Big player: Phua playing at the 2014 European Poker Tour (EPT) Monte Carlo.
PETALING JAYA: Paul Phua, the Malaysian nabbed in Las Vegas for allegedly running a gambling ring linked to World Cup betting, is believed to be a moneyman who made his millions from high-stake poker games.
Also known as Phua Wei Seng, 50, he had hit the jackpot in such poker games, winning millions of dollars in tournaments around the world.
Among others, he earned US$2.3mil (RM7.31mil) from playing in three international tournaments, including winning the Aspers £100,000 (RM543,081) High Roller in London.
According to poker sites and forums, he is also well known in the Macau circle.
He is apparently quite a legend on local sites.
Nicknamed “Sabah kia”, he was referred to as the “boss” of SBO Bet although others believed that he is from Miri, Sarawak.
Phua made the news when reports emerged on Tuesday that he was nabbed by the FBI together with three other Malaysians, including his son Darren, 22.
Also arrested were four others from Hong Kong and China.
Not much is known about Phua, who is reportedly worth at least US$400mil (RM1.27bil).
Site Poker Listings described his fortune as “a bottomless pile”.
He is also said to be a high-ranking member of a triad involved in gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking.
There was talk that Phua’s arrest was “unfortunate” as he had made plans to retire next year.
In an interview with Caesars Interactive Entertainment vice-president Ty Stewart, Phua was noted for his spending power.
“Guys like Phua are accustomed to playing really big,” Stewart was quoted as saying.
In an article on Macau Business quoting the South China Morning Post, Phua allegedly managed eight VIP tables at the Macau Sands Shanghai Room and was responsible for billions of dollars in turnover in just three months.
According to reports, Phua’s attorney David Chesnoff denied in court that Phua was linked to organised crime.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug 4.