PCA 2013: Lawrence DiChristina, the anonymous hero

As Day 2 began at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Lawrence DiCristina was not the most famous man at his table. Six feet away sat a young bearded kid named Ashton Griffin, the overall leader of the tournament at the time.

All around them sat hundreds of famous poker players and celebrities. Even 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was in the room. Nobody was looking at DiCristina. What none of them knew was that the unassuming man in the black t-shirt was the central figure in one of the more important legal battles in recent history.


DiCristina ran a poker room in New York, one that drew the attention of authorities and eventually landed DiCristina before a judge. There were many judges and authorities in between the beginning and the end, but it was the most recent judge that made the case famous.

Federal judge Jack Weinstein issued a 120-page ruling that declared the case against DiCristina invalid because poker wasn't gambling, but rather a game of skill.

That happened in August, and now DiCristina is in the Bahamas.

"I have a wife and three kids," he said during a break from the action. "I went through a lot."

That family accompanied him here. His children--fresh off a day on the water slides--stopped by to say hello. Their eyes told the story of a Caribbean day in the sun. DiChristina, meanwhile, beamed with pride as he held his four-month-old daughter over his head.

A few high fives from his kids later, he was back in his seat and trying to make a run at the title here.

"I'm on a roller coaster," he said motioning to his chip stack. "But I hung in there, and I was patient."

The connection between his efforts here and his efforts at home isn't lost on him. To make it through his ordeals in New York required a perseverance and patience few could summon. In the end, DiCristina was vindicated, although prosecutors are currently appealing the case.

Now, DiCristina is enjoying to a week here to decompress, spend good the time with his family, and maybe, just maybe, win a poker tournament. He couldn't make it much deeper in the main event, but he's already looking to the side tournaments to prove his skill.

"Hopefully something good will happen, and it will be a better story," he said.