Michigan Pro Poker Player Sentenced to Probation for Illegal Gambling Operation

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Joshua Thatcher was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to running an illegal gambling operation in Marquette. Thatcher, 42, was a pro poker player from Gwinn, Michigan. He pleaded guilty on December 2, 2022, and was sentenced on January 19, 2023. He was charged with one count felony of Gambling Operations for his role in operating an unregulated poker room formally called 906 Poker Social located at 1200 S Front Street in Marquette, Michigan.

Closing Operation and Sentencing Thatcher

906 Poker Social opened on April 1, 2021. The operation was only open for a few months before closing on July 8, 2021, after a joint investigation by the Michigan Gaming Control Board Investigation section and the Michigan Department of Attorney General, who prosecuted the case. 

“Unregulated gambling operations do not offer Michigan residents the same protections provided through legal, regulated gambling,” said Henry Williams, executive director of, MGCB. “The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s mission is to ensure fair and honest gaming in Michigan, and we partner with the Michigan Department of Attorney General to investigate and eliminate illegal gaming activities across the state.”

In compliance with his plea, Thatcher handed over the items seized from the location and forfeited them to the state of Michigan. These items included six poker tables and $13,050 in cash, along with any additional money held in bank accounts tied to the investigation. 

About 906 Poker Social

Thatcher described his operation as a private membership club where members would gamble against one another. He would charge members a weekly, monthly, or annual membership fee as opposed to a traditional rake fee. Additionally, members must rent a chair to play for $10 per hour. Various games and live poker were offered at 906 Poker Social.  

906 Poker Social was the first membership-based cardroom in Michigan. Although we see membership-based cardrooms in other states, Michigan poker rooms are held in tribal and commercial casinos. 

Prior to opening 906 Poker Social, Thatcher communicated to several media outlets saying, “In the State of Michigan, you’re not allowed to take any type of rake or change any of the wagerings out of the pot,” explained Thatcher to the WRUP 98.3 radio station. “And so what we do, in order to make sure that we’re legal, is we end up having a membership fee…you end up buying tip chips and chair chips to pay for our chair rental fee. And essentially, that’s how it works.”

A section of Michigan law section 432.202 of the Penal Code reads “Gambling game does not include games played with cards in private homes or residences in which no person makes money for operating the game, except as a player.”

This is likely where the confusion for Thatcher arose. He was probably relying on the word “private” in this section to be key to the legality of his operation. While law officials saw the words “homes or residences” as the most pertinent words. 

Further Information Regarding Thatcher’s Felony

In May 2022, Joshua Thatcher was also charged with five additional felony counts. These included two counts of using a counterpart to commit a crime and a high misdemeanor count of permitting a gambling house for gain. Although when he plead guilty to a single felony count of Gambling Operations in December, the additional charges against him were dropped as a part of the plea agreement. 

“My office remains committed to upholding business rules and regulations, and that includes our state’s gambling laws,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “I appreciate the work the Michigan Gaming Control Board has done to protect Michigan residents and businesses.”

Nessel’s office prosecuted the case. Judge Jennifer A. Mazzuchi of the 25th Circuit Court in Marquette presided over the sentencing in Joshua Thatcher’s case.

With that being said, Joshua Thatcher continues to play poker and even travels to various poker rooms across the US. He creates content for his YouTube channel, PLO Professor. 

Mac Daniel is a writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: playonlinemichigan.com