Jordan shuns Oz trip for high-stakes poker

The real reason has emerged as to why Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan cancelled his Australian trip this month – and it has nothing to do with the prolonged NBA lockout.

An eye-witness revealed to The Public Apology that he saw the six-time NBA champion being ushered into a VIP room at Las Vegas’s famed Bellagio Casino on Saturday night, where a high-stakes poker game was purportedly taking place.

Among the alleged participants were leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Wall Street execs, rapper Bryan ‘Birdman’ Williams and Jack Nicholson.

The witness said Jordan had attempted a common disguise – the baseball cap and sunglasses – aptly described as “something Leonardo Di Caprio would wear – you want to give the impression that you’re famous enough to disguise youself, but you still secretly want everyone to know it’s you.”

"Yeah, it is me. You got me."

Jordan was expected to head Down Under this November as part of the USA Presidents’ Cup team in Melbourne; he was also to attend The Lakes tournament in Sydney and take part in a Gatorade product launch.

The no-show has been blamed on the ongoing NBA lockout – the 48-year-old is a majority owner of the fledgling Charlotte Bobcats – but word of a $20 million-plus buy-in proved too much to resist.

A high profile, former Wall Street executive, known to be one of Jordan’s closest “gambling buddies” told The Public Apology that winning money from the golf/cigar/baseball/stripper aficionado was “easier than screwing your investors pre-GFC.”

“MJ gambles like he’s dropping 50 on the pre-Iverson Sixers,” he said. “The guy’s got no poker face; when he’s got a good hand, he can’t help but stick that tongue out like he’s driving to the basket.”

“But hey, when you own the Bobcats, what’s another fifty mill?”

The famous 'Jordan tongue'

Jordan’s gambling vice is well-documented. In early 1993, San Diego businessman Richard Esquinas revealed in his book, Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction … My Cry for Help, that he had taken Jordan for more than $900,000 in golf-related betting. And according to CBS Sports, Jordan was spotted at the baccarat pit of an Atlantic City casino in the wee hours of the morning before Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals that same season.

Another reliable source told The Public Apology that Jordan pulled the pin on his Australia jaunt after discovering how regulated the gambling industry is in Australia. He is also believed to be a leading booster behind Clubs NSW’s fierce campaign against Independent Andrew Wilkie’s push to legislate mandatory pre-commitment technology for poker machines.

By Mike Davis with staff reporters

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