I woke up stiff and groggy but the cold
steel cot soon reminded me why
I was in an Ottawa Police jail cell. Project Robin Hood. They police
had been trying to find me for a week. A cross-Canada arrest warrant
had been issued for me yesterday and the four more hours on that cold
cot before my bail hearing made me curse my judgment. I should have
given myself up in the morning and been spared the night on the cold
steel bed. Giving up after a 4p.m. press conference made for a long
night waiting until court in the morning.
Laying on my back using my jacket as a
pillow, I saw the same kind of
graffiti on the ceiling I had noticed upon my first visit to the old
Ottawa jail as a manacled guest 18 years ago. Burned into the ceiling
were names and their lives of crimes: "Vince Violencia, assault with a
deadly weapon!" "Tommy Latrouble, robbery with violence!" So I had
also written my alleged indictable offence with my matches: "John
Turmel, gambling with cards!"
I would love to have seen the reaction
of officers patrolling Canada's
lonely highways when my arrest warrant came over the air: "Project
Robin Hood: Be on the lookout for John Turmel. Dangerous with a deck
of cards." That's right. The latest criminal to hit the wanted posters
was John Turmel, professional gambler. Though I had graduated from
Carleton University in Ottawa in electrical engineering, I had become
a professional gambler who has been in the lawful business of gambling
for over 20 years. I was wanted for having operated the biggest gaming
house ever raided in Canadian history.
Things had started to look bad for my bank-roll
the moment Bob Rae
became premier of Ontario and announced that they were becoming my
competition in the gambling business. As a poor-kid entrepreneur, I
had run against the rich-kid socialist in a 1982 by-election and I
doubt Bob can forget his drubbing in our debates. My government
competitor wasn't being run by someone who had happy memories of
tangling with me.
But the camel's back really started to
break last week when the Ottawa
Citizen ran a huge front-page story titled "It's no bluff: Casino
owners flush with success" detailing my 27 table 100- employee Casino
Turmel at the Topaz Entertainment Plaza in Ottawa. The story explained
how I had been raided many other times before finding a loophole in
the gambling laws which got my last casino acquitted of being a gaming
house in 1989. This explained why my Poker and Blackjack parlor was so
big and why it had operated in public for over a year and a half
without police intervention.
Having fought for so long and paid the
penal price to find a way to
run my kind of casino legally, I thought I'd finally punched through.
With that acquittal, I thought I had won myself many years of lead
time to establish my kind of legal casinos in Ontario before the
government could establish theirs. I had meetings with the police
every step of the way.
My winning formula for small and medium
"Mom-and-Pop" "Cheers- with-
chips" Poker and Blackjack Parlors went from 10 employees to 100 in
its third six months and grossed winnings of over $3 million. I had
announced expansion from 100 to 1000 employees in three more locations
right in front of Bob Rae's office at Queen's Park in Toronto. I hoped
for another $30 million in another six months. I'd have bet another
10-fold increase in jobs from 1,000 to 10,000 in another 6 months
across Ontario for another $300 million before taking my loophole to
the other provinces.
The real problem was that my kind of private
casino was open for
action 7 days a week 24 hours a day with Blackjack betting limits of
$300 while the limits were $10 for Bob Rae's government- licenced
casinos. With no rake-off at the Poker while Bob's casinos didn't have
poker at all, it was a combination that couldn't be beaten. I figured
my loophole could have made me a billionaire within a couple of years
while creating a new industry my way and tens of thousands of jobs in
the process. I had to be stopped or I'd get rich and spend all my
gambling winnings setting up charitable projects all around the world.
The Sheriff's men did, after all, call it "Project Robin Hood" for
I had gambled that if they left me alone,
I'd always be able to pay
the government it's 50% in income taxes from the second half of the
year. So I spent it all, after expenses, as fast as it came in. And I
spent it all on Greendollar Local Employment Trading Software
promotion and development and charity. So now I owe Revenue Canada
over $300 thousand which I'll never be able to pay.
Another problem was that after not one but two Provincial Court judges
at Ottawa had ruled that Turmel-style gambling does not fall under any
of the five (5) definitions of a gaming house, they hadn't appealed
because the two judges were right. My Poker and Blackjack Parlors in
Ottawa and Toronto did not fall under any of the five (5) illegal
Yet, I knew problems were brewing when
the Toronto Police telephoned
to inform me that I must close down my Toronto game after six months
in open operation or they would charge me no matter what the Ottawa
judges had said. I wonder how many times the Sheriff told Jesse James
to take his illegal gain and get out of town or he'd be charged. If my
Toronto Poker and Blackjack parlor was really illegal, why did they
let me get away? I can only conclude they were on shaky ground and
knew it. It was political rather than judicial force I was dealing
with. Still, to avoid the legal harassment of my dealers and gambling
acquaintances, I closed down rather than be charged which might have
also emboldened the Ottawa police to raid my Ottawa game.
The proper procedure to challenge my Ottawa
Topaz Parlor would have
been for the Crown to have made an application to the Ontario Court of
Appeal for an extension of time to appeal the first two acquittals.
Supposedly, only a panel of three judges of the Court of Appeal may
conclude differently than the trial judges. The problem with doing it
the right legal way through the Court of Appeal was that it would have
left me acquitted and open while we argued. And they had to close me
down or I'd get too big.
They faced another problem in dealing with
me. Ever since my first
raid when I went broke paying a lawyer to defend me, I've been doing
my own legal representation. Rather than be limited by the money I
have to pay a lawyer, it's allowed me to fight as hard as possible for
the least money. Taking on that legal responsibility has also allowed
me to become a guerrilla lawyer for hundreds of other cases. I had won
my case in 1989 myself which might reinforce my case for being not
only an expert in the mathematics of gambling but also an expert in
the law of gambling.
To stress that only the Court of Appeal
had power to overturn the
first two acquittals and let them raid my Topaz game, I made that
application for them and offered to consent to the extension of time
for the Crown to appeal since they themselves hadn't thought to ask.
The Crown didn't want to appeal and Justice Finlayson couldn't grant
the extension they themselves would not ask for.
So the pressure continued to build. There
were television interviews.
There were full-page ads in the papers. The politicians were
complaining on the media. The Mayor of Ottawa had bemoaned her having
to wait for government permission to open a casino while I was just
going ahead and doing it. Other politicians were demanding something
be done. You just don't expect to survive that kind of heat even if
Sure enough, two days after the big front-page
news story, my cellular
phone-call rang and Sgt. Bob Cleary of the Ottawa Police Services
informed me that they and the Ontario Provincial Police had just
raided Casino Turmel in "Project Robin Hood." The Charter Right not to
be charged again once acquitted seemed not worth the paper it's
printed on when the government wants to stop you.
Worse news, they were also throwing in
the silly charges of keeping a
bookmaking house, being in the business of bookmaking and controlling
from monies from bookmaking. As bookmaking is on events you don't
participate in and gaming is on events where you do like cards,
bookmaking charges against my card games have always been thrown out.
Adding bookmaking charges they will have to later withdraw or lose was
simply to make their weak case look stronger.
The police were also searching for the $3 million as the proceeds of
my crime. It had been different in Toronto. There, the police had told
me to get out of town with my ill-gotten gains or they'd charge me.
The Ottawa Police gave me no such choice.
If I lose, penalties might be stiff. The
new Proceeds of Crime laws
mandate that I be left broke to avoid going to jail. Luckily, as
reported in the Ottawa Sun Quote of the Week: "I knew they weren't
going to let me keep it so I spent it all." But I faced fines of
millions which meant up to 10 years in jail for a broke man who can't
buy his way out.
They had wanted me to come to Ottawa and
give myself up to their
search warrant or they'd issue an arrest warrant for me. Usually,
keepers of gaming houses are arrested on the search warrant but I'd
been expecting them and had hidden out for months while my Ottawa
casino hummed along. I was in no mood to save them trouble and said I
had to prepare my defence before giving myself up. Sgt. Cleary kept
calling my lady, Pauline Morrissette, asking that I give myself up but
I stayed holed-up in Toronto writing an Affidavit in verse, iambic
pentameter, of over 400 lines telling my story which took a week.
Finally, the Ottawa police announced at
a press conference that a
Canada-wide arrest warrant had been issued. I made a bee-line to
Ottawa to give myself up.
The next day, many of our 122 casino employees
marched outside the
courthouse to protest losing their jobs. But there was nothing that
anyone was going to be able to do about it. Now that the government
had decided to use the justice department to attack me again, even if
I am acquitted again, the head-start I had in the industry will be
gone. If they show no case for charging a formerly-acquitted person
again, it will be safe to say that I'm one of the biggest robbery
victims in Canadian history. What's even more unusual is that it was
the Government of Ontario doing the robbing. Should I be acquitted
once again, you can bet I'll sue them for the billion.
Now, here I was, an electrical engineering
graduate publicly manacled
in my home-town once again. Carleton University, my Alma Mater
certainly couldn't have been very proud. They had many clues I wasn't
going to be an ordinary engineer. My engineering project was a
computer program on Poker after I'd aced a new mathematics course
which Carleton University had just authorized and which directly led
me to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and my life of crime: Math 69.140, the
Mathematics of Gambling.
I had first started playing Poker in high
school. I was a winner in
general and we played off and on with school chums for the next two
years until I graduated. I also remember one night I lost everything I
had and it was a most depressing experience. I only lost $2,000 more
than I had once in my life and was lucky that Prof. Schneider was
there to bail me out. I don't think I ever over-bet my bankroll again.
Several of my high-school classmates went
to Carleton University where
we continued playing Poker in the student lounges. In 1974, Carleton
University offered a course unique to Canada which was to change my
life's direction called Math 69:140, the "Mathematics of Gambling"
taught by Dr. Walter Schneider who had also taught me my second-year
engineering mathematics and played in our friendly legal no-rake-off
In the gambling course, I learned about
games that can be beaten and
games that cannot. I learned how to beat Blackjack. I turned out to be
Walter's star pupil and he gave me an A+. After reading several books,
my winning rate at Poker increased by 150% from $8 an hour to $20 an
One day, Walter and I were having lunch
at a local restaurant and hit
upon the notion of an "optimal betting" curve which could guarantee,
when chasing a better hand, catching all situations where the odds are
good enough to call and avoiding all situations where they are not
good enough to call and, as a corollary, to guarantee, when in the
lead, never giving an opponent a situation where the odds are good
enough for him to call.
Such a computer analysis had never been done and Walter suggested that
I apply to have "A COMPUTER ANALYSIS OF CANADIAN STUD POKER" accepted
as the fourth-year engineering project. Canadian Stud, the most
popular game in Canada at that point, was played just like five card
stud but where one pair was beaten by a four straight which was in
turn beaten by a four flush which was then beaten by two pairs. A
simple variation. My project was presented to the 1976 Third
Conference on Gambling at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas on Dec. 21,
1976. I have been accredited six times by courts in Ontario and Quebec
to give expert testimony in matters related to gambling.
Using the betting system devised in "A
Computer Analysis of Canadian
Stud," the slope of my Poker winnings at Canadian Stud went up another
150%! Rather than become a professional electrical engineer, I chose
to specialize in the profession of gambling, "statistical
engineering," and became the teaching assistant of the Math 69:140
course for four more years until 1978 when Prof. W. Schneider had to
dismiss me for running a highly-publicized Blackjack game in the
Carleton Faculty Club as part of my legalization campaign.
In November 1974, I went on my first 5-day
4-night junket to the
Thunderbird Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. I needed to bring a bankroll
of $3,000 and had to bet a minimum of $15 for at least 10 hours over
the 5 days. I didn't have $3,000 so I approached my mother who went to
the bank to borrow the equivalent of 2.5 years worth of rent to send
me to Vegas to take on the pros. That's what I call faith. Not many
mothers would go borrow to provide their sons with money to gamble. It
sure did pay off though. Maybe my proficiency in betting on winners is
I learned the Revere Point Count system
a few days before leaving and
after playing a total of 40 hours, I ended up with a $1600 profit. A
nice start to my junketing career. I went on junkets to almost all the
casinos in Vegas. From 1974 to 1979, I traveled on over 55 different
junkets. The most unique was a trip aboard Caesar's Chariot, a
converted 707 that seated only 45 passengers. It was the most opulent
luxurious plane I've ever seen.
Then the bubble burst. I was on my second
junket in a row to the
Hilton Hotel. I had won $5,000 on my first all-expense paid junket
there and was quickly up another $5,000 on my second trip. The Hilton
offered one deck in those days which I could beat at about 4%, a very
hefty advantage. I was betting from two hands of $25 up to 3 hands of
$200. After a particularly great session and after a particularly
great feast, before I could start playing again, a pit boss took me
aside and said "Mr. Turmel, we would appreciate it if you would
restrict your action to the craps tables." I asked why. "You mean you
don't know?" I said "You've got your fair chance to break me." He
answered "No, sir, we have no chance at all." And that was it for the
Hilton. No more wonderful complimentary junkets at one of the nicest
Even though I tried to better disguise
my play at other hotels, the
Sands hotel's pit bosses eventually became hostile and I noticed the
words "Do not invite" written across my file as I checked out.
I knew that as long as no one was excluded
from being the bank at
Blackjack, I could play it in Canada so I developed "U-bank" rules and
started running Blackjack games around Ottawa for the next 20 years.
Nevertheless, up until 1988, I was raided, charged and convicted of
keeping a common gaming house six times. But, finally, after being
raided in 1988, Judge Fontana was the first judge to see the fairness
of my rules and acquit the game.
In 1985, I began hosting the annual Ottawa
Region Holdem Poker
Championships. In 1991, I began hosting the annual Canadian Open
Holdem Poker Championships won by Greg Petriv of Toronto. Bill Liston
of Ottawa won it in 1992. Robby Gingras, who has gone on to win some
other major tournaments in California and was recently seen on
television at the Toronto Holdem tournament, won in 1993. Tony
Laughing Jr., son of Tony Laughing who ran the Akwasasne New York
Indian reserve's largest Poker palace before being shut down, won in
1994. Steen Rassow from Cardinal, Ontario won in 1995. He and his wife
Lynn are well-known in Poker rooms around the States and Canada. Al
Krux, another well-known professional from Rochester, came second.
I have also been most prominent in politics and law relating to casino
gambling in Canada and have been the subject of many legal and
political precedents. I am the gambler who will be in the 1997
Guinness Book of World Records for the most electoral gambles (41)
and most electoral losses (41). My electoral program offered to get
governments to run their dollar currency systems like casinos run our
chip currency systems by backing money up one-to-one with collateral
with no interest to generate inflation or unemployment.
In 1991, I was charged again in Quebec
where they showed a distinct
linguistic inability to grasp Judge Fontana's reasoning and convicted
me anyway. Upon returning to Ontario where the English language posed
no such difficulties, I was again in 1993 charged with the same
offence I'd been acquitted of.
Since that conviction, I've been playing
Poker professionally in legal
casinos in Ottawa, Toronto, Atlantic City and Biloxi, Mississippi.
My engineering specialty is condensing
and systematizing masses of
statistical gambling information into mechanical fingers-and- toes
applications. Call it mental software.
The system I derived and published in the
to quickly determine "a priori" odds and the Two-Step Point Count
system to determine the necessary calling odds are good examples of
reducing great masses of information to a simple usable algorithm.
In 1989, I engineered an exceedingly fast
system for making very close
approximations of the required pot odds using what I called the Turmel
Two-Step Poker Point Count System which anyone can use to almost
instantaneously evaluate their Holdem hand.
The other Poker Power Tools are all easy
to learn and of untold value.
I seem to make use of them all on a regular basis and would bet that
they become part of every professional poker player's arsenal of
I've been using it since I devised it in
1989 and my success at the
tables everywhere is testament to its power. The one thing the
Canadian Stud analysis discovered was that the smaller your edge, the
more aggressive you have to be. Having a system which helps you
determine when you have those small edges and forces you to become
super aggressive startles people when they finally see your cards.
I've been called names ranging from "the Maniac" "Raising John" to
"the Engineer" or "the Professor." At the same game!
I've never seen any other consistent winners
play like me. This system
calls for raising wars on cards one doesn't expect to able to raise
with and people are always punished more when you hit a hand they
didn't expect you to hit. People are always rolling their eyes when
they finally see the "crap" I caught with to take down a pot. One of
the better players said: "I won't play with you without real power
because I don't need the variance" after he had just folded a stronger
hand pre-flop than I had raised with. When the Turmel Two-Step Poker
Point Count System becomes widely-known, I'm sure Holdem will be
played much more aggressively by all.
Details of the Poker Tool engineering. Most Poker readers will find
all the Poker Power promised by this book on the first page of the
Poker section with the Turmel Two-Step.
Details of the battle to legalize casinos in Canada detailing the
fight over the biggest gaming house raid in Canadian history.
Details how I spent millions in winnings on the repairing the faulty
engineering design of our global money system in an attempt to abolish
the interest rate rake-off. Quite the project which has involved
political, legal, and barter activities of unique implications. It's
just as useful to save money in the outside economy as it is to win
money inside the casino economy.
a comment to John Turmel