If there’s anything that unites poker players, it’s a hatred of scammers. Somehow, in our strange world of bluffs, traps and trickery, honour and integrity are bizarrely paramount. We wouldn’t moan if an opponent took our last penny, so long as they did so within the rules!
Even with the ultimate success at the tables, you’re only considered as good as your reputation. The slightest moral blemish can leave it in irreparable tatters.
Look at the attitudes towards those involved in the FullTilt poker scandal. It’s more than a decade later and they’re still heckled whenever they enter a cardroom.
Over the last few years, there have been several suspected cheating scandals. We’ve had everything from ethical issues like Kassouf’s ‘speech play’ and Bicknell’s alleged soft play. Then there have been more severe cheating accusations like those of the Mike Postle saga a couple of years ago. (You can read about it here in this magazine.)
The Hand that Shook the Poker World
We haven’t been able to condemn any villains yet. But poker players love a scandal. It seems cheating accusations have become the soap operas of the poker world.
- Simply whisper the word ‘cheat’, and the keyboard warriors swarm.
- Joey Ingram plays the detective.
- Social media blows up faster than a rogue balloon at a hedgehog soccer match.
Recently, things kicked off online - again. The latest saga involves a bizarre, televised hand where Robbi Jade Lew called off her stack with jack-high.
This call sent the poker world into fits of disbelief and scepticism in the process. Was it the Read of the century or blatant cheating?
Watch the hand play out here:
Regarding the whole fiasco, it’s a tad concerning how quickly people began throwing such serious accusations. While the hand is undoubtedly weird, there is currently no evidence that she was cheating,
So, it’s a little unfair to jump to such serious conclusions without proof. There may be some compelling (and creative) arguments for Robbi cheating. But they are all based on opinion and speculation.
Many will still condemn her as guilty, even in the absence of evidence. But these ‘scandals’ damage poker’s wider reputation.
Normalising this kind of knee-jerk response is in nobody’s best interests.
Was Robbi Cheating or Not?
If you suspect foul play, it’s usually best to keep a quiet eye on the potential cheat, gather more evidence, and build a stronger case against them. As we saw with the Postle example, it’s hard enough to draw conclusions with months of televised ‘evidence’.
Since we only have a few of Robbi’s sessions to evaluate, it will be near impossible to build a strong case against her.
Apart from anything, the high-profile accusations flying around make it far less likely Lew would continue to cheat. (If she was even doing so in the first place.)
So why do people think she’s cheating?
It seems there are three main arguments for foul play:
- The way she played the hand seems pretty ludicrous.
- She doesn’t seem to be able to explain her actions.
- Giving the money back seems like an admission of guilt.
Without a doubt, the most suspicious thing about the hand is the turn call. Having floated the flop, Lew’s at the bottom of her range and in terrible shape against a lot of Garrett’s bluffing range too.
She has minimal showdown value. From a strategic perspective, if she’s calling this hand, she’d rarely be folding in this spot.
The idea that any player would call in this situation seems so ridiculous.
There are only a couple of conceivable reasons to explain a non-cheating player calling here at all:
The first is that she misread her hand, pretty careless, but it happens to the best of us. Robbi claimed that she believed she had J3,#. A pair of 3s would have given her a far better calling candidate than J4 high.
A misread explains the play, but Lew spent a good while looking at her hand before calling, so it’s pretty unlikely.
With that said, I’m reluctant to rule it out completely. I’ve looked at my cards without registering what was on them myself. I was only thinking about the decision in front of me.
A misread is unlikely but not impossible. Especially since Robbi claims she thought Garrett had ace-high pretty quickly after the hand.
As far as seeing Garrett’s cards goes, again pretty unlikely. As well as a dealer between them, she would be less likely to raise the turn if she knew Garrett’s exact hand. Since Garrett has so much equity, he’s not going anywhere.
Her raise would allow him to shove with a lot of equity.
If Robbi knew Garrett’s holding, she’d likely call, knowing she could play the river perfectly and reduce variance.
So, if she didn’t see Garrett’s cards, how was she cheating? A popular theory centres around the use of some kind of vibrating tool. Many claim they can see her chair, ring, and cup shaking in the videos.
While cheaters have used vibrating systems for a long time, the premise relies on being subtle and inconspicuous.
- Vibrations strong enough to move a cup or a chair would be a direct contradiction.
- That would make them unnecessary and likely noticeable to other players at the table.
Remember, she’d be using a concealed vibrating device, not duct-taping some wiggly dildo to her leg.
Vibrating devices are pretty simplistic. The conspiracy theorists suggest Robbi had an accomplice who could see other players’ cards. They would use the device to indicate whether or not she had the best hand.
While there’s no evidence yet that the show’s integrity was compromised, a similar idea was behind the Postle scandal a couple of years ago.
Like time travel, the vibration claim makes sense in theory. But there’s no evidence that a device was being used here, especially since Robbi is wearing skin-tight clothes.
Moreover, any accomplice would have to be pretty dumb to think this situation was worth pushing. It’s high risk financially, and it would draw too much attention.
Why cheat in this hand at all?
Realistically a cheat would go one of two ways:
- Overdo it, and play perfectly (as Postle seemed to do in his cheating scandal)
- Or use their advantage sparingly to avoid drawing unwanted attention
Robbi seems to do neither. In the small sample of poker hands we have, she calls it off with J8 drawing dead. She made losing calls in spots where folding would have been reasonable enough.
Overall, her general play is far from perfect and worlds away from what we saw with Postle.
Robbi’s imperfect play has led to many people claiming that she and her alleged accomplice made poor decisions deliberately. They were consciously attempting to make any cheating unbelievable.
But this assertion direct contradicts the original accusation. A careful cheater would surely want to avoid the attention that comes with calling their stack off with jack high, right?
If she was trying to make things believable, wouldn’t she want to make winning more realistic too?
While the call is bizarre, cheating accusations were also fuelled by what happened after the hand took place.
The first weirdness occurs when Robbi gives Garrett his money back off-stream. Many have interpreted it as some kind of guilt for cheating. But it takes a pretty lousy moral compass to cheat in the first place. So, it feels contradictory to expect a cheater to have the conscience to return the money.
We don’t know the context of the refund either:
- Perhaps she was under duress or upset at seeing how distressed Garrett was.
- Maybe she’s innocent and believed the return would prove she wasn’t cheating.
- Perhaps, Robbi felt guilty or embarrassed after being told how bad her call was.
- Or maybe she’s just a cheater trying to cool things down to avoid getting caught.
At this stage, nobody knows.
It’s impossible to understand Robbi’s actions without knowing much about her personality and reasons for playing. A professional player would seldom return the money in this spot.
But Robbi is inexperienced. So, we can’t necessarily expect her to think like a seasoned professional.
After the call, Robbi faces criticism and makes several random comments to justify her call. Those accusing Robbi of cheating suggest that her inability to explain her decision reinforces that a third party was telling her what to do.
In the absence of objective evidence, these comments could result from a flustered and inexperienced player. She made a stubborn call, justified by concepts she didn't fully understand or apply.
Call it cheating, lying, scheming … IDC— Robbi Jade Lew (@RobbiJadeLew) October 3, 2022
But if I hear the word #suss again, I just might have to change my story at least five more times
Many people struggle to see how the call can be legitimate since it’s so dire from a strategic perspective. But Robbi is not a professional player so, we can't expect her to think or play like one.
Mr Beast recently made similarly bad plays in other streams, and nobody said anything. While it's a crazy call, Robbi is an amateur.
Calling an amateur a cheat because they made an amateurish play is like calling your cat a dog because it purred.
What Was She Thinking?
Her bumbling comments lack any real strategic cohesion. But Robbi had convinced herself Garrett was bluffing. Her hand does lose to lots of his bluffs anyway.
But she struggled to ignore the possibility that Garrett might have one of the few bluffs she could beat (like 67, 68, and 86).
The Famous Pro in the Headlights!
This play is largely down to the dynamic between Garrett and Robbie. While Garrett seems pretty neutral, many of Robbi’s decisions against him suggest she wanted to outplay him. This situation often happens when amateurs run into famous players and is typically down a willingness to prove themselves.
Since Garrett is a poster boy of the game, it could be a defining factor in her decision to call.
When she scoops the pot, she looks satisfied and smug and gives Garrett some trash talk. Only when her call faces criticism does she begin to panic. Her half-justification for calling was so poor it didn't 't hold up to the criticism of better players.
Consequently, she is reluctant to admit she made a bad call and starts digging herself into a deeper hole.
Beat the Pro!
It’s clear from her comments that she is hyper-competitive. She cared more about beating Garrett than about the money. This fact also explains her call, her willingness to give the money back, and why she has since challenged him to play heads-up.
You see this kind of ego way more often than cheating at the tables. So, the call is less likely to result from a scandal but more of an indication of a crazy hero call.
It’s clear from how long she takes with simple decisions elsewhere that she hates folding (as we all do!). Like many bad hero calls, she called hoping to be ahead rather than because she thought she was.
She knew she was going to be behind more often than not. But it seems she was too seduced by the thoughts of being right that she didn’t care.
These kinds of insane hero calls happen from time to time.
Robbi’s call isn’t proof of cheating but the result of a recreational player doing what recreational players do.