An amateur poker player who admitted to lying about stage-4 colon cancer diagnosis said he won’t give his donation money back because he now thinks he has breast cancer.
Rob Mercer admitted he lied about the serious health issue in a bid to start a GoFundMe and raise $10,000 to participate in the No-limit Hold’em World Championship.
Now, Mercer maintains that he does have cancer – but that he lied because he was embarrassed to admit it may be breast cancer.
He still hasn’t confirmed if he actually has breast cancer despite the scam.
‘At the end of the day I lied to a lot of people because I was scared to tell the truth,’ Mercer said. ‘And I guess I’ll have to pay for that,’ Mercer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Rob Mercer (pictured) lied about having terminal colon when he launched a GoFundMe to buy his way into the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this year
‘I did lie about having colon cancer. I don’t have colon cancer. I used that to cover my situation,’ he said.
According to the Review-Journal, Mercer received donations estimated between $30,000 to $50,000, including a suite at the Bellagio during the event.
Talking with the outlet, Mercer doubled down on his apology about lying but maintained that he does not plan to give the money back.
‘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,’ Mercer said in a phone interview.
‘I’m sorry for not being honest about what my situation was. If I would have done that from Day One, who knows what would have happened,’ he continued.
In total, his GoFundMe raised just over $12,000. It is no longer online.
One person identified as Benjamin Lee donated nearly half of the funds, a whopping $4,649. Others donated hundreds and one other person donated $1,000.
The GoFundMe set up by the amateur poker player raised more than $12,000
Mercer said he was contacted by a GoFundMe representative who told him the fund would not be allowed to accept additional gifts as it violates the terms of service.
Aside from the monetary donations, Mercer received perks including a suite at the Bellagio, which can cost several thousand dollars depending on several factors.
The authenticity of Mercer’s cancer diagnosis was first raised by poker influencer Doug Parscal Jr.
Parscal first responded to a message from Mercer in February, where he asked Parscal for help because he had cancer. The influencer offered to stake him – bankroll his game – for a tournament in Lincoln, California.
‘He responded and said, ‘I’m too sick right now, but I appreciate the offer,” Parscal said to the Las Vegas outlet. ‘And that was it.’
In June, however, Mercer reached back out to Parscal and asked him to spread the word about his GoFundMe to cover his buy-in for the WSOP event.
Parscal then used his own connections to help his fellow player raise money, including connecting him with famous player Nick Vertucci.
Vertucci then offered to cover the difference if Mercer’s GoFundMe did not end up reaching its goal – and the fundraiser ended up beating its asking pot.
But the player’s elaborate lies began to unfold after he was eliminated from the tournament.
Vertucci said that Mercer was seen gambling in the casino after his elimination, leaving many to wonder if he was spending fundraised money. When he was confronted, he became defensive.
Mercer used the money he raised to buy his way into the World Series of Poker
After that, the senior poker player distanced himself from the amateur.
It was only after another poker player and donor pulled him aside at the World Series of Poker event that they realized he may be lying about his health.
Cody Daniels – a chronically ill poker player who donated $2,500 to Mercer – said Mercer gave vague answers to his questions about his health while they were talking.
‘He was very vague on the answers,’ Daniels said. ‘Nobody wanted to say it. It was fishy to us, and obviously we weren’t the only ones.’
Parscal made the discovery after asking Mercer for proof of his cancer, in which he gave a MyChart.org note where he asked his doctor to confirm his diagnosis.
Mercer presented a similar note to the poker community in June and the message was never responded to by the doctor.
Parscal started to have doubts about Mercer’s story after the WSOP and received multiple phone calls from donors who expressed similar concerns.
After being confronted, Mercer deactivated his social media accounts.
He said he understood why it looked suspicious.
‘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,’ he continued.
Vertucci said he hopes that the man who scammed him and others really doesn’t have terminal breast cancer.
‘He’s still a human being and you need to care about every person on the planet regardless of what a big piece of cheese they could be,’ Vertucci said.
‘I don’t want the kid to have cancer. Ultimately, I’d rather him just be a bad person,’ the poker player continued.