On the heels of a meteoric rise, a notable Pokémon and sports trading card re-seller is suddenly grappling with a potentially similar meteoric fall.
The streaming trading card resale company Blake’s Breaks, which is helmed by ex-NFL player Blake Martinez, has been embroiled in controversy over the last week following a series of accusations from customers and fellow card game streamers. Several online allege that Blake’s Breaks practises rampant scamming techniques, including theft from customer orders, sleight of hand, and trading card pack manipulation.
As of Friday, August 4th, streaming platform Whatnot concluded an internal investigation which has resulted in the removal of the Blake’s Breaks channel from the platform, as well as the removal of “individual employees involved in misconduct” and a refund for “all buyers impacted by the infractions.”
The following is a statement from Whatnot to Nintendo Life, which was also posted to Twitter:
We really appreciate the community’s commitment to reporting trust & safety issues. Our priority is ensuring a fair and honest experience for customers and upholding our community guidelines. After a comprehensive investigation into Blakesbreaks’ operations we have decided to permanently remove the seller from our platform, including the individual employees involved in misconduct.
The Rise (and Fall?) of Blake’s Breaks
On July 14th, The Athletic published a profile on Blake Martinez, an ex-NFL player who last year made the unusual decision to retire in the middle of a guaranteed, multi-million dollar NFL contract in order to pursue selling Pokemon and sports cards.
The Athletic reported that his newly founded company Blake’s Break’s, fueled by “nearly 20 full-time staff” streaming “16 hours of live streams per day,” made a blistering $11.5 million in revenue in less than a single year by distributing and re-selling trading cards on Whatnot, a popular, live-streamed marketplace.
Now, only a week after the Athletic profile, a potentially incriminating picture is being painted with those same sales figures. A series of posts by multiple users across various social media platforms allege that Blake’s Breaks has been elaborately scamming many of its customers.
A former seller on Whatnot titled ‘Sakura’s Card Shop’ posted on a public Whatnot Discord channel back in April of this year seeking recourse, claiming Blake’s Whatnot channel had removed cards from his order that he had pulled live on stream. According to the poster, this was a tactic which allowed Blake’s Breaks to keep high-value cards it allegedly stole, while the buyer’s only recourse was to obtain a refund for the value of the pack itself.
Online sentiment for Martinez’ company remained checkered after this accusation, only to substantially swell after a Reddit post on July 25th by Reddit user DirtSty13, which featured a video detailing how they believe Blake’s Break streamer ‘Snee’ (real name Marisa Snee) was using sleight of hand to manipulate “bounty” games. (Snee was also profiled in the piece by The Athletic, characterised as a young business phenom; it is unclear what her status with the company currently is.)
In response to this video’s reaction, Martinez issued a statement live on stream defending Snee’s behavior while still announcing her removal from streaming on his channel, though ultimately neither confirming nor denying the overall allegations. He stated in part:
I understand the optics…I understand how it looks, trust me. I know the type of business I run… I made a good amount of money — everybody knows, in the NFL — I knew stepping into this was going to have a target on my back.
Snee issued an apology on her Instagram account.
What are Whatnot bounties?
A common technique for Whatnot streamers is to feature what is known as bounties,´’ games with prizes users can win under certain conditions. Prizes typically range from single items to giant piles, and are often comprised of professionally graded cards, sealed boxes, vintage cards, and more.
In one common game called ‘Guess the Energy,’ users bid on unopened packs of Pokémon cards and attempt to guess which color energy card from the (typically) eight potential energies hidden inside the pack that they purchase. Guess the correct energy, and you win. In another game called ‘Match the Energy,’ users bid on a pack with the hope that the energy card they pull matches the one previously pulled.
Bids for these games on Whatnot frequently reach very high dollar amounts for even a single guess. It is common for people to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars nightly chasing these bounties. These games were the bedrock of Blake’s Breaks business.
Outrage began to hit a fever pitch after collectors started to share online that many Pokémon energy cards can be mapped inside their packs to a specific pattern. All that is necessary for potential abuse is to know what the pattern was, and to keep the packs in order.
On August 1st, Reddit user Wholetthedawgsout69 posted an edited video which accuses Martinez himself of utilising this knowledge by keeping mapped packs sorted off-screen, which allowed him to consistently pull whichever energy he needed to avoid a bounty being hit.
After this video proliferated, multiple users on Reddit posted additional accusations, including more videos of suspicious behaviors, energy card mapping in practice, unsubstantiated internal Slack memos addressed to Martinez’s staff detailing foul play, mathematical calculations of Blake’s Breaks outcomes, and more.
In a now long-running series of videos posted last week, Youtuber ‘Rattle Pokémon’ spends literal hours detailing many of these accusations, showcasing how the Whatnot games may have been rigged, as well as suggesting that Martinez’ staff may have employed resealed packs, in addition to the mapped card manipulation.
It is unclear now what will become of Martinez business and staff, or if legal actions will result. Martinez himself did not respond to this story for comment, while Whatnot limited its public comments to their statement included at the top of the page, which reinforces that affected users may seek refunds from the company.
Additional accusations of other Whatnot streamers also continue to proliferate online in addition to Blake’s Breaks, though Whatnot has not publicly announced any further investigations at this time.
We will update this story with any future developments as they occur.