To his table mates at New Zealand's richest poker games he was Shane Tamihana, an ultra-aggressive card shark and winner of big tournaments.

To police he was Shane Thompson, allegedly a member of the biggest drug ring to be busted in the Hawkes Bay.

Thompson, 31, faces 14 counts of supplying methamphetamine and five each of possessing and conspiring to deal the Class-A drug.

He was arrested in September after a six-month investigation in which police arrested 13 people and seized 3kg of methamphetamine worth an estimated $2.5 million, more than 2000 tabs of LSD, eight firearms, $343,000 in cash, six late-model muscle cars and a new Harley Davidson motorcycle.

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Thompson's partner, Nerrisha Marie Margaret Grant, was also charged with methamphetamine offences.

The couple are due to reappear in the Napier District Court for a case review hearing in February.

If found guilty, Thompson could face life in prison.

It is a far cry from this time last year, when Tamihana was feted after winning the Main Event at the Festival of Poker hosted by Sky City casino.

It was his second victory in as many years – earning more than $100,000 in the process – and was based on a relentlessly aggressive strategy.

His signature call was to exclaim, "Later Bo", as he forced opponents to fold on the strength of his betting.

Steve Holloway, a Herald digital editor and poker expert, was knocked out of last year's Festival of Poker tournament by Tamihana and described his opponent's playing strategy as unpredictable.

"Tamihana didn't conform to poker norms," Holloway said. "He was fast and loose with his calls pre-flop [the community cards revealed by the dealer], but made up for it with a masterclass of aggression, pressure and some disciplined lay-downs post-flop."

Shane Tamihana at 2016 poker tournament at SkyCity. Photo/NZ Herald
Shane Tamihana at 2016 poker tournament at SkyCity. Photo/NZ Herald

After Tamihana won the tournament for the second time he said "winning poker tournaments [was] 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill".

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There are two variants of poker – tournaments and cash games. Tamihana was a regular at both.

In New Zealand, there are only three tournaments a year with a buy-in bigger than $1500 and first prize bigger than $50,000 – two at Sky City and one at Christchurch Casino.

These often follow a repechage format, meaning players can buy in as many times as they like.

Tamihana would buy-in several times to the same tournament, allowing him to be far more aggressive than most.

However, the cash games are considered more lucrative with a poker source telling the Herald that there have been a number of six-figure pots in single hands.

Sky City spokeswoman Rebecca Foote said she was unable to discuss any aspect of this case or Tamihana's history at the casino.

As to the broader question of whether the casino vetted players who entered their most prestigious tournaments, she said: "I can't comment on that."

The casino has featured in numerous police investigations as a venue for criminal networking, social gambling using illegitimate funds and suspected money laundering.

Police seized 3kg of methamphetamine in the six month investigation. Photo/Supplied.
Police seized 3kg of methamphetamine in the six month investigation. Photo/Supplied.
Eight firearms were seized by police at the end of the methamphetamine inquiry. Photo/Supplied.
Eight firearms were seized by police at the end of the methamphetamine inquiry. Photo/Supplied.

Detective Inspector Mike Foster, head of the CIB in the Eastern District, this week declined to comment as the matter was before the courts.

But at the time of the arrests, Foster said the investigation team had spent months working tirelessly to dismantle the drug supply, and in doing so had prevented significant harm to the community.

"The destruction methamphetamine causes cannot be underestimated. Police and our community within Eastern district will not tolerate this sort of behaviour."