Harnam Matharu was on a heater at the Fallsview Poker Classic in Niagara Falls, Ontario, this week.
Going into dinner break, with five players left in the $1,100 buy-in event, the 21-year-old from Edmonton was sitting pretty with the chip-lead and a good shot of taking down the $200,000Â first prize.
Already guaranteed his biggest ever tournament score, he was on the run of his life. Alas, it seems, he was also on the run from the law.
With the spotlight on the final table, some of the players railing thought that Matharu looked familiar.
In fact, they were pretty sure they recognized him from a tournament in Kahnawake, where a player had been attacked outside his motel room and robbed of $5,000.
Matharu fit the description of the assailant, who was caught on surveillance cameras and for whom there was a Canadian-wide arrest warrant.
The players snapped Matharu on a cellphone and sent the photo to the victim, Uri Miro, who confirmed that Matharu was the spitting image of the man who had robbed him.
Mathru never made it back from the dinner break; instead, he was quietly arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police’s Casino Enforcement Unit.
“Two big, burly officers moved in and escorted Matharu outside in handcuffs,” a witness, Brian Friesen, told the Globe and Mail. “The whole thing went down very quietly. He was very passive and submissive.”
They say all you need is a chip and a chair, and in his absence Mathuru’s chair blinded out for a third-place finish and an $88,189 payday. It is not known whether Mathuru will be reunited with his “winnings,” however.
He was interviewed by police on Thursday who seem confident enough that they had their man to schedule a court appearance for the following day.
“This wasn’t overdue parking tickets; this was a Canada-wide warrant on very serious charges with a police service willing to travel from another province to return him,” said Casino Enforcement Unit member Detective Sergeant Rick Davidson. “The player’s position or stake in the poker game, as unfortunate as that may or may not have been, becomes nearly irrelevant when I apply the public-safety test. And that is my primary concern.”
The event had been mired in controversy from the outset. With two Day 1Â flights, each capped on player numbers and both sold out, a black market sprang up for Day 1BÂ tickets, with internet qualifiers selling at inflated prices.
At least, though, by the time the tournament had ended, the Fallsview Poker Classic had brought a fugitive to justice and peace and order were restored.
“The poker crowd isn’t always the most savory of characters,” mused Friesen. “But this shows you have some safety in a casino. The fraternity of poker players found him, caught him and turned him in. If he stays in the game and wins $200,000, you’ll probably never see this guy again.”
“There is something wrong with the world is Harnum Mathuru [sic] doesn’t crack the BPR top ten after his performance at Fallsview,” quipped Mike McDonald via Twitter.