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Court Allows Man to Play Poker to Avoid Jail

Like a badly written Hollywood script, a man’s life is in the hands of his poker game.

Fifty-nine-year-old poker player Samuel McMaster Junior plead guilty to 26 felony counts of defrauding the elderly and has six months to make restitution to his victims as part of a plea deal. Because McMaster’s income is through poker winnings since he has been banned from working in the securities industry, in an unprecedented move, the state of New Mexico is allowing him to travel out of state to poker tournaments so that he can earn the $7,500 monthly payments he is ordered to pay.

Sentencing has been delayed for six months while McMaster tries to win the $440,000 he owes his victims and if he falls behind by two payments within the six months, he’ll be sentenced immediately and face up to twelve years in prison. However, if the cards flop in his favor and he successfully makes the six payments to his victims, the judge will go easier on him when it comes to determining McMaster’s jail sentence. Talk about pressure at the table!

“We do have the unusual case here where we are agreeing to delay sentencing for a period of time to allow Mr. McMaster to set a track record as to whether or not he can pay back $400,000 in restitution,” said state prosecutor Phylis H. Bowman.

McMaster’s crimes? Asking his insurance clients to invest in promissory notes and CD’s issued by his company Santa Fe Financial Group Inc., promising a high interest return – but the money his clients invested went straight to McMaster’s bankroll. Some of his victims attended his hearing this morning – where McMaster was facing 84 years for the 26 felony counts prior to today’s plea agreement.

“There’s nothing to indicate that he is a violent threat to society,” Bowman added. “So based upon those factors, that’s what determines conditions of release. It has nothing to do with profession.”

After the hearing, McMaster had no comment for the press.

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