By way of background, Veronica is a former employee at Stones Gambling Hall, where the alleged cheating took place. I don’t know any details concerning her employment there. She is also an avid poker player, appearing regularly in the cash games on the live stream both as a player and (less frequently) as one of the commentators.
Stones allowed a few of its regulars to serve as “hosts,” effectively branding some of the streamed games with titles like “Veronica & Friends,” “Harlan & Victims,” or “Postle & Pals.”
In part 2, much of the first 10 minutes features the commentators describing the dynamic of Veronica & Friends. While it’s officially listed as a $1/3 game, Veronica attracts $5/10 and even $10/25 players from all over the Bay Area because of the super deep stacked nature of the game.
One of the commentators explains, “It’s the closest thing to what a Veronica home game would look like. It’s basically Veronica’s home game. She makes the list. She invites the players. She pretty much gets to dictate all of the action as long as it’s within the, um, you know, rule of law, basically.”
So this appears to be a private or semi-private poker game inside of a public casino. It’s not clear whether a random player wandering into Stones Gambling Hall could ask to be seated at this table, should a seat become open. Is it strictly private with Veronica as an absolute gatekeeper? Or semi-private with Veronica marketing a special game to her list of friends to help get the session started, but then open for non-invited players to join if they wish?
I’d like to know more about the casino’s internal policies or procedures for these hosted games? Did the casino initially approach Veronica or was Veronica the initiator, asking to become a host? Does the host receive any compensation for their marketing on behalf of the casino? What are the rights and obligations of each party under this arrangement?
I’d also like to know how the state of California’s gambling laws, rules and regulations pertain to hosted games inside of licensed casinos. How restrictive can a game be, in terms of denying players access to participate (who are otherwise welcome in the poker room)?
These are questions for another day. What I really wanted was to understand how the stacks became so deep. For that, we have to look at part 1.
The first 22 minutes are just background music, with the poker game already running while waiting for the commentators to get settled into their booth. In his opening remarks, one of the commentators, Justin Kelly, immediately promises a crazy game, saying “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it is that very, very special time we all look forward to, Veronica & Friends, in the house, with a bunch of degen crushers ready to light money on fire.”
Shortly after that, the other commentator Chris Glasgow, notes that “at this kind of game, Veronica picks people that are gonna drink heavily and play spewily.” Justin replies, “Absolutely!”
A couple minutes later, around 30:10, Justin explains how stacks get very deep early in the session: “So we’re just warming up, I would imagine it started off very early like most of these games do where it’s $500 to start at a max buy but then it’s table stakes matching immediately after that, which generally means they start spewing like $100 no peekies the first few hands and then start adding on from there.”
“Table stakes” means any player can top up his or her stack to match whoever has the most chips on the table. And “$100 no peekies” means playing a hand where everybody who is willing puts in $100 regardless of their cards, then there is no further betting prior to the showdown. If nine players started with exactly $500, the winner of the no peekie will now have $1,300, and everyone else will be down to $400, but with the privilege (but not the obligation) of buying another $900 in chips to match the winner of the no peekie.
That sounds like a simple, unwritten agreement among at least some of the players to quickly work around the initial limit on the maximum buy-in. Almost immediately, the cap increases from $500 to over $1,000, with the potential to repeat the $100 no peekies (as implied by the commentators) to drive the cap even higher.
Then we further notice that while the blinds are $1 and $3, most hands also have a live straddle posted. I saw frequent $25 straddles, with other hands have straddles of $10 or $20.
$1/3 blinds with a $500 maximum buy-in quickly turns into $1/3/10 or $1/3/25 blinds with several stacks of $1,000 or more. This is not a game for anyone with a marginal bankroll.
Indeed, at the end of part 2, the last chip count graphic shows the following stack sizes (at 3:06:40, roughly five hours after the game started):
G O D (this is Mike Postle’s screen name)… $10.5K
4Bet Jesus… $9.4K
Poker Overkill… $6.0K
Poker Boss… $3.6K
Head Duck… $1.2K
Veronica… $ 410
This doesn’t tell us the full story, as we don’t know how many chips each player bought or won or lost. But it does show how a $1/3 no limit hold’em game can have $45,000 on the table.
Looks like a fun poker game to me! (Or perhaps a perfect situation for a cheater.)
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