Player in Borgata “Chipgate” Tournament Arrested For Introducing Counterfeit Chips

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News late yesterday broke that one of the players in the Borgata Winter Poker Open preliminary event that was canceled – in fact, its chip leader from Day 1B – is now in the hands of Atlantic City and New Jersey gaming authorities for introducing the counterfeit chips that brought about the tournament’s cancelation.

According to Jennifer Bogdan of the Press of Atlantic City, plumbing staff from Harrah’s Resort were working on an issue that started the ball rolling towards that arrest. Unclogging a sewer pipe in the hotel, the Harrah’s staff found not the usual clog in the drains. Apparently someone had used a toilet to flush down 2.7 million in counterfeit Borgata tournament poker chips.

Employees had little difficulty in determining what room the chips came from. Tracing back from guest complaints as to leaks in the plumbing, the room where the chips were dumped was determined and the guest who was staying there, Christian Lusardi, became Suspect #1. Harrah’s informed the Borgata, where Event #1 of the Borgata Winter Poker Open was in full swing, of the counterfeit chips and Borgata tournament staff found that another 160 chips – totaling 800,000 – were in play in the tournament.

Prior to the start of Day Two of Event #1, the Borgata took the understandable stance of first delaying the tournament and, after further investigation, canceled the event. Lusardi, who was the leader of the 27 players remaining for the Day Two start, apparently never headed back to the tournament or his room at Harrah’s. He was apprehended by New Jersey authorities at a Super 8 motel in Atlantic City just before noon yesterday and charged with a variety of crimes, including rigging a publicly exhibited contest. It is not clear at this time whether other players were involved in the caper.

Lusardi is currently being held in Atlantic City on $300,000 bail and, because of the particular gaming violations he is charged with, he has to provide the full amount to be released rather than the normal 10% that would be accepted.

Strangely enough, this isn’t the first time that Lusardi has had a run-in with the law regarding poker. According to, Lusardi was arrested in 2008 as the owner of a house that was operating an illegal poker room in Fayetteville, NC. Lusardi was charged with gambling and illegal alcohol sales in that case and another 39 people, mostly soldiers from nearby Fort Bragg, were charged with illegal gambling. In that particular case, there is little known as to its outcome.

There has yet to be any reason given for Lusardi’s alleged introduction of the chips as they had no dollar figure and, as such, were worthless. With that said, however, if he was able to introduce the chips into the event and win that tournament, the potential prize might have turned those counterfeit chips into gold. The tournament was a $2 million guaranteed prize pool event which eventually pulled in 4812 players (to set the prize pool at $2.4 million) and the first prize for the tournament was $372,123.

The Borgata’s senior vice president, Joe Lupo, was obviously happy about news of the arrest. “We are very pleased that the New Jersey State Police Casino Gaming Bureau has apprehended a suspect in connection with the counterfeit chip activity that compromised Event #1 of the Borgata Winter Poker Open,” Lupo said in a statement. “While this is a very positive development, the investigation by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and the state police is ongoing.”

While the New Jersey authorities are letting the issue work its way through the legal system, the poker community has already issued its verdict. On his blog, noted poker author Nolan Dalla firmly stated, “If true, Lusardi must not only be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, he must be banned from all future poker events. Let’s make sure that every casino in the world knows this name and face…he should never be allowed to play in any poker event of any kind again.”

The Borgata Winter Poker Open continues on today, with the World Poker Tour’s $3500 Championship Event beginning on Sunday. You can be sure that Borgata officials will be closely examining the WPT event, as they have all the tournaments since Event #1, to make sure there isn’t any chicanery afoot.

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So what happens to the prize money from the tournament? If the tournament was cancelled then shouldn’t a refund be rewarded to the players that entered the tournament?

Earl Burton

Hello Dan,

The quick answer to that question is that Borgata officials and the NJ DGE haven’t decided yet. There was probably $1 million in prize money left to divvy out between the final 27, so they have to decide something. My thought is that they will eventually decide to split the remaining prize pool up between the players based on chip counts. The second option would be to play out the tournament (not likely as players would have to return to finish the tournament). The final option, and the least likely, is that they will refund all players; the reason this is the least likely option is that players have already been paid on their finishes up to the final 27. Those players aren’t giving their $$$ back so everyone gets reimbursed.

Thanks for reading!


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