New York ‘Poker Shark’ Arrested in Jontay Porter Case Denies Flee Attempt


One of four New York men arrested for alleged involvement in the Jontay Porter betting scandal has denied that he was trying to flee the country when he was detained at JFK International last week.

Long Phi Pham, Bruce Pham, Jontay Porter, NBA, Ammar Awawdeh, Timothy McCormac, Mahmud Mollah
Long “Bruce” Phi Pham, furthest back, pictured with his co-conspirators (right to left) Ammar Awawdeh, Timothy McCormac, and Mahmud Mollah in a restaurant at an Atlantic City casino where they allegedly placed the fraudulent bets. (Image: US Dist. Court for the Eastern Dist. of New York)

Long Phi Pham, 38, was apprehended by the FBI on June 3 as he attempted to board a one-way flight to Australia.

During his bail hearing at Brooklyn federal court Wednesday, the self-described “poker shark” told the judge via his lawyer he was in fact on his way to a poker tournament at the Star Casino in Sydney when he was arrested.  He was carrying $12K in cash, $80K in cashier’s checks, and three cell phones.

Pham’s lawyer, Michael Soschnik, explained to reporters after the hearing that his client ranked in the “one percent of poker players in the world.”

Manipulated NBA Games

Pham was part of a group that profited from bets on NBA games involving Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter when they knew he would be exiting early, according to prosecutors.

The group won more than $2 million by taking the under with DraftKings and FanDuel on Porter’s performances in two games where it had been agreed he would fake injury. Most of the winnings were frozen when the operators detected suspicious betting patterns.

Prosecutors believe Porter agreed to participate in the scheme because he was heavily indebted to the group due to a gambling problem. The NBA banned the player for life in April for breaching its betting regulations.

Pham is facing wire fraud charges for his alleged involvement in the plot. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak granted him bail Wednesday at $750K, although she expressed reservations.

“I think he is trying to flee the country to evade prosecution. I am sitting here today with very serious doubts that I am making a big mistake,” she said.

What Poker Festival?

There was no poker festival scheduled this month at the Star with the kind of fields and prize pools that might tempt the top 1% of poker players to fly to the other side of the world at a time when the World Series of Poker is in full swing in Las Vegas.

Star is hosting its regular roster of low to medium buy-in events. However, that might suit Pham – or at least the only “Long Pham” listed on the Hendon Mob database of live tournament rankings. The listed player, who may or may not be the defendant, is ranked 288,478th in the world, with gross tournament earnings of just $3,336. This player also likes low-to-medium buy-in events, ranging from $230 to $500. 

Pham faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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