In case you’ve been living under a very large, soundproofed rock for the past few weeks, the controversy caused by a single hand between Garrett Adelstein and Robbi Jade Lew on the Hustler Casino Live stream has resonated with virtually everyone in the poker industry.
While the minutae has been pored over countless times and is entirely subjective, are there any lessons that we should look to learn as an industry? We think we’ve found five.
- No Hand is Unplayable
This is an Op-Ed. We’re not fishing for hand strategies from the elite, nor are we playing down to anyone who picked up a hand ranking chart for the first time. Literally any hand is legitimate at the poker table, so reading the opinions of hundreds of players who declare the jack-four “can’t be played” was galling.
From now on, how about we all agree that any hand, literally anything, can call any other hand and not be suspicious? Let the age of the jack-high call fly. Let’s drop it to ten-high, even. Plenty of great drawing hands include a ten, so why not. Hey, we’re even open to the idea of someone making a huge bluff with nine-high and then announcing their boss-like nature to the room. No, wait… it’s been done.
- Cameras are Everywhere
One of the biggest surprises when watching numerous TV cop shows is how dumb people can be right on camera in front of the watching public. I mean, heading into a convenience store and doing anything outside of buying lotto tickets or sealed water is taking a risk. You’re doing it on camera that has a good chance of ending up on television, where many meme-friendly moment can end up being replayed in perpetuity.
Poker is getting to be exactly the same. We’d argue that unless you’re happy to look like a complete idiot to thousands of paying viewers, then you shouldn’t bother picking up your wallet and playing a $20 sit ‘n’ go, but we don’t want to put anyone off. In essence, no poker player should be ashamed to be themselves, and nor should anyone who is themselves be too precious about how they look on screen.
Whether it’s by making Action Manä eyes like Garret Adelstein, or behaving like a nodding dog with your mobile phone in your lap – this isn’t even a Mike Postle line, because everyone does it all the time – if you’re camera, then you’ve likely signed away your image rights. And they can go viral in an instant.
- Reputations are Like Balloons
It takes ages to inflate a balloon, then one prick from a pinhead and bang! It’s nothing but hot air escaping into the atmosphere. Building a stellar reputation in poker might seem unimportant compared to winning as much as possible from players worse than you. But the value of a great poker rep can stretch much further than the winnings from any single hand, unless you’re playing the biggest cash games ever in which case, you guys carry on.
- Game Selection is -EV for Fans
Poker players often bemoan a lack of exposure, branding, marketing or advertising featuring them if they ‘make it’ into a sponsored role, so if you’re still out on the streets grinding, it might be worth refusing to game select and taking on all comers. Once the public realise you’re not only in it for the money, they can warm to any player. The opposite is true, too, of course.
- Kindness is King
It might be easy to say with a little distance from this particular poker showdown, but looking at each player with a little kindness could have gone so far in defusing the situation and preventing the second, possibly more serious crime from occurring. Let’s throw a Hollywood rom-com rewrite on what happened at Hustler Casino Live when Garret Met Robbi.
You have jack-four?
(Embarrassed) You know it, partner!
Ah, it’s just a game. You wanna run it twice?
Sure, why not? Should be a fun one for the viewers.
Hey, my folks should love it. I don’t mind either way – I got enough money.
You know what, me too. Wanna donate this pot to charity?
That’s a great idea. You wanna grab a protein shake?
I thought you’d never ask.
If you can’t hear a Hollywood soundtrack fade in over that reworking, we’re disappointed in you.
After a fortnight of controversy, biting back and potentially serious charges that could be brought against Bryan Sigbasal, who perhaps never attempts to take a chip from Lew’s stack in less dramatic circumstances, maybe the lasting legacy from the drama of the ‘jack-four’ could be what it points us toward.
Hellmuth had queen-four, Lew jack-four. The next logical hand in that sequence references Back to the Future – “Ten-four, Marty!”. How poker – and maybe the players involved – might wish they could turn back time.