Four weeks ago, the FBI conducted a raid at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV where they allege that famed gambling guru Wei Seng Phua, aka Paul Phua, and his son, among others, were conducting an illegal sports betting ring from the most expensive suites atop the hotel during the World Cup. According to the court filings, the evidence is stacked against them, but a group of high-profile professional poker players say otherwise. Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl were two such poker pros who came to their defense, going so far as to help post the exorbitant bail money to set them free.
Nevada authorities busted into the father and son’s $25,000/night suite on the evening on July 9 and took them and one other man into custody. They then proceeded to enter several adjacent rooms, arresting a multitude of other individuals who the police allege were also involved in the illegal soccer betting ring. Richard Yong Seng-chen and his son, Yong Wei-kin, were also named among the arrested.
Paul Phua is a Malaysian betting king known to travel the world, primarily Macau and Monte Carlo, where wagers of 7-figures are not uncommon. Richard Yong is also a high-stakes gambler who’s pulled in over $4.4 million from live poker events, including an 8th place finish in the $1,000,000 buy-in Big One for One Drop of the 2012 WSOP, earning him $1.2 million. The majority of Yong’s poker winnings all came from super high rollers. In fact, he’s only recorded cashes in 6 live events; 5 of which harvested a minimum prize of half a million USD.
Hobnobbing with the most successful poker pros in the world, it shouldn’t be too surprising that big-name players like Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl are so familiar with the accused gentlemen, but they don’t just consider themselves acquaintances. Both Ivey and Robl, along with a throng of other poker pros that includes 5x WSOP bracelet winner and 2008 WSOP Champ John Juanda, have taken the time to show their support for the accused.
Juanda has known Yong for many years and counts him among his most esteemed friends. In a personally authored letter of character that was delivered to the Vegas courts, Juanda called the Malaysian betting king “a man of honor and high integrity”, going on to say that Yong is a “kind hearted family man loved by everyone around him”.
Ivey and Robl took their support of the alleged illegal sports betting operators one step farther. Andrew Robl, who has more than $3.5 million in live poker tournament cashes including a $1mm win at the 2013 Aussie Millions$100k Challenge NLHE event, posted $1,500,000 of his own money towards the bail of the alleged culprits. The court records also show that 10x WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey posted another $500,000 towards the cause.
Authorities claim that Phua and his son had been staying at the exorbitant suite for two weeks, and were seated in front of their laptops with live online betting sites and instant messaging windows open at the time of the raid. In two adjacent rooms, the FBI claim to have entered to witness a group of individuals with numerous computers and three TVs, all tuned to World Cup soccer games. When the police ordered everyone to put their hands up, they said that one woman in particular raised just one hand, while continuing to type with the other on a sports betting site.
Most of the accused are set to be arraigned this week in Las Vegas. They face charges of running an illegal, international betting scheme, said to be worth billions of Hong Kong dollars. None have spoken publicly on the matter, but statements via their lawyers revealed that they intend to fight all allegations with a plea of not guilty.