Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

Poker Player Headed to Jail Unless He Turns it Around at the Tables

Financial Scam Artist Has No Other Form of Income


Samuel McMaster needs to make a lot of money playing poker if he hopes to lessen his jail time.Many stories paint the poker industry in a positive light. Of the hundreds of professionals who make a living off of cards, many of them are upstanding citizens who donate millions to various charities around the world. They go out of their way to help other people and try to make positive contributions to their communities.

But some stories don’t paint the poker industry in a positive light. This is one of those stories.

ABC News and various media outlets came out with an article this week that highlights one of those ‘Oddly Enough’ news stories, a tale that seems as implausible as it is absurd. A man convicted of scamming more than 20 people, many of them senior citizens, will be allowed to try to pay off his debts by competing in poker tournaments around the country.

Samuel McMaster, a former stockbroker from New Mexico, had admitted to 26 felony charges of securities fraud. He owes $444,000 to nearly two dozen victims and has accepted a delayed sentencing deal. Over the next six months, he will need to make restitution payments of $7,500 a month to prove that he has the abilities and the fortitude to pay back his victims. If he misses two payments, he will go back to court for immediate sentencing, where he can face up to 12 years in prison.

According to McMaster’s lawyer, the former stock broker’s only source of income at the moment is poker. However, it’s not clear how much of an income that provides. News outlets are reporting McMaster used the $440,000 he stole for “personal uses and gambling.”

ABC reports that McMaster is a “poker pro” and a “card shark” in the article, but the author or the article also thought the World Series of Poker began in August just because it begins airing on ESPN in that month, so readers will have to take their information with a grain of salt.

According to Card Player’s database, McMaster has just a few paltry cashes in live tournaments in the past seven years, even though he has been playing poker tournaments at least as far back as 2003. Only two of them exceed the $7,500 total he will have to pay back on a monthly basis, and both of them came in $1,000 buy-in events.

The largest live cash of his life is for $12,550 for a second-place finish in a $1,000 buy-in event in a small field at Bellagio in 2008. He has never cashed in a WSOP event.

While he may primarily be a cash-game player, the court is allowing him to travel out of state specifically to play in tournaments.

While some detractors argue that the deal only encourages a person who may indeed be a loser at the poker tables to play more, New Mexico authorities insinuated that their hands were a little tied on this one. The IRS recognizes poker playing as a profession, and the judge apparently didn’t see enough of a reason to not let McMaster attempt to earn the money necessary to keep him out of jail.

Phyllis Bowman, the prosecutor in the New Mexico case, said that his release had more to do with security and little to do with the court’s belief that he would be successful in making this money at the poker tables.

“There’s nothing to indicate he is a violent threat to society,” said Bowman. “The conditions of his release have nothing to do with his profession.”

While that may be true, mainstream media outlets remain fascinated that a man can now lessen his jail time by being successful at the poker tables. ESPN Poker Editor Andrew Feldman was even asked to film a segment with Good Morning America on the story, according to his Twitter account.

While it seems like this story might not have a happy ending for McMaster, the former stockbroker still has a few months to try to turn it around.

“If he demonstrates an ability to successfully meet his restitution payments by playing poker, it potentially could sway the judge’s decision on final sentencing,” Kelly O’Donnell, New Mexico’s superintendent of the state’s regulation and licensing department, told ABC. “How much jail time he gets ultimately is up to the judge.”