A Month Full of Poker Related Crimes

Many fans of the game romantically associate poker’s early origins with the law-challenged Wild West, and bits of poker’s violent past can still be seen in the use of terms like dead man’s hand, ammunition, and shootout. With the anonymity of online poker, one would think the days when players were shot over a large pot are long over…But are they? This month’s poker headlines have been full of wild and weird news clips about everything from poker raids to poker robberies, crime circles and yes, even shootouts.

Just last night two men robbed a charity poker event in Michigan. Approximately 35 people had gathered at the Tilt Room in Norton Shores to play some poker and raise money for the local branch of the American Red Cross. At 1 a.m., two men appeared in the doorway of the poker room. One pulled a gun while the other went to the cash door. When the men didn’t get the reaction they wanted, things turned violent. The armed assailant struck an employee with his gun, and the charity players immediately scattered, lunging under tables or toward the door. The men escaped with a large portion of the event’s proceeds and have not yet been apprehended.

Earlier in the day, players in Ontario, Canada got a very similar surprise, but this time at the hands of the local law enforcement. Police allege that the Alba Social Club was hosting illegal cash poker games. As a result, 17 people have been arrested and more than $130,000 in funds have been confiscated. The suspects are facing charges for everything from illegal gambling to illegal drug and firearm possession. The Canadian players went quietly, but that wasn’t the case in a similar raid in Greenville, South Carolina.

The Greenville raid took place in a private home at the beginning of the month. When a SWAT team attempted to break through the 72-year old resident’s front door, he wrongly assumed the game was being robbed and fired at the door, hitting the deputy on the other side in both arms. Four other members of the team then pulled their weapons and fired back. Upon gaining entry to the home, the stunned homeowner said, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?” Only $5000 in funds were confiscated. All of the players received a $100 fine with the exception of the homeowner who may be charged with attempted murder.

A feisty old poker player defending his home may seem like classic slapstick, but what happened just a week later at another South Carolina poker game is no laughing matter. At that ill-fated game, one player’s tilt pushed him over the edge and he pulled a gun on his fellow players in hopes of recovering his losses. Unbeknownst to him, he wasn’t the only player that came packing. One of the would-be victims pulled his own gun in defense of the table, and shots were fired. Ultimately, the robber sustained fatal injuries and another player was wounded in the hand.

Even online poker room PokerStars managed to tangle with the law when a recent ad for their site sparked public outrage for its graphic violence. The ad – which depicts a table full of pros getting violent over a big pot – encourages poker fans to play online, where the game is “safer.” The message seems eerily prescient in light of all the recent poker-related crimes. The commercial has been banned in Germany, but you can still see it here.

Related Entries