The poker world is filled with characters and people of varying moral character. While the game originated with somewhat “seedy” roots, the modern game is much less “dangerous” than in the past – with a few exceptions of course.
With that said, there are still quite a few players that have made some bad, sometimes unbelievable, choices and have landed up on the wrong side of the law. Today we look at seven high-profile poker players that have had run-ins with the authorities.
Bryan Micon made poker history back in April 2015 when he was the first person prosecuted for running an unregulated online poker site in a regulated state. Micon ran the bitcoin poker site SealsWithClub out of his home in Nevada and Attorney General Adam Lexalt chose to prosecute him for failing to obtain a Nevada license.
Micon initially fled to Antigua but returned to the U.S. in June 2015 to face the charges. Initially, he faced a 10-year prison sentence but he accepted a plea deal that saw him get probation and a $25,000 fine.
Clearly, this was a case where the AG was making a statement and Micon was merely used as an example to other would be violators. To date, Micon remains the only person to knowingly operate an unregulated iPoker site in Nevada, Delaware or New Jersey.
The most recent addition to this list is six-time WSOP bracelet winner Ted Forrest. Earlier this month, an arrest warrant was issued against Forrest in connection to bad checks issued to the Wynn in Las Vegas back on October 28, 2012 and May 17, 2013.
Forrest and his lawyers are arguing that this matter is a civil case rather than a criminal one. He is facing charges of writing bad checks and alleged theft. If convicted on both felonies, he could face up to 14 years in prison.
A preliminary hearing on this matter is schedule for October 18.
Anyone that has followed the career of Mike Matusow knows that he has experienced tremendous ups and downs. Perhaps the lowest point in his career came on September 23, 2003 when we was arrested in Henderson, NV for purchasing drugs for a “friend” that also happened to be an undercover DEA agent.
Matusow gives his own personal account of what happened in the autobiography Check Raising the Devil but court records show that he was eventually charged with six drug-related felonies.
Matusow and his attorney eventually hammered out a plea deal that saw Matusow serve six months in the Clark County Detention Center. Had Matusow chose to fight the charges, he was facing a 10-year mandatory sentence. He began his jail sentence in September 2004 just a few days after finishing 3rd in the WPT Aruba Main Event for $250,000.
Greg Raymer’s run in with the law originally seemed like a bad joke but in 2013, the former Main Event champion was arrested in connection with a prostitution sting in Wake Forest, NC.
When this story was originally reported, it was poorly worded to where it seemed that Raymer might have been serving as a male prostitute. It was later discovered that he was merely on of numerous “Johns” arrested.
Although the arrest had a negative impact on his image at the time, legal charges against Raymer were dropped. Raymer told PokerNews in May 2014 that he was told that the charges would go away if he did community service and sought counseling. Raymer completed 75 hours of community service and the charges were dropped in late 2013.
Although not a “pro player,” Dan Bilzerian has been publicized enough in the poker community to warrant inclusion on this list. In December 2014, Bilzerian was arrested at L.A. International Airport in connection to a Nevada warrant charging him with possessing explosives on public property.
According to reports, Bilzerian and a friend put over 90 pounds of an explosive powder mix inside a drink cooler, put it inside of a tractor-trailer cab and shot it from a safe distance. The explosion sent parts over a 300-yard radius.
Bilzerian was facing felony charges in Nevada but eventually worked out a plea deal that saw him plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “negligently failing to extinguish a fire in the open.” He paid a fine of $17,231.50 and then later appeared in a PSA for the Bureau of Land Management explaining the things you can’t do on federal land.
“Don’t blow stuff up kids, mmkay?”
Shawn Sheikan is most famous for his 11th place finish in the 2005 WSOP Main Event and his confrontations that year with Mike Matusow. However, Sheikan has also been in trouble with authorities on more than one occasion.
Back in 1995, Sheikan was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery and served nine months in jail in connection to those charges. According to reports, Sheikan was involved with a 17-year-old girl sometime in his early 20’s and this charge stemmed from that time. In addition to 9 months in jail, Sheikan was put on 5 years probation.
Twelve years later, federal authorities came after Sheikan and looked to deport him. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) were looking to deport Sheikan in connection with his 1995 conviction. He served a week in jail before posting bail.
In November 2007, deportation proceedings were halted after the Department of Homeland Security failed to produce the required evidence needed to deport him.
In a case of “you never really know a person,” Ernie Scherer probably ranks near or at the top of any list such as this. In 2011, Scherer was convicted of murdering both his parents at the home in Pleasanton, CA in 2008.
The reason for his crime? He wanted to collect his inheritance. Earlier in 2011, Scherer was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in addition to two counts of murder for financial gain and a single count of committing multiple murders.
Mounting gambling debts and a huge mortgage on his home were the motive behind the vicious murders. He reportedly beat his parents with a baseball bat and slit their throats.
Also according to reports, Scherer had several girlfriends located around the country and spent a lot of money on his various “relationships.”
Scherer was given back-to-back life sentences and will ultimately die in prison for his crimes.
Writers Note: When this case was originally prosecuted, I admittedly was a bit surprised as I knew Ernie and had played with him on multiple occasions. We had both ran deep in the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Event at the 2006 and 2007 WSOP. He was also to my direct right for my entire time in the $3k Limit Event in 2006.
I never once suspected that Ernie was capable of such a crime and it didn’t surprise me about him having “multiple” girlfriends because he tried to charm everyone. It just goes to show you that you often times never really know a person – especially in poker.