Professional poker player Joshua Thatcher was recently sentenced to 12 months probation following his guilty plea to a felony for his role in operating an illegal poker room in 2021.
As part of Thatcher’s plea deal admitting involvement in gambling operations, the 42-year-old forfeited all seized items to the state of Michigan, including $13,050 in cash, six poker tables, and money held in bank accounts connected to 906 Poker Social, which was located in Marquette.
“Unregulated gambling operations do not offer Michigan residents the same protections provided through legal, regulated gambling,” said Henry Williams, executive director, Michigan Gaming Control Board, in a statement. “The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s mission is to ensure fair and honest gaming in Michigan, and we partner with the Michigan Department of Attorney General to investigate and eliminate illegal gaming activities across the state.”
Five other felony counts filed against Thatcher last May, as well as a high misdemeanor count of permitting a gambling house for gain, were dismissed.
A quick open and close after investigation
Thatcher’s idea for 906 Poker Social came to him while he was playing in Texas, one of a handful of states that allowed card rooms to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. After consulting with his attorney, he opened 906 Poker Social in April 2021, insisting it was a legal endeavor at the time.
He told MI Bets shortly after opening that “the way state law works, two individuals can make a wager between each other as long as no one is making money from that wager except for the bettors themselves.” Thatcher charged membership fees at varying levels — weekly, monthly, and annual — and also a $10 per hour chair rental fee.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board and Michigan Department of Attorney General felt otherwise about the legality of the poker room, conducting a joint investigation that resulted in 906 Poker Social being shut down barely three months after its opening. The Michigan Department of Attorney General prosecuted the case against Thatcher.
“My office remains committed to upholding business rules and regulations, and that includes our state’s gambling laws,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “I appreciate the work the Michigan Gaming Control Board has done to protect Michigan residents and businesses.”