Ten weeks after announcing an investigation into the infamous “J-4” hand on “Hustler Casino Live” between Garrett Adelstein and Robbi Jade Lew, HC parent company High Stakes Poker Productions LLC [HSPP] has issued a complete report on the investigation’s findings, including that there was no evidence that Lew or any other player had cheated in the livestreamed games.
Despite the investigation finding no evidence of cheating, the third-party cybersecurity firm retained by High Stakes Poker Productions, Bulletproof, found numerous security holes that theoretically could have been exploited by cheaters with sufficient access to HCL’s inner workings and protocols.
As a result, HSPP has implemented at least ten new security measures, most of which involve the streaming set’s production room, where the RFID-embedded playing cards’ codes are transmitted and where the stream’s on-screen graphics are assembled using that information. An HSPP statement summarized the most important findings from the investigation, including that:
“1) The Deckmate shuffling machine is secure and cannot be compromised; 2) It’s extremely unlikely that any card-reading device stored in a water bottle, jewelry or object on the table could have intercepted a card signal; 3) RFID technology used by “Hustler Casino Live” is safe. Any device that intercepted a signal would receive a serial number, not the actual card; 4) Radio communication to the on-floor camera operator was not an issue in the Lew-Adelstein hand; 5) The PokerGFX system was free and clear of malware, installed programs or systems that could intercept hands.”
That doesn’t mean that some sort of person-to-person signaling system involving an insider — such as the since-fired HCL employee Bryan Sagbigsal — couldn’t have found a way to signal players, but the investigators reviewed dozens of hours of footage from the controversial September 29 game and several other streams and found no evidence of any such signaling.
New security enhancements put into place
Nonetheless, most of the recommended security enhancements seek to prevent many of the foreseeable ways in which HCL employees and or the players themselves could cheat. These are the enhancements recommended by Bulletproof and put into place for future HCL streams:
- HSPP reconfigured the production room so that only one monitor can display hole cards, and it can only be viewed by the director.
- A wall and door were installed to the production room; the door is kept closed and locked throughout the stream. Only HSPP has the key to the room.
- Production room employees must surrender mobile telephones and other electronic devices, which are kept in signal-blocking Faraday bags, before entering the production room.
- Pre-employment background checks will be performed on all prospective employees.
- All players must surrender their telephones, smart watches and other electronic devices before playing in the game. Other personal items are stored in signal-blocking Faraday bags and kept away from the table.
- Players are required to sign waivers agreeing that they have no financial investment in any other players in the game.
- Security personnel use a metal-detecting wand to screen players each time they enter the stage area. Players who leave the stage for any reason are re-screened before re-entering the stage.
- Remote camera operator is no longer on open-production channel; the only way director can communicate with that person is to press a button to communicate directly with them.
- Security video camera systems record all employees in production room from multiple angles. Security cameras will not view hole cards on director’s monitor.
Sagbigsal charged with grand theft related to game
The fourth point in the above is interesting in that it blind-references the situation involving Sagbigsal, the HCL employee who was seen on security footage stealing $15,000 in chips from Lew’s stack after the September 29 game stopped streaming. Sagbigsal was recently charged with two counts of grand theft by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, and at the present time, he’s a fugitive from justice. Despite this incident’s extremely high news profile, the alleged crime is still non-violent, so don’t expect a nationwide manhunt for Sagbigsal — even if the Gardena Police Department did try to find him a couple of weeks ago.
The HSPP statement offered this regarding the Sagbigsal angle:
“As HSPP previously disclosed, during the course of the investigation, Hustler Casino uncovered video evidence that HSPP employee Bryan Sagbigsal stole $15,000 in chips from the stack of Ms. Lew after play had concluded on Sept. 29 while Ms. Lew was away from the table. HSPP terminated the employment of Mr. Sagbigsal after discovering the theft and contacted the Gardena Police Department.
“During an interview with HSPP and its attorney, Mr. Sagbigsal admitted that he stole the chips and apologized. He said he acted on his own out of financial desperation and repeatedly denied that he was involved in cheating or that he collaborated with any players.
“At the direction of Ms. Lew, Gardena police detectives investigated the theft of her chips and eventually obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Sagbigsal. On November 22, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Sagbigsal with two counts of felony grand theft (Los Angeles County Superior Court Case Number YA106932). A copy of the DA complaint can be viewed here.
“The investigation also confirmed that Mr. Sagbigsal had a prior criminal record, including a conviction for robbery. High Stakes Poker Productions did not conduct a pre-employment screening of Mr. Sagbigsal, something that could have identified his past criminal record. In the future, HSPP will pay a professional agency to search databases to determine whether any applicants have criminal records. HSPP will also conduct periodic financial background checks on employees.”
High Stakes Poker Productions’ acknowledgment that it had not properly vetted Sagbigsal before employing him in a casino environment epitomized some of the seemingly lax controls that may have contributed to the overall situation, which centered on a bizarrely played hand by Lew and quickly escalated into a headline-grabbing scandal that moved into the mainstream press as well.
Vertucci declares investigation complete
“The investigation we conducted was extremely thorough and we found no evidence of wrongdoing in the September 29 hand. We cannot say with 100% certainty that no wrongdoing happened, just that we found no evidence of it,” said Nick Vertucci, co-owner of High Stakes Poker Productions along with Ryan Feldman. “We promised to conduct a thorough investigation and that we would release the findings publicly, no matter what is found. That is what we are doing today.”
Vertucci added, “Our cybersecurity team found a number of areas we could improve – and we have followed that guidance to significantly improve the security of our stream. We are confident with the measures now in place that our stream is among the most secure in the industry. Players and fans of ‘Hustler Casino Live’ should be extremely confident that our games are safe and secure.”
Meanwhile, Lew has publicly teased that she might return to the show in the future. An open door might even be extended to Adelstein, Lew’s accuser. After previously announcing that he was 100% convinced of Lew’s guilt, he hasn’t yet brought himself to issuing an apology or re-refunded any of the $130,000 or so that Lew returned to him after the controversial hand. It now appears that Lew’s explanation of that event is more likely true, in that she refunded the money under perceived duress, and she hoped to soothe Adelstein’s feathers before the situation erupted beyond control, which it did anyway.