Poker player admits he lied about having terminal cancer to get donations

An amateur poker player has come clean that he lied about his terminal cancer diagnosis after he accepted thousands of dollars in donations to play at the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas.

Rob Mercer, of Vallejo, Calif., admitted to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he made up having Stage 4 colon cancer.

“I did lie about having colon cancer. I don’t have colon cancer. I used that to cover my situation,” Mercer told the outlet. “What I did was wrong. I shouldn’t have told people I have colon cancer. I did that just as a spur-of-the-moment thing when someone asked me what kind of cancer I had.”

Mercer, 37, set up a GoFundMe page in June to raise money to meet the US$10,000 buy-in for the No-limit Hold’em World Championship.

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The Review-Journal reports he received about US$30,000 to US$50,000 in donations, as well as a complementary stay at a suite in the Bellagio. He even received a US$2,500 donation from poker player Cody Daniels, who is chronically ill.

“I’m sorry for not being honest about what my situation was. If I would have done that from Day One, who knows what would have happened,” Mercer told the newspaper.

Mercer came clean about the lies after fellow poker players who had helped him raise money became suspicious about the status of his health and began looking into his claims.

He said he has now been more or less banished from the poker community.

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However, Mercer told the Review-Journal that he won’t be refunding the money that people donated because he believes he has undiagnosed breast cancer. He confirmed to the paper that a representative from GoFundMe contacted him for violating its terms of service.

Late Wednesday, people who donated money to Mercer via GoFundMe were notified that they’d be getting refunds, the paper reported.

The World Series of Poker has yet to make a public statement on the incident.

— With files from The Associated Press

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