In a story yesterday in the Vancouver Province we learned that Vancouver businessman Alex Tkach lost $9,000 in one hand to a cheating ring that's reported to have been working their way across the country.
We've got the cliffs notes for you below, plus our take on how gullible someone has to be to lose $9,000 to some random people they just met playing cards in a rented office.
So the gist of the story is this. Alex Tkach is a prominent figure in the media and film industry here in Vancouver, translation: he's probably got some money to lose in a card game.
He was contacted by someone claiming to represent a reputable American company interested in setting up shop in Vancouver. Tkach was told there was $125,000 in it for him to head up their local marketing campaign.
Tkach met the group in a rented office and, lo and behold, he arrived to see a high-stakes card game already in progress. As the group "waited for the boss to show up," they continued playing. The game was apparently Seven-Card Stud.
A short time later one of the players received a phone call and asked Tkach to play his hand for him. Tkach won that first pot, worth $2k, and the player split it with him to thank him for winning the money.
They talked Tkach into playing the next hand as well, still ostensibly with the other player's chips. Tkach made a full house, nines full of fours.
At this point we can only assume Tkach took over bankrolling the hand, since he promised to go across the street to the bank and withdraw the money to cover it should he lose.
Well, his opponent tabled a better full house and Tkach made good on his promise to pay it off.
The group planned to meet again the following week but of course that never happened. A friend of Tkach dug up a press release published by the Hamilton, Ontario police detailing the exact same scam.
Really Tkach? Really?
It's hard to imagine why someone would fabricate a story about themselves getting scammed by a poker cheating ring so there's got to be some truth to what went down.
That said, we have a hard time believing this is 100% accurate. First of all who goes to a business meeting and jumps into a high-stakes Stud game while waiting for the boss. Okay, we've done that a number of times but according to our gamblers anonymous sponsor it's not normal.
Then there's the whole part about how he was playing with the other guy's money. When he won the first pot the money went to the other guy. Why would Tkach take over the risk halfway through the second hand when he could freeroll it by letting the other guy keep the winnings?
Also, who doesn't see this as a scam a mile away? According to the police these guys are really polished, as far as dressing well and so on, but still.
The truth is if the pot was $9,000, Tcach's end was only half that. As a prominent film-industry type he probably doesn't really care about that sum all that much. That lends some credence to the story since he might not think much of putting that up on a random poker hand.
But that brings us to the viability of the scam itself. Four guys, a rented office, the leg-work of prepping the mark in advance and getting them to the meeting. It seems like a ton of work for a $4,500 payday. It's hard to believe they're finding enough willing participants to make this a lucrative venture.
We'll keep you posted with updates as the story develops. In the meantime be wary of office poker games in Vancouver.