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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Iowa Counterfeit Poker Chip Debacle finds No. 2 Nuke Commander Relieved of Duty

Tim Giardina
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A high-ranking Navy official using counterfeit chips in a poker game at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs casino in Iowa came to light at the end of September. PokerWorks ran the news of Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, that the No. 2 officer at the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces, was suspected of passing counterfeit chips — which is a felony in Iowa. The state elected not to press charges. The AP reports that Giardina has been relieved of duty and has been demoted to a two-star admiral.

Giardina suspension required the approval of President Barack Obama. Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog has said General Robert Kehler, the top official at the Strategic Command, recommended that Giardina be relieved of duty. The Strategic Command was created in 1992 and this is believed to be the first time a deputy commander has been relieved of duty in the history of the Command.

"I know of no other case ever of a deputy commander who was relieved for cause," retired Air Force general Eugene Habiger, who headed the command from 1996-98, told the AP in a telephone interview.

It appears the pieces of the story behind the alleged counterfeit chips are sketchy, but according to Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber, it is believed Giardina used at least $1,500 in counterfeit chips while playing at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs, which is located just across the river from Omaha, NE. There has been no confirmation of other suspects in the case by officials.

A source familiar with the situation told, "It was a few chips discovered in a cash game on only one occasion [back in June]." The players in the game that ended up with the chips were paid face value by the Horseshoe. Upon discovering the chips, the Horseshoe took that denomination of chip out of play for the month that followed.

Giardina has been the deputy commander of Strategic Command since December 2011. According to his biography on, Giardina “most recently served as deputy commander and chief of staff, United States Pacific Fleet. His most recent command assignment was as commander, Submarine Group Trident, Submarine Group Nine, and Submarine Group 10 where he was responsible for all 18 U.S. Trident Submarines.”

*Image courtesy of

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