An amateur poker player who claimed to have terminal cancer so he could raise money to enter the World Series of Poker Main Event admitted he was lying about his diagnosis.
Rob Mercer, 37, of Vallejo, California, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an exclusive telephonic interview Tuesday that he did not have terminal stage 4 colon cancer when he started a GoFundMe account in June to fulfill his dream of playing in the WSOP's $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold'em World Championship.
'I Don't Have Colon Cancer'
"I did lie about having colon cancer. I don't have colon cancer. I used that to cover my situation," Mercer said. "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."
"I'm sorry for not being honest about what my situation was. If I would have done that from Day 1, who knows what would have happened."
Mercer Received Between $30K to $50K in Donations
Mercer set up a GoFundMe page titled "Help Me Play the Main Event" with his terminal cancer diagnosis. Hereceived donations estimated to be valued between $30,000 to $50,000, including a suite at Bellagio in July during the WSOP event.
The donations also include $2,500 he was given by Cody Daniels, a chronically ill poker player from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, who was similarly staked into the Main Event.
Mercer Has No Plans to Return the Funds, GoFundMe Starts Offering Refunds to Donors
Mercer confirmed he was contacted by a representative from GoFundMe for violating its terms of service. He said he has no plans to repay the money since he believes he has undiagnosed breast cancer and the donations were made because he was sick.
Late Wednesday, people who donated to Mercer received notifications from GoFundMe that it was providing refunds.
Suspicions Raised Among Poker Community After Mercer Failed to Provide Proof
Mercer's confession is the latest twist in a bizarre tale that has captivated the poker community since questions about the validity of Mercer's illness were first raised publicly by budding poker influencer Doug Parscal Jr. a month ago.
Parscal, a recreational poker player from Martinez, California, who goes by the handle "SnoopDoug" on social media, Parscal saw a post from Mercer asking for help because he had cancer and offered to stake him in a tournament at Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, California.
When Mercer was first vetted by the poker community in June, he produced a note on MyChart.org to his doctor asking for a copy of his cancer diagnosis. But the doctor never responded, and no one followed up with Mercer.
Parscal, prominent poker player Nick Vertucci and others incorrectly assumed Mercer had produced proper proof of his diagnosis and went forward with his story.
Last month, Parscal asked him to show proof once again and Mercer came back with a MyChart.org note that was nearly identical to the one he used two months prior in an effort to prove his cancer diagnosis.
After Parscal confronted him about the similarities of the notes, Mercer deactivated his social media accounts and went into a self-imposed exile, further raising suspicions.
"Obviously I was just trying to keep up with my story," Mercer said. "I didn't want to get exposed because it looks bad. It does look bad. I lied. I'm not going to deny that. I lied. I should have just been transparent and comfortable with what is going on with me and tell people what was happening."