Here's Everything That's Happened So Far in the HCL Poker Controversy

HCL Controversy

For weeks, the poker community and much of the general public has been completely enthralled with a controversial hand played by Robbi Jade Lew and Garrett Adelstein on the Hustler Casino Live stream.

Despite several developments and plot twists, all of which PokerNews has reported on extensively, there are still few answers as to what went down at Hustler Casino and no concrete evidence that Lew cheated.

Here's a look at everything that has happened so far in the HCL controversy.

September 29, 2022: The Infamous Hero Call with Jack-High

The controversy began during the Hustler Casino Live stream on Sept. 29 on the first night of Phil Ivey week. Lew and Adelstein faced off in the now infamous hand where Lew made a six-figure call with jack-high and no draw and went on to win the $269,000 pot.

Commentator Bart Hanson described Adelstein as looking "disturbed" after seeing Lew's weak holding and Adelstein later confirmed off stream that he strongly suspected Lew had cheated. Lew refunded the money to Adelstein to diffuse the situation and later claimed that she misread her hand and thought she had a pair of threes.

Many prominent poker players took to social media to voice their shared suspicions about the hand and Lew's confusing explanation for calling Adelstein's all-in bet, with some saying they were near certain the hand wasn't straight (many of these players have since changed their stance). High-stakes pro Chris Brewer, for example, tweeted that there was a "literal 0% chance" Adelstein hadn't been cheated.

Other players who immediately suspected foul play include Ryan Laplante and Chance Kornuth.

September 30, 2022: Adelstein & Lew Tell Contrasting Stories

Suddenly at the center of the biggest story in poker, Adelstein and Lew both issued public statements, with Adelstein doubling down that he believed he had been cheated, though he didn't know how, and did not believe that Lew had misread her hand.

Garrett Adelstein
Garrett Adelstein

The two poker players offered conflicting accounts about the controversial hand and how the money was refunded. Adelstein claimed he "never asked for a refund," while Lew said Adelstein had "cornered me & threatened me."

Lew went a step further and challenged the LA poker veteran to a heads-up battle so "the whole world can watch me read you all day."

Hustler Casino Live put out its own statement, which said "we will be looking into every aspect of this incident before putting out the results of our finding."

With the poker community and general public's interest in the hand picking up, Joey Ingram, Doug Polk and the Solve for Why crew all began a series of lengthy investigatory streams examining the controversy.

HCL Controversy Timeline
A timeline of the Hustler Casino Live controversy

October 1, 2022: Lew's Coach Offers Thoughts; Poker Community Torn

Lew is a student of Faraz Jaka, a fact made clear by a Jaka Coaching patch seen slapped on Lew's water bottle during the controversial stream.

Jaka, a longtime poker pro who himself has made a number of unorthodox plays with weak holdings, stated on Twitter that he began coaching Lew ahead of the 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP), noting that Lew has "only been playing for about a year" and "has trouble repeating back HHs (hand histories) & mixes up terminology."

Faraz Jaka
Faraz Jaka

In an interview with Ingram, Jaka defended Lew and said he believed she thought she had a pair of threes and was "trying to figure out how to fight back" against Adelstein.

The certainty of many poker players that Lew had cheated began to fade around this time, with most admitting that they didn't know what happened. Daniel Negreanu speculated that Lew had a "brain fart" moment and described the hand as an "'I'm calling the bully' situation."

Also around this time, Polk and others began poring over stream footage and entertaining conspiracy theories that Lew had a device on her hip that helped her cheat.

October 2, 2022: Hustler Casino Live Announces Investigation

Two days after the controversial hand, Hustler Casino Live's production company, High Stakes Productions, announced its plans to investigate the cheating scandal.

The show's co-owners, Ryan Feldman and Nick Vertucci, warned the poker community that the entire process may take "considerable time" but ensured that they will release the findings publicly, "no matter what they reveal."

Nick Vertucci
Nick Vertucci

Notably, the announcement stated that the poker livestream production company would hire a law firm to conduct a "comprehensive investigation" that would potentially involve a polygraph test.

The announcement further stated Hustler Casino would assist with the investigation and attorneys for the show would oversee an investigation by a third-party cybersecurity company "that will leave no stone unturned in our system."

October 4, 2022: HCL Commentator Says No Evidence of Cheating

Hanson, who commentated during the controversial hand, shared his thoughts on the incident on his CrushLivePoker YouTube channel.

Bart Hanson
Bart Hanson

Hanson, a longtime figure in the LA poker world who was outspoken in his accusations against Mike Postle, said he hadn't seen any evidence that Lew had cheated and that "maybe there is a 20 to 30-percent chance of cheating."

The poker commentator also said he did not believe that Lew had misread her hand.

The evening of Oct. 4, news reached social media that Hustler had implemented security wands and was searching players before they appeared on stream.

October 5, 2022: Lew Addresses Incident in PokerNews Interview

In a 40-minute interview with PokerNews' Chad Holloway, Lew addressed the controversy and denied any cheating taking place.

"No, I unequivocally did not cheat," Lew said on the PokerNews Podcast.

Robbi Jade Lew
Robbi Jade Lew

Lew also discussed topics such as her background, how she ended up in the high-stakes game in the first place, and her relationship with another player in the game, Jacob "Rip" Chavez, whom many have accused of being somehow involved in the alleged cheating scandal.

October 6, 2022: Investigation Finds Staffer Stole $15K in Poker Chips from Robbi Jade Lew

The controversy got new life and gained a new main character on Oct. 6 when Hustler shared that its investigation found staff member Bryan Sagbigsal stole $15,000 off Lew's stack "after the broadcast had concluded and while Robbi was away from the table."

Bryan Sagbigsal
Bryan Sagbigsal

The 24-year-old is noted to have a checkered past that includes a robbery and prison escape in 2017. Many in the poker community again grew suspicious and speculated that Lew and Sagbigsal may have been working together.

Lew released a statement and said she wouldn't press charges against Sagbigsal, saying it is "unnecessary to damage a young man’s life that would already be negatively impacted by the news of his wrongdoing and termination of his employment."

October 7, 2022: Poker Twitter Questions Sagbigsal DM

On Oct. 7, Lew shared a lengthy DM that she alleged Sagbigsal sent her apologizing for stealing money off her stack and offering to "do anything" to make it right, calling Lew "someone who was so kind to give the money back to the crybaby Garrett and kind enough to SPARE ME."

But many on social media were convinced the message was scripted and that it was actually written by Lew, noting that the message shared many grammatical errors with Lew's own writing.

"This is LEGIT more sus than the actual hand itself," Matt Berkey wrote, while 2013 WSOP Main Event Ryan Riess champ said the message "doesn't help (Lew's) case)."

October 8, 2022: Garrett Adelstein Shares Details on Hustler Casino Live Poker Cheating Conspiracy

After a week of silence, Adelstein issued a lengthy statement on the 2+2 forums and once against accused Lew of cheating. Adelstein also alleged that others may have been involved, including Chavez and Darren "Beanz" Attebery.

Despite having dozens of pieces of circumstantial evidence, Adelstein did not provide any concrete evidence to support his theory. Around the same time, LA poker player Julie Yorn shared a story where Lew may have angled in a Hustler cash game.

Lew replied to Adelstein's statement on Twitter and denied any having relationship with Sagbigsal. Lew also switched her position and said she would press charges against Sagbigsal.

October 10, 2022: Bryan Sagbigsal Speaks Out, Trashes Adelstein

In his own 2+2 posts, Sagbigsal denied colluding with Lew or working with an accomplice and said that cheating only the highly viewed stream would be "the most asinine **** that I've ever heard of."

Sagbigsal also aired it out against Adelstein, writing that it's "lame that you would even blame me when I looked up to your stupid ass!!!!"

While there was some dispute as to whether the posts were legit, Ingram claimed to have confirmed that the posts were indeed written by Sagbigsal.

Around this time, a reporter with The Los Angeles Times who had profiled Lew attempted to approach Sagbigsal, who allegedly threatened the reporter by saying "we’re gonna be following you if you don’t leave now."

October 12, 2022: California Gambling Bureau Notified of HCL Incident

On Oct. 12, Hustler co-owners Vertucci and Feldman released a statement, which was since retracted, stating that the California Bureau of Gambling Control (CBGC) approved the show continuing to live-stream on YouTube during the investigation.

The following day, HCL clarified that the CBGC hadn't approved anything but were aware of the alleged cheating incident that occurred during a recent stream.

October 14, 2022: Lew Passes Polygraph Test

After traveling to Las Vegas to take a polygraph test, Lew released the results of the test on Twitter, which showed that she truthfully answered questions about the controversy, including whether she cheated in any way during the Hustler Casino Live poker games or conspired with anyone during the Hustler Casino live poker games to cheat.

While passing the polygraph test was a big step forward for Lew in establishing her innocence, many on social media questioned the legitimacy of the test and whether passing it proved much as polygraphs are not always accurate and are inadmissible in court.

Also on Oct. 14, Adelstein tweeted that he still believed he was "very likely cheated" and added that he "(doesn't) know when I'll choose to play poker again."

  • Here's everything that's happened in the HCL controversy between Robbi Jade Lew & Garrett Adelstein.

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