The poker community as a whole has done a great job with the tedious work of trying to break down how Mike Postle cheated his way to a literally-unbelievable winning streak on Stones Live Poker, but it was Veronica Brill who brought the allegations to light and allowed the internet sleuths to dive in.
Despite initially being rebuffed by management, Brill continued to push the issue and shed light on what she felt was more than just a little suspicious play.
Brill was employed by Stones Gambling Hall in Northern California as a commentator for the live-streamed poker game where Postle won upwards of $300,000, playing mostly $1-$3 and $5-$5 games over the span of just a year and a half. She worked for the casino for a brief period of time, before moving out of Sacramento and to the Bay area.
Brill sat down with Card Player to discuss what it was like having a front-row seat to the cheating scandal, the blowback she’s dealt with personally from the allegations, and the steps she took to before deciding to go public.
Steve Schult: Can you talk about your poker background and how you ended up having a working relationship with Stones Gambling Hall?
Veronica Brill: My background in poker is just as a recreational player with cash and tournaments. I played mid and low-stakes. I was playing at Stones about the time when they first opened, and they were starting a livestream. Roger Bailey was the first person to start the livestream at Stones, and I was friends with him at the time. I told him that I had some experience in radio, and hosting pageants and stuff like that, and that I was okay in front of a camera. If he found a professional poker player to get in the booth with me, we could have an entertaining show.
They put me and Jake Rosentiel in the booth, and we were the original commentary duo from the time Stones Live started. I think it was like a year and a half later, they started slowly bringing in more commentary staff, and I ended up moving away and not doing it as often. But I was still occasionally hosting. I ended up hosting a game on Stones Live Poker called ‘Veronica & Friends,’ which I played in.
The last time I did commentary was the last time that show was on. But it wasn’t really my show at that point. I gave ‘Veronica & Friends’ to a friend of mine because I didn’t have the time and I didn’t really want to make the drive up to Sacramento anymore.
SS: When did you first run into Mike Postle?
VB: Mike was a regular in the room and a regular in Sacramento poker. He was in every tournament, every tournament series. He was playing a lot of cash games. I’m friends with a lot of poker professionals in Sacramento, so they were all aware of him. He was just a regular cash game grinder. A reg in the room. A reg in Sacramento.
SS: Did he have this god-like reputation and inflated ego before the stream? Did other players in the area generally regard him as a good player?
VB: It wasn’t until he started crushing on the live stream. I know there were some friends of mine who played $5-$10 with him regularly and he was a losing player in that game from what everybody has seen. And as we saw in the livestream, when he wasn’t in god-mode, he was playing like a regular mid-stakes grinder. He didn’t have a crazy reputation of crushing every game before 2018.
SS: How long was he playing on the stream before you started suspecting him of cheating?
VB: I don’t know. I feel like he was playing on the stream here and there early on, but he definitely started playing in every single stream at some point in 2018. So, the progression was, he would play occasionally on the stream, and occasionally in all of the games. And Sacramento has a smaller community of professional poker players and I’m friends with most of them. And word travels quickly.
Word started spreading that Postle was only playing livestream by the beginning of this year, yet he was not playing in any of the really good, juicy cash games that were available to him. Then he started picking up [cashing out] as soon as the livestream was over. I remember he was playing in my game before all of these cheating allegations and he would play after the livestream was off. But in the last year and a half, he started picking up as soon as the livestream was off.
SS: Do you know any of the financial details of the stream? Was anyone from the poker room paying production directly?
VB: I know that the majority of the commentary were Stones employees. I’m pretty sure that the tech staff were also, because at one point, I was an employee. The last time I did commentary, I was not an employee. They paid me to host, but it wasn’t as an employee. So, I know they also paid hosts.
SS: You said that the Sacramento poker community is small, and you were seemingly entrenched there. What was it like grappling with the decision about whether to make these allegations public?
VB: This was a massive struggle for me. I would say the biggest portion of that struggle came in the week before I went public with the allegations. I was basically balancing out worst-case scenarios for each decision. And if I had gone public and he was innocent, that was the worst of going public. But I think it would have been worse if he was guilty and I hadn’t gone public.
I felt as though I had seen enough to go public with it. And I felt like not enough people were looking at it. It was one of those things where I was pretty sure he was guilty. I was more concerned that there was cheating going on, and I was willing to risk losing friends. I know my close friends would have understood my concerns and would have forgiven me if they were even mad at me. But I was willing to take the criticism and be shunned probably from Sacramento if I was wrong, because I felt like there was enough evidence pointing to him cheating. I felt like someone needed to do it, and I didn’t think anybody would.
SS: Before you went public with the allegations at the end of September, you went to Stones Gambling Hall Tournament Director Justin Kuraitis with your concerns. When was that and what came out of that discussion?
VB: It was in mid to late March. I think it was March 21 because I texted Bart [Hanson] the next day, which was March 22. I went back and looked at my texts. So, I reached out to Bart before I talked to Justin and I said, “I think there’s some issues. I think that Mike might be cheating. I can’t put my finger on it. I can’t figure out how he would be doing it even if he is.”
And Bart said, “Look, go to Justin. It’s something that, if you have concerns, you should talk to Justin and maybe they’ll look into it and if they find that there’s nothing, we can all be assured that the security and the integrity of the game are fine.” I agreed.
At that point, I thought Justin really wanted to maintain the integrity of the game and really loved the livestream. I remember him telling me that he left his last job because he thought a player was cheating in the casino and the general manager didn’t agree with him and didn’t believe him. So, he left that job.
I thought this guy was completely trustworthy. I went to him and I said, “Look, I think Mike might be cheating. A lot of people are whispering around the room that he might be cheating. He makes these sick plays.” And Justin, instead of being objective and taking these allegations seriously, just said, “Absolutely not. There’s zero percent chance that anything is happening.”
At some point, either at that time or after, he told me that they were doing an external audit. An outside company had come in and audited everything and said that there was no security risk. That everything was fine. I think he may have told me after just to reassure me.
SS: Did you ever see any proof that the investigation ever took place?
VB: No. He told me at that time when I spoke with him about it, and I did ask to formally speak with him. We sat in the back of the casino and I said that I was concerned that Mike might’ve been cheating. He said, “Absolutely not.” He said, “Mike uses the martingale strategy. He’s so next level. He’s such a good poker player that nobody understands his play.”
He said that I don’t understand his play. I don’t understand poker. Everybody was just jealous. Everybody’s a gossip in Sacramento and they’re just jealous of Mike. And that Mike does have downswings.
I remember that there were several times after that talk. I remember saying to him, “Mike did really well tonight.” And he’s like, “Yeah, well he’s coming off a really big downswing. Like a $25,000 downswing.” I thought it was funny that he was telling me about Mike’s downswing. It was just weird.
I know poker players are very transparent with their wins and losses, but in hindsight now, considering that there’s a good possibility that Justin was involved… it all makes sense. At first, I thought there was just a lot of misogyny in the way he spoke with me, but now looking back, I think there was none. I think he was just trying to cover things up.
SS: Did you continue to work with Stones following the complaint?
VB: Yes. I trusted Justin. I trusted that he was upholding the integrity of the game. And I really trusted the casino. I thought if Postle was cheating, there’s no way anyone on the inside was involved. And I thought it would just be too insane for Postle to have the technical ability to tap into the network or something like that. So, I thought, okay, I’ll just leave it. What do I know?
I moved away and so I wasn’t doing as much commentary. I hadn’t done commentary like two or three months and the last time I did commentary; I did a show with Jake. Jake and I did a $5-$10 game with Postle, and after four or five hours of watching him, we came out of the booth like, “What the fuck is going on? This can’t be right. He’s playing perfectly. The stuff he’s doing doesn’t make sense.”
The only way it makes sense is if he sees the cards, and Jake and I had a talk about it. He was starting to text me while we were in the booth, like, “Is Mike cheating?” And then he deleted the texts, but he showed it to me. And we both came out of the booth a little flabbergasted.
The last time I did commentary, I was just like, “Fuck this. This is still going on, and this is not right.” I mean, everyone saw that video I posted of me in the booth. This doesn’t make any sense.
SS: I wanted to touch on the commentary. Some people believe that some of the commentators knew about the cheating because of the way they complimented Postle and the hands he played. What are your thoughts on that? Were there commentators that had similar thoughts to you and Jake?
VB: I think so. There are so many things to consider when discussing commentary, and I talked about this. When we’re doing a show, when you’re doing commentary once in a while, you’re told to be kind to everyone in the game. You’re told to make it a fun show, to make it entertaining. And you’re also not seeing Mike Postle 12 hours a week. You might be in there once every two weeks, or once a week and you might think, “Oh my God. He’s hitting another heater and he’s so sick.”
Most of us were not professional poker players. I think very few commentators were professional poker players. You’re being told, “Mike’s fluctuating. Mike’s on a peak right now, but he fluctuates down also.” Justin would tell us about his downswings. So, you’re in the booth, and four or five hours of poker can be kind of boring. And when you get these sick hands playing out, it gets kind of exciting and you want to give the audience a show.
It’s easy in hindsight to start thinking everyone was involved. But I don’t know what benefit it would be for commentators to be involved. I think very few people were involved and I think very few people knew. I think I know who is close friends with Mike and I know who’s close friends with Justin. So, it concerns me that maybe they knew, but didn’t gain anything from it. Maybe someone was just turning a blind eye.
I am also concerned about certain people’s reactions. For instance, some people didn’t join the lawsuit, which I find odd. Some people have been really quiet about it. Maybe they’re processing it differently. I don’t know. I don’t want to say who I think knew and then come to find out that they didn’t know. But some of the stuff, when multiple things, like you’re not joining a lawsuit, you’re not saying anything in public, how you seemed when you’re doing commentary, etc. It’s concerning.
SS: You received a good chunk of backlash from people when you made the allegations public, seemingly from Sacramento locals. Some of it was pretty heinous stuff. Were you directly threatened by anybody or was it more general online harassment?
VB: I had texts. I received texts from some of his good friends. I wouldn’t say they threatened me, but I would say they were pretty horrendous texts. I feel like my tweets were pretty objective. I was trying to say, “Hey, I think something is going on and I would like to review it.” I think that kind of summarizes the tweets.
And the response I got was as though I had crucified the guy. I understand there’s an emotional connection to Mike, especially with a lot of his friends who have now apologized to me. I really thought that I would get a very objective, calm response. I’m always thinking people are data-drive decision makers, but I think most people are emotional decision makers. I think most people have since come around and I can understand where they came from.
SS: How much control did Justin Kuraitis have over the livestream?
VB: The whole livestream was a one-man show and it was Justin. Justin made every decision. He had sole control of Stones Live Poker. He had an IT director of Stones that he pushed out of the entire operation because the guy was asking questions, and wanted things done properly and wanted to oversee some of the IT portions of it.
Justin was there for almost every livestream. He would stand behind this podium and watch the entire show with his headphones on. And he had this like microphone on his blazer. I assumed he was talking to tech, and he may have been, but he would watch the entire show, and he would make comments during the show. If the cards were quote-unquote not being read properly, or they were wrong, Justin would quickly change them and make a comment like, ‘Oh, Postle’s good, but he’s not that good.” He was very involved in the show.
SS: How do you think Postle cheated? There have been so many theories between the crotch phone, the bone induction headphones in his hat, and a few others. What is your best guess?
VB: I think when we’re looking at how he did it, we have to be careful not to look at it as a stagnant process. I think it evolved. I think initially they tried it out just texting him the hands. You can see when he first did it and he would just look down at his phone.
I think they may have tried something like [Matt] Berkey came up with, like with the blue screen. They may have tried that, although I’m not convinced. I think it may have been something as simple as they were sending him information through his phone, through texts. And then I think when people started complaining in the room, Justin had to modify how they were cheating based on complaints.
I think they tried to switch to the bone induction headphones, which was in his hat. So, I think there were a number of different things they tried, and I think, despite their efforts, not all of it was working because they were reliant on people having their cards read properly. The tech switching from hold’em to Omaha and yeah, you can see the spots where he gets frustrated. It’s like he not able to see his opponent’s cards or something.