Matt Berkey On Why The Stones Scandal Is Something Affecting All Of Poker

Posted on October 14, 2019 - Last Updated on October 16, 2019

In case you have been under a rock, a cheating scandal is rocking the poker community.

In brief, Stones Gambling Hall in Sacramento, California streams a live poker game on Twitch called “Stones Live.”

Veronica Brill, a poker player and commentator of the show, noticed that Mike Postle, a frequent regular, had an incredible win rate. She brought it to the attention of popular YouTube poker commentator, Joey Ingram, who then¬†made YouTube videos analyzing Postle’s play.

PlayPennsylvania recently sat down with Matt Berkey, a prominent professional poker player, native to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and owner of the Solve For Why Academy, to ask his thoughts on the scandal and to explain why even a casual poker player should care about this situation.

Why the scandal should matter to all poker players

PlayPennsylvania: Many poker enthusiasts and professionals take these cheating allegations are very serious. However, there are many poker players who do not feel that this situation affects them. Although this may be true on a surface level, could you speak to why it is important for everyone to understand seriousness of this scandal?

Matt Berkey: I think the scope of this cheating scandal is far-reaching. Like it or not, it affects even the casual poker fan. Streamed games are cropping up everywhere, but very few are actually scrutinized by an authority. This is problematic because, in cases like Stones, you end up with an unfair game. Sadly, this hurts the other streams operating by the books.

Notably, if you are a casual poker player that does not play on livestreams, please understand that this scandal still affects the whole poker ecosystem. Streams are currently our most popular form of advertisement and adding a black cloud of uncertainty to the security of any game is a net negative for the poker community.

The importance of state regulation

PPA: What does this tell us about the importance of a strong regulatory body at the state level and how can we avoid a situation like this in the future?

Berkey: I’m torn as to whether this should be a regulatory issue or if responsibility should be on the stream house to provide accountability and a fair gaming environment. I guess if pushed for an answer, I lean more towards the former.

Regulation has been demonstrated to work in states like Nevada. Also, gaming, in general, leads to a highly regulated marketplace. In any regard, even without the pressure and direction of a regulatory body, all stream houses should be held accountable for what happens on their watch.

PPA: Recently, several poker players filed a lawsuit against the Stones Gambling Hall for $30 million. Do you think that some kind of punitive action (such as fines) would help other casinos and stream houses in the future be more serious about this never happening again? If not, what type of legal outcome would you like to see for the parties that were involved?

Berkey: As Stones faces civil charges, I think they will ultimately regret not putting the resources into the proper protocols that are necessary to run a safe and secure stream. Personally, I think the lawsuit is mandatory. In my opinion, it will serve as a warning to other stream houses that they are liable should anything happen under their watch.

On cheating in poker

PlayPA: Is this situation really that unusual? How common is cheating at this level of poker?
Berkey: Look, anytime you have money at stake, there will be bad actors looking to profit in an unfair way. Cheating occurs in all industries to varying degrees. In my 16 year career, I’ve encountered less than a handful of cheats.
Ultimately, the majority of cheats are at the low to mid-level stakes because they are desperate. It makes sense that any cheating that happens at the high stakes largely goes undetected as the available resources and sophistication of the cheating are exponentially greater. Overall, in a casino environment, I feel rather confident that cheating is an outlier scenario.

PPA: With online poker coming to Pennsylvania, should anyone be concerned that PA regulators may not be equipped to handle and detect cheating?

Berkey: Absolutely not. Just take a look at the stringent regulations that Nevada and New Jersey have in place to ensure a safe gaming environment. They are perfect examples of how a regulated market should operate. PA clients should have no fear, as these systems are virtually bulletproof.
PlayPA: Is there anything you might want to add to allay a novice’s or recreational player’s fears about online gambling and cheating in general?
Berkey: Poker is an incredibly difficult game to cheat. The path to doing so requires gaining perfect information in a game where that information is extremely protected. Until someone develops x-ray glasses or undetectable hacks through multiple security layers, poker will remain rather guarded simply due to its complexity.

The importance of a strong poker community

In the end, Berkey believes the negative situation is nonetheless bringing out the best in the poker community:

“This situation should be regarded as a net positive for the poker community. We all worked diligently and efficiently to ensure that a bad actor(s) is exiled. Negative events occur but, how we police them moving forward defines the fabric of our community. I’m confident in saying that the poker community is one of integrity.”

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Vanessa Lutz

Vanessa Lutz graduated from Washington and Lee University School of Law with a J.D. She played poker professionally and then took some time off to have a family. Now she is combining her experience as a contributor to PlayPennsylvania.

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