2021 World Series of Poker

WSOP Insights: Six Things (Not) To Do When You Get Arrested

Poker and the law

Maurice “Mac” VerStandig is the managing partner of the VerStandig Law Firm, LLC, and focuses his practice on representing poker players, advantage gamblers, and other industry professionals in all manner of legal situations. He can be reached at 301-444-4600, or [email protected]

Maybe you will gingerly roll over in a state of semi-inebriated euphoria, as the last minutes of the 4:00 am hour melt away, only to discover your paid overnight company is ready to start slowly pushing up daisies. Perhaps, instead, you will find yourself in a haze of flashing lights, along the side of scantly-trampled backroad behind a Midwest cardroom, being instructed to strut heal-to-toe in a straight line. And you might just find yourself proudly towering over a stale boilermaker, in the warm humidity of a dive bar, admiring the shiner you have laid on a stranger who unwisely opted to run afoul of your moral code.

you will soon feel the stingingly cold clasp of handcuffs pulled too tightly against your wrists.

Regardless, though, of the foundation events, you will soon feel the stingingly cold clasp of handcuffs pulled too tightly against your wrists. You will pointlessly try to shake your arms into a less painful posture, while eyeing the awkward construct of a police car’s rear quarters. And you will shortly be trying to slow your mind as the same recitation of rights rendered cliché by Dick Wolf is authoritatively bellowed at you by a badged officer toting a sidearm and a taser.

At this particular moment in time, raising is never the GTO play – you can only call your way into an interrogation or fold into constitutionally-protected silence. The choice is an important one; busting here has some serious consequences.

Of course, each situation is as idiosyncratic as deep stacked river play; walking through every conceivable criminal act or allegation, and each correlative set of options, is simply not pragmatic. But a few baseline truisms may prove beneficial should you ever find yourself rapidly trying to get a read on one of Joe Friday’s understudies.

  1. Shut up
    No matter how pure your innocence may be, the inherent faults of the human memory, coupled with the Herculean stress of a rendezvous with law enforcement, will lead some faulty proposition to emerge from your lips. And should your purity not quite be on par with the driven snow, the problem will only be amplified. There is no alibi you can proffer sans counsel which will gain you a result superior to that you’d accomplish if it is uttered alongside a lawyer, and any foolish delusion to the contrary is merely a manifestation of your innate ego and arrogance. I do not care if you are arrested on suspicion of being the second gunman who shot JFK; let a lawyer explain that the time/space continuum renders it impossible for you, a 24-year-old woman who has never left Reno, to have been occupying a grassy knoll in Dallas in 1963. And no matter how fine the acting, please do not fall for the world’s oldest bluff: the “good cop” is not really your special friend who will take you off the list for his Memorial Day barbecue if you lawyer up.

  2. Process some quick analytical points
    If you are under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, take a moment to process some quick analytical points. If you are confident of your sobriety, walk the line, blow on cue, and offer up a vain for bloodwork – your sobriety will show. If you are confident you should not have been driving – and are lucky to only be staring down the judgmental eyes of a police officer and not the beady eyes of an innocent victim – politely decline and speak as few words as possible (odds are there is a microphone nearby, and your slurred speech can – and will – be used against you). Yes, in many states refusing to submit to a blood-alcohol test will lead to the suspension of your license, but bonding with Uber drivers is almost always preferable to trying to explain to a judge just how it is that you blew a .32 without pickling your liver.

  3. Form a clear recollection of the events
    Endeavor to look past the trauma of your disheveled mugshot and focus on forming a clear recollection of the events in which Officer Krupke is so interested. Your mind inherently discards details it deems immaterial with astonishing speed (try remembering what the person in the six-seat was wearing when you played yesterday); the more you can focus on the appearance, positioning, and perceptive visual biases of witnesses and environmental obstacles, the more your lawyer will be able to eventually enlist that minutia to your benefit. The crew of citizens destined to eventually take the stand at your trial are not presently sitting in a cell with society’s finest; if you ensure your precise recollections are superior to their tattered memories, your counsel can weaponize the refined intel.

  4. Put your pride aside
    Odds are that unless you actually did cameo the Zapruder film, a plea offer will come your way. And while you certainly should not fold to every bet, you also need to not take losing hands to showdown out of some misbegotten sense of pride or spite. The variants of plea arrangements are too numerous to contemplate in a single article, but ask your lawyer plenty of questions, do not be shy to ask for time to sleep on a proposal, and neither accept – nor reject – anything out of pride, spite, moral superiority, or any other emotion begotten of cockiness.

  5. Get a lawyer
    If you can afford private defense counsel, your money will be assuredly well spent. And, yes, representing poker players in their brushes with the law is a large part of what I do, and my firm would likely be delighted to take a look at your case. But even if you are purely busto, you have a constitutional right to counsel, and the public defenders across America tend to be spectacularly dedicated, hardworking, quality individuals, who almost always have a precise read on local prosecutors and judges.

  6. Stay off Twitter
    Oh, and one bonus point: Don’t brag about your criminal exploits on social media. Just because your Twitter account is private so your husband will not see all the young studs with whom you are consorting does not mean your trophy photo hovering above one of Joe Pesci’s famed holes in the desert will not make its way into evidence.
  • Six tips by @mac_verstandig in case you ever get arrested.

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