Florida Man Charged With Murder in Revenge for Poker Losses
A Pasco County, Florida man, Michael Joseph Psilakis Jr., has been charged with murder after the discovery of a man’s body in a burned-out car, the victim allegedly killed in revenge for having won roughly $3,500 from Psilakis in a couple of poker games.
The strange tale emerged after construction workers discovered the burned-out car with the remains inside at the Key Vista Nature Park, on Florida’s Gulf Coast a short drive north of the Tampa – St. Petersburg area. Though the victim has yet to be publicly identified, due to Florida privacy laws, authorities quickly identified the car as a rented Ford Taurus and then to the likely victim. More work linked the victim to Psilakis, and then to a dispute over cards between the two.
An associate of Psilakis told authorities that Psilakis and the victim had played cards on both October 29 and 30, with the victim winning large sums from Psilakis both times. The first session saw Psilakis lose $1,000, and the second session saw him lose another $2,500. Psilakis was already considering killing the victim before the second card session, having asked the associate/witness, via text message, if he should kill the other player.
After the second and larger loss, Psilakis allegedly carried out the murder. Psilakis was tied to the crime almost immediately after the burned-out car’s discovery, with investigators quickly descending upon Psilakis’s mother’s house, where the alleged murderer also lived. The mom had already discovered smeared blood on the floor of the house’s garage, and while the investigators interviewed her, Psilakis called. The investigators were able to record the call, in which he said he’d burned his legs — likely due to his torching the car — and, according to a Tampa Bay Times summary, he told his mother that “they needed to coordinate their stories.”
The officers detained Psilakis soon after he arrived at the house. They determined he was driving a stolen car and also discovered a stolen handgun. He was immediately arrested on weapons charges, with the murder charge leveled a couple of days later after the investigators forensically matched a shell casing found at the Key Vista Nature Park scene to the stolen handgun found in Psilakis’s possession.
The incident stands as one of the most violent poker-related crimes in recent memory, and again illustrates one of the inherent (if very, very rare) risks of playing in underground games. The killing comes just a few weeks after a violent shooting last month at a private New York City poker club, which resulted in the deaths of four men, including the shooter.
Psilakis, 21, has yet to be formally arraigned on the charges and at last report remains held at eastern Pasco County’s Land O’ Lakes Detention Center, about an hour northeast of Tampa.