Postle spent half a minute in quiet contemplation, almost motionless in his black leather chair. Then, pursing his lips in resignation, he chucked his cards forward to fold.
Postle’s surrender, though counterintuitive, turned out to be a canny move because Cordeiro was holding “the nuts”—poker slang for the most valuable hand. Her hidden hole cards were the 10 of diamonds and queen of spades, so she’d already secured a queen-high straight before the river; she had a 96 percent chance of maintaining her edge once all the cards were dealt.
Justin Kelly, one of the livestream’s two commentators, gushed over the genius of Postle’s eccentric play. “This is what I’m talking about people!” he exclaimed from his broadcast booth across the room. “Postle takes the weirdest lines and gets people to lay down huge hands all the time. But when he has top pair and a straight draw, he is able to just lay down against the nuts. Postle is just like a freak! He’s just a freak of nature.”
Kelly’s co-commentator, 42-year-old Veronica Brill, did not share his sense of awe. She had been observing Postle up close for a while, both as an opponent at the table and a broadcaster, and she’d come to believe there was a nefarious reason for his success. For months she’d resisted mentioning her suspicions on the livestream, hoping that Stones would handle the matter behind the scenes. But the fold against Cordeiro struck her as so fishy that she could no longer keep quiet. Brill leaned back, gently shook her head, and took a half-step toward calling out God.
“It doesn’t make sense,” she said, her soft monotone tinged with mockery. “It’s like he knows. It doesn’t make sense. It’s weird.” Sounding caught off guard by his cohost’s skeptical remarks, Kelly continued effusively—“Absolute insanity, guys!”—before managing to change the subject.
Late that night, as she drove in silence toward her Bay Area home, Brill turned the broadcast over and over in her mind. Her insinuation about Postle, though subtle, had the potential to cause a stir. Fellow players would gossip that jealousy had driven her to smear a more accomplished rival, a decent man who’d just come through a harrowing family drama. Gliding west on Interstate 80, Brill realized she had no choice but to commit one of poker’s cardinal sins.
Like many others who spent huge chunks of time at Stones, Brill had long considered Postle a friend. A generous soul who exuded a puckish charm, Postle was the sort who’d pay for everyone’s drinks while regaling the bar with bawdy tales. (He was particularly fond of a story about getting banned from Caesars Palace over a misunderstanding involving a sex worker.) But up until the summer of 2018, few of the pro players at Stones thought much of his poker prowess. “He was playing well enough to support himself, it seemed,” says Jake Rosenstiel, a Sacramento pro. “But none of us thought Mike was this great poker player.”
Everyone was thus surprised when Postle began to dominate the casino’s livestreamed Texas Hold ‘Em games starting in July 2018. The once middling Postle suddenly turned formidable, even taking thousands of dollars off some big-time players during their swings through Northern California. (Stones is not ordinarily a mecca for high rollers, but its popular livestreamed games occasionally draw big names from Las Vegas and points south.) As Postle’s heater stretched over months, Stones’ broadcast team did its best to turn him into a poker celebrity. They created a series of graphics designed to hype his talents: One was a mock book cover that listed Postle as the author of a guide to “crushing souls and running pure”; another showed Postle’s face superimposed over that of Jesus.