It’s been an odd stretch for pro poker players and what appears to be an epidemic of hubris making the rounds amongst them: first we saw pro poker blogger Jay Newnum get probation for fishing into a dealer’s tip box and extracting nearly $700 with chopsticks at Foxwoods during their Mega Stack Challenge tournament series, and now comes news that pro player Christian Lusardi has been arrested in connection with $2.7 million in counterfeit chips at the Borgata during their Winter Open series.
But that’s the just the tip of the iceberg in the utter weirdness department, because this latest story has all the makings of a good movie plot.
Not A Straight Flush
After play was terminated in Event #1 at Borgata just over a week ago – after the discovery of counterfeit chips having been introduced into the action – all accounts were frozen with 27 players remaining out of an original 4,814, each of whom had paid a $560 buy-in. The next step, of course, was to discover from whence came said fake chips, and while you might think the endless surveillance cameras that permeate any casino were the break in this case, the latter emerged from a much more bizarre source: clogged sewer pipes.
Turns out the problem was discovered when some Harrah’s Resort casino workers had to find out what was causing a massive sewer clog; and what did they come upon, but $2.7 million in counterfeit Borgata chips, apparently flushed down the toilet. We assume not all at once, but nonetheless, pretty impressive that a casino’s sewer system can even accept that much roughage, isn’t it?
It all started to unravel when hotel guests called in with complaints of leaky pipes dripping water into their rooms. The source of the pipe clog was traced to pro player Christian Lusardi, 42; the Fayetteville, North Carolina player had been staying in the originating room, according to investigators.
Caught, Arrested and Charged
Lusardi had long taken off from Harrah’s after his royal flush, but was discovered and arrested by New Jersey State Police midday on Friday at a local Super 8 Motel in Atlantic City; no word on how the authorities were able to follow Lusardi’s paper – or should we say, chip – trail to get their man. He’s been charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, just for starters. It’s not yet clear if Lusardi acted alone, or if other accomplices could have been involved as well. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has been part of the investigative process also, of course.
It takes a lot to surprise casino execs, but Borgata’s senior vice president Joe Lupo says this instance did the trick for him.
“This is the first time we’ve had anything like this happen in our 10 years in business, and it’s the first time I’ve seen this in my 27 years in gaming,” said Lupo.
“The investigation by the DGE and the State Police is ongoing and Borgata remains under the order the DGE issued last week,” added Lupo. “Borgata will continue to work with the DGE and the State Police until this matter is concluded and a final order is issued by the DGE concerning the resolution of Event I.”
The implications and how this will be handled by both Borgata and law enforcement are complex indeed, as the fake chips obviously affected the outcome of the event up until the final three tables were frozen. Authorities now say that Lusardi added counterfeit chips to his stacks more than once during the event; he ended up winning $6,814 – an amount we’re pretty sure he won’t be keeping.
Not surprisingly given his edge, Lusardi was a hefty chip leader early on in the tourney, with 519,000 in his stacks at the start of Day Two; that alone granted him a $2,000 bonus, according to news reports.
In addition to the pipe-clogging chips – which was the first tip of foul play – Borgata employees additionally found another $800,000 worth of fake chips had been introduced into play in the event. At that point, regulators put the kibosh on the event and shut it down.
Apparently, this is not Lusardi’s first fall from gambling grace: back in 2008, he was one of a dozen charged with illegal gambling operations and alcohol sales in his hometown of Fayetteville. Along with cards and chips, news reports said $12,000 in cash was discovered in his home.
Perhaps this story can best be summed by Ryan Messick, a player who was eliminated from the Borgata event early on.
“The fact that this guy flushed the chips down the toilet, that just has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” noted Messick. “There was no way he wasn’t going to be found out.”
Meanwhile, the culprit will have plenty of time to contemplate clogged toilets; he was taken to the Atlantic County Justice Facility when he couldn’t meet the $300,000 bail requirement.