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Was This Poker Player’s Luck Too Good to Be True?

Two professional poker players face off at a casino in suburban Sacramento. One is a round-faced local dude with a baseball cap pulled down to his eyebrows. The other is a glamorous young sharp from Las Vegas who moonlights as an actress and model.

A single hand that Mike Postle and Marle Cordeiro played that night—September 21, 2019—turned into a controversy that roiled the insular poker world, generating multiple lawsuits, and raising questions about honesty, loyalty, and the unwritten rules of modern poker.

The game was livestreamed to a modest audience of gambling fans, a broadcast that was cohosted by a Sacramento player named Veronica Brill. She had been watching Postle tear through all comers at Stone’s Gambling Hall for months, and Brill had come to believe that Postle’s luck was too good to be real. He often made unorthodox choices as the play unfolded, choices that the prevailing theory of high-end poker considered wrong or stupid or at least suboptimal. And yet he kept winning.

In Brill’s mind, the possibility had to be considered: Was Postle cheating? As she watched him make yet another strange decision against Cordeiro that night, Brill couldn’t hold her tongue. “It doesn’t make sense,” she told the livestream audience. “It’s like he knows. It doesn’t make sense. It’s weird.”

Writer Brendan Koerner became obsessed with this story, not because it provided neat lessons about right and wrong, cheating and honesty, but precisely because it revealed how the real lives of people like Postle and Brill can collide in unexpected and utterly ambiguous ways. Was Postle cheating? If so, how was he pulling it off? Or did Brill have something against him? In this week’s Get WIRED podcast we explore these questions and take a few side trips to learn about RFID chips, poker law, and old Westerns.

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