As any online poker player knows, the Internet has been great for poker – expanding the game beyond traditional casino poker rooms. Modern technology makes it possible to play with players around the world.

Streaming has also been a boon to the industry, with more players sharing their action on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. And many live casinos are getting into the streaming game as well. 

Poker rooms worldwide have added streamed live cash games as a regular part of the action. They are also streaming final tables that might not otherwise appear in a limited televised poker landscape.

These games have drawn bigger and bigger audiences, with many featuring high production, commentary teams, and fireworks on the felt.

Here’s a look at five of the most significant controversies in streamed poker games:

1 – Jack-Four for the Win

This live stream took the poker world by storm in September 2022 at the Hustler Club in California. The massive hand saw Robbi Jade Lew make a huge yet controversial call against poker pro Garrett Adelstein.

The hand in question saw the players participating in a $100/200/400 No-Limit Hold’em cash game. 

  • Adelstein raised preflop with 7♣8♣, and Lew called with J♣4♥. 
  • The flop produced 10♥10♣9♣, and Adelstein bet $2,500 with an open-end straight flush draw.
  • Lew called, and the 3♥ fell on the river. 
  • Adelstein bet $10,000, and Lew raised another $10,000. 
  • Adelstein then moved all-in, and after thinking for a long time. 

Lew eventually called off her last chips for a massive pot of almost $270,000.

Despite being ahead, Lew’s call seemed baffling to many observers, including the commentary team. Despite running the river card twice, Adelstein had a massive straight flush draw but missed.

Many immediately charged Lew with some form of cheating.

Some players chalked up her call to one or all of the following – 

  • Misreading her hand
  • A beginner mistake.
  • Knowing some history on Adelstein after playing with him before
  • Numerous other theories. 

Others argued that the poker-verse would have seen the play as an amazing call had she been a male player. The hand saw massive coverage not only in poker but also in more mainstream media.

Ultimately, Lew had the winning hand, and Hustler Club eventually cleared her of cheating charges. Not only was the hand crazy, but even more controversy surfaced.

During the Hustler Club’s investigation, it came to light that a member of the production crew stole chips from Lew’s stack after the stream concluded while she was away from the table.

This hand may be one of the most controversial in streaming history and has a little bit of everything. 

2 – Hellmuth Calls It Quits

Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth is no stranger to controversy, including an appearance on Live at the Bike at the Bicycle Casino in Las Vegas. After enduring what turned into his second-straight six-figure losing session, Hellmuth found another losing hand.

  • Player Eric “The Mad Genius” Hicks four-bet the action to $20,000 with A♦K♦
  • Hellmuth called holding K♥K♣. 
  • The flop brought 9♦10♦3♦, giving Hicks the nut flush. 
  • He bet $20,000, and Hellmuth made the call.
  • The turn brought the 8♥, and Hicks bet $50,000. 
  • Hellmuth eventually called, with the pot now reaching almost $200,000. 

The 4♦ landed on the river, and Hicks may have looked like a true genius with his $50,000 value bet. Hellmuth eventually called, and Hicks raked in a pot of almost $286,000. 

“If I can’t trap the crazy guy with Ace-King versus Aces, I might as well quit,” Hellmuth said as he made his exit, also implying his hand was a bit better than it was.

For his part, Hicks celebrated with a glass of wine and broke down the hand for the Bike cameras afterwards (see below).

Poker pro, streamer, and former Survivor contestant Kevin Martin only added to the controversy afterwards. He noted that Hellmuth asked him to play in the game and then cut out early. 

“Phil publicly invites me to play with him,” Martin noted on Twitter. “I gather $100,000, a chunk of my net worth. I travel, pay expenses, and promote the show. My community is excited to see me battle the ‘best in the world.’ He quits because he’s having a bad week.”
For his part, Hellmuth reached out and tried to soothe things over a bit after Martin posted his displeasure.

“Phil Hellmuth instantly called me and apologised,” Martin noted. “He’s covering my travel expenses, and we’re going to reschedule. Excited to battle whoever is in the line-up today on the show.”

Martin ultimately came out ahead by $71,000 on the stream.

Hellmuth returned to the Live at the Bike tables only a few weeks later.

3 – ‘Sliker’ is a scammer?

This scandal came after the live stream. Popular Twitch streamer “Sliker” was accused of scamming several Twitch content creators in 2022. The streamer had more than 400,000 followers before he was kicked off the platform. Sliker was one of the players on the Hustler Casino Live stream “Creator Poker Night” in April 2022.

“I know what I’m going to do,” Sliker said before the action got underway on the Hustler Club Live stream. “I’m going to aim for the high roller.”

Here’s a look at the stream featuring Sliker below. Sliker ultimately came out a loser in the game:

Fellow content creators called out Sliker for scamming them out of tens of thousands of dollars. They alleged he would often reach out to fellow creators and viewers asking for money or loans, neglecting to pay them back.

Several Twitch users reported that Sliker often cut off contact after the loan went through. Others reported that Sliker would say he would send the payment and cancel it before it went through.

“He used well-known financial scamming strategies, claiming that his bank account had been frozen and that he needed funds to pay bills and otherwise stay afloat until his bank would release the funds,” noted about the scandal. “Sympathetic streamers then sent him large sums of money with the expectation they would be paid back, but it would take months or sometimes years for the money to be repaid if it was at all.

“Many of Sliker’s victims came forward on Twitch like streamer ‘lukeafkfan’ admitting he lost $27,000 and ‘Trainwreckstv’ saying he gave Sliker around $45,000. ‘xQc’ remarked that he had also been hit up for money but didn’t loan him any.”

The controversy led to Twitch changing its gambling policies, banning creators from playing slots, roulette, and dice games on unregulated gaming sites. 

Poker was still allowed on the site, which worked out for individual online poker streamers.

4 – Elimination Via a Split Pot

Most poker players know that when two players have the same hand, each receives half the pot. But that wasn’t the case in early 2023 on a live-streamed final table from the World Series of Poker Circuit stop at King's Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic.

France’s Pierre Kauert was one of the players at the final table in the series’ €1,700 Main Event. The hand saw both players all-in, with a player named “Lupo” holding K♠J♥ and Kauert holding J♠10♥. The board produced 6♥Q♣A♠J♦6♦.

This showdown gave both players two pair – Jacks and Sixes with an Ace kicker. But the dealer shipped the pot to Lupo, and neither Kauert nor any other players at the table noticed the error. 

Kauert collected $63,092 for fifth place. But he would have been in contention for the title had the issue been sorted out at the table. 

Viewers of the live stream spotted the error at home. But the stream was on a 30-minute delay, so the point was moot. King’s officials later noted that it’s a player's responsibility to read own hands correctly and inform the dealer immediately if there is a mistake.

I would like to refer to one of the most important rules of poker – always read your hand,” King’s director of poker Federico Brunato noted in a statement. “At the end of the day, we are all humans, and we all can make mistakes. Sona (the dealer in question) is no exception. Even though she has dealt thousands of successful hands in her life, this hand, unfortunately, she misread.

“Nonetheless, alongside Sona, Mr Pierre Kauert and all other competitors at the table misread the hand as well, which of course, is very unfortunate. The hand was supposed to be a split, and we can now only guess how it would turn out in the Main Event path of Pierre Kauert. Perhaps he would now be crowned a champion with a golden ring,. Perhaps he would be eliminated on the next hand.”

5 – Unorthodox Call Delivers for Hellmuth

If his Live at the Bike controversy weren’t enough, Hellmuth was involved in another wild hand in March 2022 at PokerGO’s U.S. Poker Open. An intriguing call against Alex Foxen drew plenty of criticism from poker players.

In a $25,000 buy-in NLHE event, Hellmuth made it to the final five, with blinds at 30,000-60,000 and a 60,000 big blind ante. 

The action folded to Alex Foxen on the button with  9♠9♦. He raised to 125,000, and on the big blind with 890,000 chips, Hellmuth reraised to 350,000 with a puny Q♦4♥.

Sensing a weak raise, Foxen moved all-in after a bit of thought. This shove seemed like an easy fold to most, but not to Hellmuth. He counted his chips and seemed ready to call with his tournament life on the line with Queen-Four.

“This would be horrific,” commentator Brent Hanks noted on PokerGO, “arguably one of the worst decisions of his poker career.”

Despite the weakness of his hand, Hellmuth ultimately called.

“I guess I better play to win,” Hellmuth said.

Foxen gazed at the bizarre call but had a 71% chance of winning. Unlucky for him, a Queen fell right on the flop, with another landing on the river. Hellmuth scored 1.9 million chips for his good fortune.

The 16-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner eventually found himself heads-up with Erik Seidel for the championship. Seidel went on to win for $472,500, with Hellmuth grabbing $315,000 for runner-up. The Poker Brat received heavy criticism in the hand’s aftermath.

Hellmuth remains no stranger to headlines or controversy at times.

Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast