The defendants include ESPN as well as prominent poker industry names such as Veronica Brill, Joey Ingram, Todd Witteles, Daniel Negreanu, and NBA executive Haralabos Voulgaris.
Mike Postle is suing a bunch of people (and ESPN), including @Angry_Polak, @DougPolkVids, @haralabob, @Joeingram1, @JonathanLittle, @RealKidPoker and @ToddWitteles, for defamation, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He must have an ace up his sleeve.
— Norman Chad (@NormanChad) October 2, 2020
In the suit, Postle — who said that he has made a living from playing poker since 2003 — notes that he played regularly at Stones Gambling Hall in Sacramento, Calif., from 2015-19. A year ago, a number of peers at Stones began to suspect Postle of cheating and said so publicly.
After the situation came to his attention, Ingram made a pair of YouTube videos totaling 10 hours that he said proved that Postle cheated. He also discussed the Postle allegations on the Gamble On podcast last year.
The scandal went more mainstream when Wired published an in-depth feature on it in September.
RFID’s role in modern poker
Postle’s suit notes that some poker games at the hall are broadcast online “with a 30-minute delay in order to prevent those watching from communicating with players.”
Radio frequency identification reader (RFID) scanners are attached to each card, allowing for the cards to be displayed on the broadcast to help the commentators analyze the status of each hand.
People who accused Postle of receiving information about his opponents’ cards pointed out that, before making some key decisions, he frequently looked down toward his lap, where his smartphone was positioned.
The suit alleges Postle “was allowed to, and did, look at his phone occasionally while playing at the table.” Also according to the suit, Postle used the phone so he could watch “sporting events that were not on the Stones Hall televisions nearby.”
But why did Postle specifically position the phone where he did and spend so much time basically staring at his crotch during some hands?
“Plaintiff 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 suit contends.
Brill, a broadcaster on some of the livestreams and frequent opponent of Postle’s, said on social media on Sept. 28, 2019, that “someone is displaying a probability of cheating” during the Stones Hall poker games, according to the lawsuit. There were subsequent allegations that Postle made at least $250,000 in just two months of poker play.
Stones almost immediately described the allegations as “completely fabricated.”
Suit against Postle thrown out
In June, a federal judge threw out claims against Postle for fraud, describing money lost in poker games as “quintessential gambling losses that are barred for recovery by California public policy.”
Allegations in the $30 million suit against the owner of Stones Gambling Hall and against Stones employee Justin Kuraitis were dismissed as well. Brill had been the lead plaintiff among a group of more than 80 poker players.
Last month, 60 of those players — but not Brill — reached an undisclosed settlement with the hall and with Kuraitis on an amended version of the suit. An attorney for those 60 players wrote in a statement at the time that “I have found no forensic evidence that there was cheating at Stones or that Stones, Mr. Kuraitis, the Stones Live team, or any dealers were involved in any cheating scheme.”
Postle was not mentioned in the settlement, but a statement he provided to The Sacramento Bee that day read, in part, “As much as I’d like to say, all I can really say right now is that I have my side of this entire fiasco to tell.
“It won’t just shock the poker and gambling industries, but the entire world.
“This all goes way beyond just my innocence, but includes an entire incredible 17-plus year story along with it, and what’s happened since the allegations. In fact, it’s such a mind blowing story, that it’s being told to Dave Broome at 25/7 Productions who will be producing a wild documentary for the world to see on it!”
Postle coming after high-profile defendants
ESPN’s role as a defendant stems from an Oct. 3, 2019, segment of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt in which the host had Ingram on the show to discuss his findings in studying Postle’s play.
Voulgaris is a former professional gambler who now works in the front office of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. He, too, is accused of making false allegations that Postle cheated at poker.
The most famous poker industry defendant in the suit is Negreanu. Postle claims that Negreanu repeatedly “published false and defamatory statements” against him — but he adds that Negreanu has since “deleted all the evidence,” which may make such claims irrelevant in a court of law.
Most leading poker industry figures seem to remain firmly convinced that Postle cheated, and that at first might seem to weigh in favor of damage having been inflicted on Postle’s reputation. But it also weighs toward Postle being a “public figure” — which in U.S. courts sets the bar extraordinarily high against winning a defamation suit.
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