Borgata Poker Tournament Cancelled Over Counterfeit Chips, One Arrested

Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa was forced to cancel play in the opening event of its 2014 Winter Poker Open after finding counterfeit chips had been introduced into the tournament. State Police later charged Christian Lusardi, 42, of Fayetteville, N.C., with slipping the chips into the tournament. He was caught after trying to flush more counterfeit chips down an Atlantic City casino hotel toilet.

Borgata officials found “a significant number of counterfeit chips” in play at the first event of the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open in Atlantic City and ordered the event cancelled while an investigation by New Jersey State Police was underway.

A week later, Christian Lusardi, 42, of Fayetteville, N.C., was charged with attempting to rig the tournament by introducing the counterfeit chips in the tournament.

Police were led to Lusardi after it was found he allegedly attempted to flush 2.7 million more in counterfeit poker chips down the toilet of Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. According to published reports, guests at the hotel then complained of leaking pipes, which brought out casino employees to fix the problem. They then found the chips.

The discovery led to the Borgata determining that 160 forged chips—about 800K—had been introduced into Event 1 of the Winter Poker Open and forcing the cancellation of the tournament.

More than 4,800 entries were made in the multi-day tournament, which began January 14, but the cancellation came on what would have been the last day of the tournament, with only 27 players remaining. All prize money has been frozen while the investigation is underway.

Police then determined that Lusardi had been staying in the room at Harrah’s. However, Lusardi was arrested January 24 at a different hotel—the Super 8 Motel on Tennessee Avenue in Atlantic City. He was charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, among other charges.

Police have not released details of the investigation and it is unclear if Lusardi acted alone. He is being held in Atlantic County on $300,000 bail at last reports.

Borgata Senior Vice President Joe Lupo told the Press of Atlantic City that the attempted counterfeiting was one of the strangest situations he’s ever encountered.

“This is the first time we’ve had anything like this happen in our 10 years in business, and it’s the first time I’ve seen this in my 27 years in gaming,” Lupo said.

Lupo later released a press statement.

“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. “While this is a very positive development, the investigation by the DGE and the State Police is ongoing and Borgata remains under the order the DGE issued last week. Borgata will continue to work with the DGE and the State Police until this matter is concluded and a final order is issued by the DGE concerning the resolution of Event 1.”

Police said Lusardi introduced the counterfeit chips at several points in the tournament, which apparently helped him to win $6,814 during the tournament. The tournament, however, carried a $2 million prize pool guarantee with the winner to receive more than $372,000.

Still, Lusardi was reported to be among the tournament’s early chip leaders according to, which is live blogging the Winter Open. He won a $2,000 bonus for being the chip leader after Day 1A of the tournament, according to reports.

According to The Press, some tournament players at Borgata said someone with the screen name justbecauseican had been bragging about introducing the chips and flushing more down a toilet on the poker forum before play was suspended.

After the cancelled tournament, Borgata and state regulators examined the casinos remaining stock of chips and other events in the 18-day poker open have been played as scheduled. Tournament chips differ from regular casino chips and have no monetary value outside of tournament play.

The Borgata said the state ordered “that all unpaid prize money be held in trust until more details and resolution can be determined.” It is unclear if players will be refunded their buy-in and entrance fees of $560.