Rather than facing a trial that could have sent him to jail for 2 decades, a former champion of the World Series of Poker Circuit and smaller tours plea bargained his way down to an eight-year sentence after pleading guilty.

Poker pro Travell Thomas stood in the courtroom of U. S. District Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla and received his punishment for being accused of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges last November. Thomas tearfully stood in front of the judge and spoke about his gambling addiction as he operated the $31 million debt scam. “I would spend days at the casinos,” the site reports him as saying, “I wouldn’t even change my clothes.” He also stated that federal authorities “saved his life” when they brought him in because he couldn’t gamble anymore.

Thomas’ clean record, as well as his story, had an impact on the sentence, but Judge Failla declared that Thomas “preyed on financially distressed people.” “A lot of the money that was taken went to him and his enjoyment,” Failla also stated in court as she handed down the sentence. Assistant U. S. Attorney Edward Imperatore provided more evidence, citing greed as the key factor that saw the profits from the business go to aid Thomas, including trips, jewelry, cars, season tickets to the Buffalo Bills, gambling and other forms of casino entertainment.

Failla went easy on Thomas with the sentence, but announced that she needed to “set an example” to others who might want to implement the same tactics. He could have faced upwards of 16 years due to the plea bargain with prosecutors, a slight reduction from the 20 years he could have faced if he had gone to trial. Instead of the maximum sentence, Thomas was sentenced to eight years and four months.

It is a rather sorry conclusion for one of the more colorful characters who graced the poker tables. He first arrived on the tournament poker stage in 2006 in a $100 tournament at the Seneca World Poker Classic, but in 3 years he was playing on larger stages. At the 2009 United States Poker Championship, he achieved two $500 tournament final tables. With that success, he moved up once again.

In 2011, Thomas would clinch his first WSOPC ring in bringing down an event in Atlantic City and grasped his second in 2013 in Las Vegas. Those two victories surprisingly were the biggest wins on his CV despite being only five-figure cashes. Overall, Thomas cashed 87 times in his tournament career, earning slightly more than half a million dollars. But now, Thomas is a convicted felon who will head to jail in September and, have a tournament poker career in shambles.