Vallejo, California’s Rob Mercer, who participated in the 2023 World Series of Poker Main Event by raising donations after claiming he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, has acknowledged that that claim was false. GoFundMe, the charitable platform on which Mercer launched a donation initiative in June, has already begun refunding people who believed Mercer’s claims and helped fund his stated dream of playing in the WSOP Main.
On Tuesday, Mercer acknowledged the deception in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The LVRJ had previously covered Mercer’s participation in the July tourney, only to discover the unfortunate truth after being forwarded information from independent poker players who continued to be suspicious about Mercer’s claims.
“I did lie about having colon cancer. I don’t have colon cancer. I used that to cover my situation,” Mercer told the LVRJ. “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.”
‘Snoopdoug’ led efforts to verify or disprove Rob Mercer’s claims
Perhaps the leading player looking into Mercer’s story of having Stage 4 cancer was Doug Parscal Jr., who posts as Snoopdoug (@PuntingStacks) on X/Twitter. Parscal was among the first people to befriend Mercer online, and then innocently helped promote Mercer’s GoFundMe campaign to other players before later learning the truth.
Yesterday, Parscal posted a long, rambling message that Mercer had sent to Cody Daniels, a player who actually has been stricken with a debilitating condition and who also played in the WSOP Main Event in July. Daniels and Mercer briefly became friends at the WSOP, though Daniels told the LVRJ that he also became suspicious about Mercer’s claims.
In Mercer’s message to Daniels, he admitted the deception but also claimed that he thought he had undiagnosed breast cancer and was too embarrased to admit that publicly. The complete text of the message can be found here:
GoFundMe issues refunds from Mercer’s June-July donation campaign
The GoFundMe campaign that Mercer launched in June brought in more than $12,000, and according to Parscal and other posters, GoFundMe has already issued refunds for what was a fraudulent campaign:
GoFundMe also contacted Mercer about the deceptive campaign, but according to the LVRJ, Mercer has no plans to refund any money himself, because he believes he still might have some form of cancer and that people donated “because he was sick.” That even included a $2,500 donation made by Daniels in support of what Daniels believed was their shared WSOP dream.
The $12,000-plus that Mercer pulled in via GoFundMe is also just one part of his total take. Mercer also received numerous private donations, and he and his father were comped a suite at the Bellagio, across the Strip from the Paris and Horseshoe casinos where the WSOP took place. Estimates published in several mainstream outlets assert that between cash and other gifts, Mercer took in between $30,000 and $50,000.
The Bellagio gift of a suite also went sideways. Mercer’s father was involved in an incident inside the casino and was briefly detained by security, while Mercer himself was seen gambling on table games and demurred when questioned about the source of the funds he was using to gamble.