Cigar Aficionado

Gamblers Gone Dirty

The past year has been a good one for gamblers who enjoy scandal and chicanery – particularly when it involves other people. For our voyeuristic pleasure, there was the busted poker/bookmaking ring allegedly centered around a high-end Picasso dealer who operated out of Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel, audio tapes emerged on which Russ Hamilton reportedly admitted to scamming players out of millions on the now defunct poker-site UltimateBet, and Phil Ivey got himself into a widely reported kerfuffle with Crockfords in London over a bit of advantage playing (definitely not cheating, at least from my purview) at the punto banco table.

As 2013 wound down, Archie Karas, famous for having one of gaming’s all-time great winning streaks—the story goes that that he hit Las Vegas in 1992 with $50, borrowed $10,000, and ran it up to $40 million in three years—got accused of marking cards at a San Diego blackjack table. Supposedly, he burned through the $40 million in just three weeks time, so, by 2013, he must have needed cash. Colorful as Karas’s entry to Vegas may be, recent events seem rather bleak. His allegedly ill-gotten blackjack winnings were just $8,000 and his actions (if he did them) would clearly be criminal. In El Cajon, California, Superior Court, Karas pleaded not guilty to winning by fraudulent means and burglary (both felonies) and cheating (a misdemeanor). Whatever the outcome, there is good reason to believe that guys like Karas always land on their feet. Shortly after he was charged with marking cards, a Hollywood production company announced plans to make a biopic, based on his life, entitled, appropriately enough, The Run.

Christian Lusardi made headlines for taking the chip lead in day two of the Borgata Winter Poker Open Big Stack No-Limit Hold ‘Em Tournament, but his good press turned bad after tournament officials sensed something wildly wrong—there were too many chips in action—and play was suspended. They say that 160 counterfeit chips (totaling $800,000) had been introduced, compromising the integrity of the contest.

Officials accused Lusardi of introducing the fake chips after finding a number of chips clogging the pipes in a hotel room traced to Lusardi. He was arrested at a nearby motel on January 24. The case is still in process and Lusardi awaits his day in court.

The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper wins the headline-writing contest on this one with the chuckle worthy (if a bit obvious) “That’s a Flush!” Unfortunately, 27 remaining players, out of a starting field of 4,800, were angling for a first prize of $372,000 when the tournament got shut down. It’s unlikely that any of them are amused.