Flush of a different kind lands poker player in jail, police say

Posted at 3:51 PM, Jan 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-26 17:51:41-05
By Haley Draznin


(CNN) — One poker player gave new meaning to the saying “throwing money down the drain.”

Christian Lusardi, 42, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, flushed $2.7 million worth of counterfeit poker chips down the toilet in a room at Harrah’s Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey state police said. He was arrested over the weekend, police said.

Lusardi disposed of the fake chips he was using during the Winter Poker Open’s “Big Stack, No Limit Hold ‘Em” event at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, police said.

Tournament personnel found 160 of the counterfeit poker chips — each with a value of $5,000, for a total of $800,000 — among the genuine casino chips, police said.

The discovery in clogged sewer pipes prompted Harrah’s to notify Borgata officials.

The counterfeit chips forced officials to suspend the event for 24 hours. Soon after, the tournament was canceled.

“This was a very unusual occurrence. It’s the first time in Borgata’s 10 years that anything like this has happened,” Joe Lupo, senior vice president of operations at Borgata, told CNN.

Authorities found Lusardi Friday at a motel in Atlantic City.

“We are very pleased that the New Jersey State Police Casino Gaming Bureau has apprehended a suspect,” Lupo said. “While this is a very positive development, the investigation by the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the State Police is ongoing.”

Police say Lusardi introduced the counterfeit chips into the tournament on multiple occasions. Lusardi obtained $6,814 in winnings during the tournament.

Lusardi was charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, criminal attempt, and theft by deception. He was being held on $300,000 bail, with no option to pay 10%, at the Atlantic City Jail, police said.

The poker tournament began in mid-January with more than 4,800 people enrolled. When it was canceled Friday, 27 people remained in the tournament.

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