Poker whale Paul Phua, one of the driving forces behind the Macau “Big Game,” was arrested over the weekend for allegedly running an illegal World Cup sports betting ring on the Las Vegas strip.Â According to a report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Phua, who plays high stakes cash games both live and online under the screen name ‘MalACEsia’, was arrested by FBI agents on suspicion of having links to a Triad betting ring.
Also implicated in the illegal gambling operation and arrested inside Caesars Palace along with Phua was his son, Darren Wai Kit Phua, as well as six Chinese nationals.
Following an investigation, FBI agents were able to move in on Phua and charged him under his real name, Wei Seng Phua. This was the second incident the Asian businessman has been involved in recently, as American forces were also able to link to another illegal gambling ring which was recently broken up in Macau.
Both crimes are believed to be linked to the 14K Triads and, while the financial details of the latest ring are unknown, it’s been reported that the Macau operation was responsible for more than $645 million in illegal World Cup wagers.
Commenting on Phua’s involvement with the Triad controlled gambling ring, Las Vegas FBI Agent Minh Pham said the poker player was “known by law enforcement to be a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad gang” and that this wasn’t an isolated incident.
Following his arrest, Phua was ordered to remain in the US, but was released on bail by Judge Bill Hoffman after an initial hearing. However, because Phua’s arrest is allegedly worth more than $400 million to the 14K Triads, Hoffman stipulated the Phua must put up $2 million as well as surrender his $48 million private jet before his release.
Representing Phua will be David Chesnoff (the same attorney who’s been representing Phil Ivey in his various edge-sorting cases) and following the release of his client’s bail conditions he reported that a number of poker pros offered to pay the $2 million release fee.Â Among the players joining the effort was Andrew Robl, who offered to put up $1.5 million in order to secure the release of his Big Game tablemate and friend, Phua.
Upon his release from custody Phua was ordered to stay on home detention with an electronic tag until the case is heard.
Since entering the poker world, Phua has been one of the most active Asian businessmen in the game. Regularly competing in Super High Rollers, including this year’s $1 Million Big One for One Drop, as well as the biggest cash games online, Phua has become a well-known figure in the global poker community.
Such is his influence that it’s believed a number of the people placing illegal wagers with him during the World Cup were some of the industry’s most prominent players. Although none have so far been named, Phua’s relationship with the likes of Andrew Robl, Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey could well have led to many of poker’s finest being unwittingly funding the organized crime outfit.