Local authorities in Fort Worth and Dallas raided the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club last Sunday and arrested at least half a dozen staff members who were then booked in the county jail. A number of patrons were fined.
There are about three dozen card rooms in Texas. Most operate as social clubs and collect membership dues instead of taking rakes.
An anonymous staff member spoke with PokerNews about the raid on Oct. 9.
“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.”
The card room, which opened in January, had hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Watauga Mayor Arthur L. Miner. It was even a stop on PokerNews Texas Road Trip back in March.
Authorities confiscate almost everything
PokerNews was able to procure the warrant issued to the card room “authorizing the search of a gambling establishment.”
With the warrant, Tarrant County authorities were empowered to seize “currency, gambling proceeds, financial statements, and or other items of value … relating to obtaining, transferring, secreting or spending large sums of money made from engaging in specified unlawful activities.”
In addition to the above-mentioned items, “tickets, papers, bank bags, receipts, money, gift certificates, coupons, credit card receipts showing documentation of entries, add-on plays, dealers/staff appreciation, administrative fees, payoffs, and checks cashed by players.”
Judge George Gallagher of the Texas 396th District Court issued the warrant on Oct. 7, two days before the raid took place.
Describing the venue, the warrant read as follows:
“All of the windows for the poker room are … preventing anyone from seeing inside. On either side of the door are large images of playing cards (with) black, blue, and white poker-style playing chips.”
According to the warrant, authorities also searched for non-poker-related gambling paraphernalia that violate Texas Penal Code, Chapter 47 – in particular equipment such as dice, roulette wheels and video gambling devices.
Although the card room contained no other gambling games, authorities saw fit to strip the locale of tables, chairs and other equipment which were all loaded onto county trucks.
Tournament disrupted, players fined
It was on the second day of the venue’s Fall Classic Poker $420 buy-in, $100K GTD Main Event that Tarrant County officials swooped in. The tournament also featured a “$20 optional dealer add-on,” offered six starting flights, and intended to live-stream the final table.
The competition managed to pull 369 entries tallying an impressive $132,840 prize pool. Fifty-three players returned for action on Day 2, with Randi Lister (942,000), Ethan Wilson (676,000) and Johnny Marlow (626,000) possessing the most chips.
When the poker game reached Level 16 (3,000/6,000/6,000) with 49 players left, that’s when the raid occurred. Authorities carried off the prize pool as well as an undisclosed amount of cash on hand. All of the players remaining in the game were fined a hefty sum of $360.
To gain a better understanding of the operation, authorities posed the following questions to players:
- 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 to receive an additional 15,000 chips for the tournament?
What does this mean for card rooms in Texas?
Texas has seen many gambling dens raided in recent times; however, Watauga is arguably the state’s largest and most prominent. It’s noteworthy to know that this particular card room has seen its fair share of controversies in the past.
Earlier this year, a poker player complained about what he alleged was a hidden rake on add-ons. He called the card room a “rathole” and was hence banned from the establishment.
Poker social clubs operate throughout the state and are subject to city and county authorities. In general, law enforcement seems to leave these rooms alone, although occasional raids in certain jurisdictions do happen.
The timing of the raid on the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club is interesting given that a Dallas lawsuit challenging the operations of Texas Card House is expected to work its way up to the state’s Supreme Court.
It’s hard to imagine the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club will be able to continue operations any time soon now. Not least of all the Fall Classic Poker Tournament which had its $132K in prize money and assets, including all poker tables, seized. The venue’s owners plan to inform the public soon by issuing a statement in the next few days as soon as they learn more about the charges.