Playing poker with the Devil

Playing poker with the Devil

January 30, 2018 3:03 AM

I met Ernie Scherer Jr. many years ago in Las Vegas at the Gold Coast playing Omaha, one of his favorite games. This is a story about his tragic murder and how it was woven into my life.

I knew his son, Ernie Scherer III, from the tournament circuit. Ernie was a charming, good-looking poker player who could at times turn into a completely different person. And not a good one.

Around 2005 when I was the executive host at the Bicycle Casino, my wife at the time, Charity, was playing a tournament at the Bicycle. When Charity came home later that night, she broke down and started crying over something that happened in the tournament. She had just started playing poker, so I thought she was just being overly sensitive.

Charity said there was a player there who was so mean he was the devil. She said he was rude and evil, and I had to do something. My thought was she was overreacting, and I was in a tough spot. I was the executive host, and he’s a customer; what could I do that the tournament staff did not already handle?

But Charity persisted. She said I had to do something about him. She kept saying over and over, “You don’t understand, he’s the devil.” She finally said, “If you don’t do something, I will.”

I would later find out the player Charity had a problem with was Ernie Scherer III.

A few months later in 2006 I decided to go down south to play the Jack Binion WSOP Circuit Omaha event in Tunica, Mississippi. I looked forward to playing Omaha, the game I created with my friends. I hadn’t been home in a while, so it was very exciting for me.

I had a ritual of praying in my room before playing a tournament, opening the Bible to a random place and reading a passage. The passage I stumbled upon described Jesus riding a donkey on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

I made Day Two and was finally heads-up at the final table with Ernie. The match lasted six hours. At one point, I had Ernie down to one chip, and he came back and evened it. I tried to make a deal with him, but he refused.

He then proceeded to get me down to one 5,000 chip. I dreaded Charity arriving to see me playing for the ring against the person she thought was the devil.

On the break Charity said, “If you let this man beat you, don’t you ever speak to me again.” Now, that’s incentive.

When I sat back down, Ernie laughed at my one chip and said, “You’ve been riding me like a donkey. Did you really think I was a donkey?” I thought, “Wait a minute. That’s the story I read in the Bible. Why would he say that?”

I kept thinking about the donkey reference and praying for a miracle. From that point on, I won every hand and the ring.

Ernie seemed to spiral out of control after that and went on a massive losing streak back in Los Angeles. It was rumored he lost several hundred thousand dollars online and owed players lots of money.

Sometime during that period, Ernie came up with a plan to kill his parents – his dad Ernie Jr., who taught him how to play poker and loved him dearly, and his mother Charlene Abendroth.

On March 7, 2008, he left Las Vegas and made a stop at Stateline, Nevada where he purchased a baseball bat. Ernie turned off his cell phone and drove 11 hours to Alameda County where his parents lived, and brutally beat them to death at the couple’s luxury home.

Their bodies were discovered a week later. Authorities say Scherer Jr., 60, had been seeking to recoup a $616,000 mortgage loan to his son for his Brea, California house just days before he and Abendroth, 57, were found dead, according to the East Bay Times.

Ernie staged the scene to look like a robbery, including bloody footprints in a shoe size that was larger than his. However, investigators were able to trace the shoes and baseball bat to a Nike outlet store at Stateline after finding a warranty card for the bat at the murder scene.

Ernie was convicted in 2011 of murdering his parents and sentenced to life in prison with no chance at parole. It is believed he did it to collect his inheritance to pay off his gambling debts.

Scherer’s case was profiled on “48 Hours” in an episode titled “The Country Club Murders.” Ernie Scherer is now serving two life sentences. I guess Charity was right all along; this man was the devil.