Phil Laak Under Fire for Dodging Taxes

Phil Laak Under Fire for Dodging Taxes

Noted poker player Phil “Unabomber” Laak is known for his trademark look and a list of poker accomplishments, but the pro is now facing heat for back taxes he owes the State of California.

Professional poker player Phil “Unabomber” Laak is one of the most recognizable faces on the pro poker circuit. He’s a man known for many things; the most obvious being his nickname, which comes from his look – a hooded sweatshirt (with the hood always up) and dark sunglasses.

This trademark look causes Laak to resemble the forensic sketch on the wanted poster for domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski is infamous for killing and maiming numerous people by planting or mailing bombs between 1978 and 1995 in the United States. Kaczynski, a shack-dwelling loner with a grudge against technology, was nicknamed “The Unabomber” by the media before his brother helped police locate him, leading to his arrest and sentencing to life in prison.

Big Winner and Record Holder

Laak is almost as well-known for his association with his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Tilly. She is an Academy Award-nominated actress also known for her skills as a professional poker player.

Then, of course, is Laak’s power prowess. In 2010 he won a championship bracelet at the World Series of Poker Europe in London, earning him $263,000 in a six-handed no-limit Texas Hold ’em tournament. He has earned more than $3.1 million in his career playing live tournament poker, according to official records.

Laak also earned his place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive hours playing poker. In 2010, he set the record at the Bellagio in Las Vegas by playing poker for 115 straight hours, a little under five straight days. The feat was a stunt to raise funds for charity and Laak bested the old Guinness record of playing poker for 72 straight hours.

Lack of Paying Taxes

Now there’s a new accomplishment Laak is going to be known for: being a deadbeat. A tax deadbeat, to be specific. According to media reports, the 49-year-old Laak who was born in Ireland and now lives in Los Angeles, owes back taxes to the State of California for the years 2010 and 2011.

The total amount owed is $24,874 – less than 1% of the windfall the “Unabomber” has earned from live tournament play in his career. And the State of California is serious about getting back what it’s owed from Laak by placing a lien on Laak’s California property. That means if Laak ever sells the property, the State will take a cut of the sale price to cover the owed taxes before the property deed can change hands.

In the meantime, the tax-dodging has tarnished Laak’s image. As much as an image can be tarnished by someone who uses and embraces the nickname of a murderous terrorist, mind you. What’s next for the penny-pinching poker pro? Stiffing his newspaper delivery boy out of the lousy ten bucks he’s owed?

Tom Somach
Written by
Tom Somach
Tom Somach is an American journalist who has covered the gambling industry for more than 20 years. Although he has covered every aspect of gambling from bingo to baccarat, his specialities are poker, sports betting and Internet gambling. His work has appeared in newspapers such as the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, the Edmonton Sun and the Las Vegas Sporting News, and on websites such as,, and In addition, he is a radio host and producer, having appeared on and created numerous radio shows in the USA about poker and sports betting.


phil wrote...

What is $25k to a guy that plays nose bleed stakes? Half a pot?
Everyone tries to avoid the government pinch…… F*&k the government and IRS.

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