A Texas poker club has been raided in the middle of a $100k tournament, with staff arrested, players fined and everything connected to the event hauled away in a truck by police.
The Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club, in Watauga, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, was deep into the final day of their Fall Classic Poker $420 buy-in, $100K GTD Main Event on Sunday when police arrived with a search and seizure warrant.
Police, not security staff
A staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, told PokerNews afterwards: “I thought it was security actually because we asked for two security to come in, but I guess they didn’t realize we started the tournament at 1 p.m. as they normally come in at 6 p.m. but when they told me to raise my hands, I realized it wasn’t security.”
What followed was the nightmare scenario for Texan poker players and clubs, who operate in a somewhat grey area of the law, which forbids the taking of rake but has generally allowed clubs to operate on a membership basis.
The warrant, issued by Tarrant County Judge, George Gallagher the previous Friday, authorised “the search of a gambling establishment”.
It gave police the authority to seize “currency, gambling proceeds, financial instruments, and or other items of value…relating to obtaining, transferring, secreting or spending large sums of money made from engaging in specified unlawful activities.”
This also included: “Tickets, papers, bank bags, receipts, money, gift certificates, coupons, credit card receipts showing documentation of entries, add-on plays, dealer/staff appreciation, administrative fees, payoffs, and checks cashed by player.”
Search for Gambling-related items
Holloway, who had been to the social poker club on a trip earlier this year, also reported, “the warrant also indicated that authorities were looking for non-poker related gambling apparatuses such as dice, roulette wheels, video gambling devices, etc. in violation of Texas Penal Code, Chapter 47.”
Strangely, at least to anyone who has played poker, the warrant described the premises as: “All of the windows for the poker room are … preventing anyone from seeing inside.” Of course, card rooms and casinos are designed that way to prevent players seeing out.
The authorities were also apparently looking for “dice, roulette wheels, video gambling devices, etc. in violation of Texas Penal Code, Chapter 47.”
Staff arrested, players fined, club stripped
With just 49 players remaining from an initial 369 entries, the police raid may have been timed to match the payouts, with the $132k prizemoney seized.
While staff members were arrested, players were interviewed and reportedly issued $360 fines. The interviews featured the following questions, as per PokerNews:
- How long have you played here?
- Are you a member (daily, monthly, yearly)?
- How much did you pay to enter the tournament?
- What was the breakdown of the entry fee?
- Did you tip the dealer $20.00 to receive an additional 15,000 chips for the tournament?
Raid connected to previous incident at Watauga?
It appears that the raid may be related to an incident earlier this year in which poker player Ben Ross was ejected from a tournament at the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club after complaining that the tournament prize pool did not add up to the total buy-ins for the tournament.
As we reported at the time, Ross had made it to the bubble of a $100 tournament when he realized the prize pool didn’t quite add up … $12 had been taken from each player’s $60 add-on.
Ross claimed Watauga Social Lounge’s tournament advertising of the tournament never once mentioned a 20% rake of the add-on, and was thrown out after describing the club as a “rathole” for its questionable antics.
As PokerTube’s Nikk Holland wrote: “Authorities will surely look into this, and it may not bode well for Watauga Social Lounge.”
Unfortunately, that appears to have been the case and, seven months on, the authorities raided the venue, taking everything connected to the poker club.
That included tables, chairs, chips, and cards, everything loaded onto a police truck…
The poker-room in a strip-mall in Watauga was opened in January with Watauga Mayor Arthur L. Miner involved in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. That seems to have cut no ice with authorities, and following the raid the club is, naturally, currently closed.