That’s a big reefer business

Shawn Sheikhan, whose poker claim to fame was being insufferable at the table in the mid-2000’s, has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in operating a drug distribution business. Sheikhan pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in June 2022. He must surrender to authorities by January 1, 2024.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California in a press release last June when Sheikhan was convicted, he and Sabriana Williams operated an illegal marijuana business called “Cannaland” which mostly supplied marijuana and related products to unlicensed dispensaries in Southern California.

The business also did its share of selling pot to customers itself.

In April 2021, law enforcement officers searched Cannaland and found over 3,000 of marijuana with a street value of more than $6 million, as well as five firearms. Some time after the officers conducted the search, Sheikhan and Williams got more guns to arm their security guards and continue the operation.

Sheikhan faced as many as 40 years behind bars and a $5 million fine. Four years is still a hefty sentence, but it’s a far cry from 40. He also had to forfeit $300,000 in cash.

His attorneys hoped the judge would be lenient, asking for just probation for their client. They argued that he showed remorse and that California’s marijuana laws have changed since Sheikhan committed the crimes. Some poker pros wrote letters in support, including PokerGO President Mori Eskandani.

A poker character

Sheikhan was somewhat of a star in the poker world in the mid-aughts thanks to his appearances on television. His leap into fame came at the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event, where he finished 11th. On his way to nearly making the final table, he got into it with Mike “The Mouth” Matusow.

The Main Event down to three tables, Sheikhan folded a hand pre-flop. When he saw the flop, however, he slammed his fist down on the table and said something to his rail, clearly indicating that he would have made a hand. Matusow, still in the hand, was pissed, telling Sheikhan to shut up because the hand was still in progress. Sheikhan kept mouthing off to The Mouth and after the hand, Matusow lit into him.

(Note: I was actually there, covering the WSOP for the first time. I believe I’m quoted, though not attributed in a book with some comment I made about Sheikhan’s behavior, though I’d have to rummage through my poker books to find it, as it’s been a long time.)

The two received ten-minute penalties for their behavior. Matusow eventually eliminated Sheikhan from the tournament.

After the 2005 WSOP, Sheikhan played up his role as a “bad boy” of poker and appeared on several poker television shows. He won $600,000 for his Main Event finish and has won a total of about $1.6 million in live tournaments in his career.

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