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Bankrolled Poker Player: 'I Did Lie About Having Colon Cancer'

GoFundMe shuts down Rob Mercer, who now says he might have another kind of cancer
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2023 1:15 PM CDT
Poker Player Staked by Donors Admits to Colon Cancer Hoax
Steven Jones, left, and Daniel Weinman compete in the World Series of Poker Main Event at Horseshoe Las Vegas on July 17, 2023.   (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

An amateur staked to a spot in the World Series of Poker Main Event by sympathetic donors after saying he was suffering from a terminal illness has admitted to making up the sob story. That was wrong, said Rob Mercer of Vallejo, California. "I did lie about having colon cancer," he said, calling it a spur-of-the-moment decision, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. He had solicited donations through GoFundMe starting in June to cover his participation in the July tournament. The gifts eventually were valued at $30,000 to $50,000, including a suite at Bellagio for him while he was competing. "I'm sorry for not being honest about what my situation was," Mercer told the Review-Journal.

In time, members of the poker world, including recreational player Doug Parscal Jr., grew suspicious. "It was a mix of emotions because on one hand, I wanted him to be lying," Parscal told CNN. "Because I don't want someone to be dying of that." Another donor was Cody Daniels, a poker player who truly is chronically ill. He gave $2,500 after receiving private donations of his own to enable him to enter the event. "I've spent half of my life in the hospital, and to do what he did is insane," Daniels said. "It's just a shame and one of the saddest things I've ever seen."

The GoFundMe page has been taken down, and donors have been told the site will issue them refunds. "Rob Mercer has been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers," the site said, adding that GoFundMe cooperates with any law enforcement investigations. Mercer said he invented the stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis because he suspected he had breast cancer, which he was embarrassed to admit. The American Cancer Society estimates that men have a one in 833 chance of getting breast cancer during their lifetime, per the Review-Journal. Mercer said he's not going to refund any donations because they were prompted by an illness that he still thinks he has, though it's undiagnosed. (More hoax stories.)

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