Two poker players are now battling against the state of Iowa, which they claim seized their poker winnings unlawfully.
William Davis and John Newmer-zhycky, both professional poker players, were stopped after taking part in the Illinois leg of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in April 2013. The court documents do not clearly state the reason they were stopped, but the poker players say that it is because their car had out-of-state registration plates.
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According to a police report by Trooper Justin Simmons, a law-enforcement officer in Illinois had expressed concerns about a red vehicle. But in a statement made when the two poker pros protested against the unlawful seizure of their poker winnings, the officer said that he had no idea why the authorities had stopped the red car or why they believed it was associated with criminal activities. Simmons, who had been following the poker players’ car for ten minutes, said that Newmerzhycky did not signal when he overtook a black SUV, but the poker players’ lawyers argue that a video taken from Simmon’s cruiser clearly shows the poker player turning on his signal.
Initially, Simmons just wanted to warn them, but then asked if they had any cash or drugs in their car. Although the poker players had $100,000, they said that they did not have any cash on them. Simmons then used a sniffer dog, which found a grinder with traces of marijuana on it and the cash.
The police then seized the cash and charged the two for illegal possession of drug-grinding equipment. The Iowa police then contacted the California police, who searched the two players’ houses and found marijuana. Since both players have medical marijuana cards, the charges of illegal drug possession against them were dropped.
Although Iowa tried to keep the poker players’ money, the players moved court and got $90,000 of it back. Since they had to use a considerable part of it on lawyers’ fees, they were furious.
This story serves as a warning to poker players against carrying a lot of money on them as the police in Iowa can keep 100% of the cash they seize from cars. Carrying huge amounts of cash is essential for those who play poker professionally, and stories of law-enforcement officers harassing poker players caught with huge amounts of cash are not uncommon. In many cases, state authorities think nothing about seizing poker bankrolls and keeping them.