Poker Busts, Stings, and Crackdowns of 2014

December 31st, 2014 | by Jason Reynolds
mary morgan

An unlikely offender, 90-year-old Mary Morgan’s illegal drug-fueled poker room was busted in 2014. (Image:

Poker busts were once again plentiful in 2014 as notorious pros, international crooks, unknown ringleaders, and even corporate headquarters were raided by officials around the world.

If you were up to something smelling even slightly fishy, chances are you received a visit from law enforcement.

That’s a good thing for the overwhelming majority of poker players who abide by the rules, but these few still managed to give poker a slightly bad name.

Here are the year’s most scandalous stories:

#5. Mary Morgan

In November, police in Georgia swooped in on a 90-year-old woman’s home on suspicion she was running an illegal poker room with over a dozen participants.

Officials say the sting was the result of a statewide collaboration to crack down on not only unlawful gambling, but also additional illegal activities.

Albany Deputy Chief Mark Scott said, “This operation was the result of a two-month investigation into illegal activity at this residence which included illegal gambling, illegal alcohol sales, illegal tobacco sales, possession of cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana and spice.”

#4. Dan Bilzerian

Poker’s bad boy, Dan Bilzerian was apprehended at Los Angeles International for possessing bomb-making equipment in December.

Once known for his outlandish antics at the poker table, Dan is now recognized for his YouTube channel where he has fun “blowing stuff up.”

However, that hobby doesn’t travel well. According to the criminal report, Bilzerian was in possession of ammonium, aluminum powder, and ammonium nitrate, which when mixed together acts like TNT.

He was arrested and released on bail.

#3. Phil Ivey

From marijuana to edge sorting, Phil Ivey’s year was anything but subdued. Back in August of 2012, Ivey had a remarkable run at baccarat where he took $12.4 million in winnings.

It was later revealed the poker pro was cheating through edge sorting, a technique where the player distinguishes values based on pattern defects on the cards. Ivey has maintained his innocence, claiming the practice doesn’t constitute cheating.

A London judge disagreed in October.

#2. Amaya Gaming HQ

Amaya headquarters

Although no official charges have been filed, Quebec’s raid of Amaya headquarters certainly was one of the more surprising stings in 2014. (Image:

Owners of the largest cardroom in the world, Amaya Gaming Group’s Montreal headquarters were raided mid-December.

Quebec financial regulators reportedly were looking into the company’s trading activity leading up to its purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

Company spokesman Eric Hollreiser said of the investigation, “Amaya is cooperating… It is not appropriate for us to provide any further details at this time.”

The inquiry sent Amaya shares plummeting, although they somewhat rebounded in the days following.

#1. Paul Phua

No poker story was more widely covered and discussed than the FBI’s raid of Paul Phua’s Caesars Palace villa last July.

Federal agents cut off Phua’s Internet service and posed as repair technicians in order to gain evidence that the high-stakes pro was running an illegal sports betting operation from the residence.

The tactics of the probe by government officials has been heavily criticized and questioned by media and lawmakers around the world.

Phua has pled not guilty to the charges and remains free on $2.5 million bail, partially funded by Mr. #3, Phil Ivey.


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