Poker seems to be going through a bit of a renaissance right now. Thanks to the popularity of online legal gambling, poker is sneaking back up the relevancy rankings.
Los Angeles high-stakes player Gal Yifrach was helping poker make this climb, appearing often on Southern California live-streamed poker shows such as Live at the Bike. Yifrach made news when he won a WSOP bracelet in 2018, and he finished third in last year’s $50,000 High Roller No–Limit Hold’em tournament.
Yifrach is back in the spotlight this year, but for all the wrong reasons.
Facing two felony counts
According to an incident filed on March 3rd, Yifrach has been running an illegal gambling business since 2018. Because of this, he is facing two felony counts:
- Conducting an illegal gambling business
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering
“I am shocked to hear this,” says Nick Vertucci, co-owner of Hustler Casino Live and an acquaintance of Yifrach. “There was no indication of anything when he played in our games. Gal always seemed like just a regular nice guy. It saddens me to hear of this.”
The main driving proponent of Yifrach’s alleged illegal gambling business was online slots.
Yifrach was apparently “supplying, operating, and maintaining video slot machines and devices,” according to the feds.
The government first caught wind of this in 2018. Officials were tipped off about an alleged illegal gambling business involving the poker pro. They began to monitor his cell phone, and found a handful of pieces of evidence.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence is a text message to Yifrach’s partner about “cleaning the cash.” This directly ties into Yifrach’s second charge, which I will break down below.
More on money laundering
The main focal point of the money laundering accusations revolves around the exchanging of “illegal” money into “legal” money. One of Yifrach’s methods, according to the lawsuit, was to bring the money he received from the illegal gambling business and exchange it for chips at a casino. He would then exchange those chips for checks, and deposit those checks into his bank account.
Yifrach and Shalom Ifrah, the co-defendant, “used and agreed to use, multiple methods to exchange cash proceeds of an illegal gambling business for other items of value to conceal the fact their income was derived from operating an illegal gambling business,” the lawsuit states.
If convicted, Yifrach can face up to five years in prison for the illegal gambling charge alone. The money laundering and the conspiracy charges add another 20 years onto the case.