The world of poker is a curious beast, containing a myriad of poker games filled with nuance. The one variant that everybody tends to hear about, want to learn about, desire to watch more often, the Cadillac of the card games: No Limit Hold’em (NLHE). This very variant captured world wide recognition, made it to prime time slots on sports channels in the United States, Europe and South America and was formally accepted as a mind sport.

Poker In the Mainstream

For decades now, the World Series of Poker has had a widely televised Main Event that has been broadcast on mainstream media channels with a variety of different broadcasters. As a result, even people who are not familiar with Texas Hold’em poker may have stumbled across a poker tournaments show in which poker players, from all over the world, compete for millions of dollars.

The most common poker game visible to the public is Texas Hold’em poker and it is so for several reasons. The main reason is hold em’s simplicity. The rules for playing Texas Hold’em take but a couple moments to explain. Anybody can excel in a Texas Hold’em poker game and the action comes with a particular thrill as all chips can be risked at any time. There is no need to study complicated rules in order to grasp the mechanics and find a winning hand unlike other poker games.

The basic rules are rather trivial and don’t take a long time to embrace. You can use both of your hole cards, one hole card, or even play the board to make the best possible hand. This principle of the game is also a lot easier to understand for the casual viewer on broadcasts, which makes Texas Hold’em poker, instead of some more complex poker variants, the most obvious choice for major live-streamed broadcasts from the world of poker.

Professional v. Amateur

While the top professionals in the business have studied the Game Theory Optimal (GTO) approach for several years, spending countless hours in the lab with online poker games and running simulations, they are not guaranteed to win at Texas Hold’em. Their chances of winning, because of the time they have spent studying in a controlled environment and not in a poker room, is certainly higher and, over an extended time period, it is expected that these experts will finish on the winning side in a game of Texas hold em.

However, the beauty of poker, and Texas Hold’em in particular, is the fact that everybody has a chance to win. In other variants, the longer the session runs, the more obvious mistakes become. This is not necessarily the case for the Texas hold em in which an unconventional playing style by amateurs or recreational players can keep the sharpest minds on edge.

When these two worlds collide, the professional and the amateur, drama is all but guaranteed at the Texas Hold’em table. That exact thing became evident during the infamous hold em hand in the poker room of the Hustler Live high stakes cash game stream. A long-time consistent winner at poker cash games tangled with a relatively inexperienced recreational Texas hold em opponent and an unlikely hero-call with jack-high became the most talked about hand in recent Texas hold’em poker history.

The Jack-Four Scandal

Emotions quickly spiraled out of control while accusations ran rampant without all details known. Day after day, new revelations came to the forefront and prevented the discussions from slowing. A veritable ton of meme-worthy material was the inevitable side effect from the potential Texas Hold’em scandal.

What exactly made this Texas hold em hand so out of the ordinary that it even reached international mainstream media, which is prone to report on drama but typically leaves Texas Hold’em and poker content in the shadow realms?

The aggressive approach by Garrett Adelstein with a straight and flush draw doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In the past live-streamed sessions at the very same venue, he was quite successful in using his vast experience and reputation in Texas Hold’em to push around passive opponents and get better hold em hands to fold.

That’s part of why things got messy this time. He was called by a marginal hold em hand combination that contained one crucial blocker but was a Texas Hold’em equity underdog ahead of the river. The situation does not come as much of a surprise as inexperienced recreational Texas hold em players can make substantial mistakes, no matter how much money is at stake. It would be naïve to assume that both have even remotely the same understanding of Texas Hold’em.

Emotions in Poker

There is, however, also a case to be made that even a long-time Texas Hold’em poker player can be influenced by emotions, get flustered and make the wrong decision from a Texas Hold’em theory perspective and end up as the victim of a ‘lucky punch’. This can even happen on the biggest stage when a World Series of Poker gold bracelet is up for grabs. Fatigue can also play a role during the long tournament hours in Sin City.

The hand in particular was certainly unique and represents an anomaly that might be difficult to explain to non poker players. On social networks, Robbi Jade Lew was praised for a magnificent hero-call by those outside of the poker industry. Inside the world of poker, pundits and card sharks widely considered the outcome as, at best, fortuitous and it didn’t take long for the conspiracy theories to commence.

Even nearly one month after the incident, not all details are known but the number of potential controversies has multiplied. Imagine a bush fire in a dry wood, quickly engulfing everything in flames, spreading at an incredible pace and where it will burn next is at the mercy of the slightest breeze. Right now, it remains unclear how much this scandal will affect the poker world or what the final verdict will be, but that is not stopping the emergence of some incredibly wild theories.

What Can We Learn

The clash of both worlds – poker pro and amateur player – has showcased several aspects of the game. First, it is possible for anyone to beat the best because there is always the element of chance in poker. You can make the mathematically correct decision and still lose, while a mathematical mistake can turn out to have been the correct choice. It’s the beauty of poker in a nutshell but the tumultuous aftermath represents the gruesome dark side of this world.

There is no guarantee that the superior hand will win but, over the long term, it should win more, hence why it is vital to aim for the greatest possible equity when heading into a showdown. All playing styles have their own unique merits and exploitable loopholes, and a recreational player can make a deep run in a major tournament without in-depth knowledge of any strategy.


Some of the rising online poker stars have studied an incredibly diverse quantity of scenarios in a lab and have played millions of hands at online poker sites. But they have no idea how to fiddle with the chips or control their emotions. Body language, speech play and various physical tells are other aspects that are not given attention in a lab setting, yet can be key factors during high pressure situations.

The basics for No-Limit Hold’em can be learned in a very short period and it is, at its essence, a game for everyone, which could be the reason for its widespread and continuing popularity. However, poker in general still has a long road before it is properly embraced as a game of skill.

About the Author: zedmaster84 is a freelance poker journalist, writer, translator and semi-professional photographer. He has been covering major live poker events all over the world since 2011 and specializes in mixed games with a certain affinity to PLO. He is also heavily addicted to travel, seeing the world and discovering new cultures.