The name John Turmel may or may not be familiar, depending on your age, or social and political circle. If not, perhaps his multitude of nicknames – “Great Canadian Gambler”, “TajProfessor”, “The Engineer”, or “The Banking System Engineer” – will ring a bell.
John Turmel has quite an elaborate history, being everything from a consistent political figure since the 1970’s, to a casino owner and professional gambler. His immense success in blackjack and poker, however, have yet to translate to the political scene.
John Turmel – The Great Canadian Gambler
In 1974, at the age of 23, John Turmel was an electrical engineering undergraduate at Carleton University. He was the only A+ student of Mathematics Professor Walter Schneider, who hosted the only Mathematics of Gambling Course in Canada at that time.
In 1975, he became Prof. Schneider’s assistant for that course, and also spent the next four years as a professional gambler. He claims to have gone on more than 50 excursions to Las Vegas, spending 4 days with a 4-man blackjack team per trip.
His card counting skills were eventually recognized, resulting in his ban from numerous Vegas properties, including The Sands and Hilton Casinos. Turmel was even invited to join the infamous Ken Uston blackjack team, but declined, later stating he “preferred to gamble solo.”
In 1992, the ‘Great Canadian Gambler‘ managed to circumvent existing Canadian laws prohibiting blackjack by creating a new Turmel-style Blackjack game. It didn’t fall under the guidelines of the Criminal Code, allowing Turmel to open “three of the largest private Poker and Blackjack casinos in Canadian history.”
The following year, Ontario authorities launched “Project Robin Hood”, holding a raid on Topaz Casino Turmel to shut down the 28-table blackjack and poker room.
In his auto-biographical blog, John Turmel noted:
“I played poker professionally in the United States for 5 years in the 1990s and am remembered as the Professor at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City for beating “the Donald” out of millions in rake-off with a petition demanding the poker room switch back to the $100 an hour session fees from the new $160 per hour rake-off thus saving every long runner in the room over $10,000 per year.”
John Turmel – The Accordion Player
Turmel has been arrested on numerous occasions, mostly for playing blackjack and/or running illegal gambling houses throughout Canada. However, he’s never served a lengthy sentence. His longest term was supposed to be 4 months (1991), but he was out within a month.
In 1981, he was sentenced to 21 days in jail for playing blackjack and keeping a gambling house. He managed to get that sentence reduced to 100 hours of community service, in which he played an accordion at a nursing.
Following the 1993 raid on Casino Turmel, the Great Canadian Gambler was convicted of running a gambling house. His lawyer used the decade-old conviction to convince the judge to issue another community service sentence, this time penalizing him with 200 hours of playing an accordion for old folks.
John Turmel – The Political Candidate
As a political candidate, Turmel’s views have been rather extreme. Since 1979, he’s supported the legalization of gambling and marijuana, and a throng of monetary reform systems that would eliminate interest on debt and pretty much go against everything banks profit from. In 2012, he described his platform:
Turmel actually appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 for participating in the most political contests – at that time, 41. To date, he’s lost 90 of 91 elections. The latest lost came on April 3, 2017, the federal by-election for Ottawa-Vanier. He received just 153 (0.5%) of the votes.
The only win for Turmel was still a loss. He won 6th position on the board of the National Capital Freenet, right after the board was reduced from 7 to 5 seats.