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On September 4th, poker pro Justin Smith will plead guilty to the crime of taking payment for Internet gambling, according to the New York Daily News.
Smith is one 34 people, several of whom are high-profile poker players, indicted in April for their roles in an illegal gambling ring tied to Russian organized crime.
According to the New York Daily News article, Smith and Edward Ting will plead guilty to reduced charges – Smith will plead guilty to taking money for Internet gambling and Ting to operating an illegal gambling business—both carrying a maximum prison sentence of up to five years in prison. They were not the first to cop a plea, and will likely not be the last as the case moves forward.
Smith and Ting will be the fourth and fifth of the 34 indicted individuals to enter a guilty plea. Last week, William Barbalat and Kirill Rapoport entered guilty pleas to the crime of aiding in unlawful activity and conducting an illegal gambling business, and back in July Bryan Zuriff (a Hollywood producer best known for his Showtime drama Ray Donovan) pled guilty to the charge of running an illegal sportsbook.
Among the numerous charges in the indictments (brought by the poker community’s favorite prosecutor, US Attorney Preet Bharara), the ring allegedly hosted illegal high-stakes poker games for celebrities and other well-to-do citizens, with money from the games laundered and ending up in the coffers of the Russian mob.
Other poker players caught up in the FBI dragnet include Abe Mosseri, Bill Edler, and Peter Feldman, but Justin Smith is likely the best known.
Even before his current legal woes Smith’s story was already remarkable.
As a teenager Justin Smith basically fell into online poker after a 2005 motorcycle accident left him with a pair of torn ACL’s and confined to a wheelchair while he healed. During his recovery a friend exposed Smith to online poker, and Justin quickly became a force at the online poker tables under the online handle “Boosted J”, quickly working his way up from penny-limit games to the nosebleed games on PokerStars by 2006.
In 2007 “Boosted J” branched out into tournament poker and won the FTOPS III Main Event along with the Player of the Series leader-board title, and was signed on as a “Red Pro” by the site.
In 2008 Smith attended the World Series of Poker Europe in London, where he cashed in two events. At the age of 21 Smith would make a name for himself as a tournament player, cashing five times in the 2009 WSOP and finishing in 3rd place in the $15k WPT Bellagio Cup V Main Event; all the while maintaining his place near the top of the online poker hierarchy.
Nowadays Smith is considered one of the top all-around players in poker –both in cash-games and tournaments– and is a regular in high-stakes cash-games live and online as well as in the high-roller and super-high-roller tournaments.