Another Dumb Poker Raid

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Police in San Mateo County, California apparently first spent months investigating the small-stakes poker game. From this firsthand account, it looks like a couple of the officers were playing regularly for several weeks before sending in the SWAT team, guns drawn, last week. If California is like most states (and I believe it is), a poker game is only illegal if the house is taking a rake off the top. In this case, it looks like that "rake" was the $5 the extra the hosts asked from each buy-in to pay for pizza and beer.

Police also took a 13-year-old girl out of the home, away from her parents, and turned her over to child protective services. In addition to the charge of running an illegal gambling operation, the hosts are also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Good thing the poor girl was saved before slouching toward an inevitable life of crime.

I’m not quite sure I understand this part, either:

A background check on the house’s residents led officers to a Web site advertising weekly poker games. The Web site was used to lure "unwitting" participants to the tournaments, which required a $25 to $55 buy-in with an extra $5 "refreshment" fee, according to the report.

How does an advertisement for a small-stakes poker game "unwittingly lure" someone? Did they think the game was free? If they did, was there something preventing them from simply leaving if they didn’t want to pay the buy-in?

This account suggests the police hinted to individual players that the hosts may have been cheating or defrauding them, though that’s not apparent in the news accounts. Firsthand accounts on poker sites have only good things to say about the hosts. Of course, even if the hosts were cheating, it wouldn’t justify a full-on raid, particularly in mid-tournament. The SWAT tactics seem more like intimidation. Raiding in mid-tournament also ensures there’s a $1,300 pot to seize for the sheriff department’s general fund.

Finally, the San Mateo Daily Journal includes this helpful note:

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office encourages citizens to report instances of heavy foot traffic, frequent visitors and illegal parking in residential areas by calling its anonymous tip line…

Mustn’t be much crime in San Mateo.

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13 Responses to “Another Dumb Poker Raid”

  1. #1 |  Alex | 

    Pizza, beer, and low-limit poker sounds pretty damn American to me.

  2. #2 |  Angie | 

    Damn. That’s just a few miles from me. In my own county even. I play poker with friends in the next city over once a month – are we next?


    Better tell my boys their mother may be in trouble for being a bad influence soon.

  3. #3 |  Phil | 

    They’re just breaking us in for 2012, when the pretenses are dropped, the dollar is abandoned, and we officially become subject to Dubai law.

  4. #4 |  Tom Bux | 

    I was at a state conference about underage drinking smoking, and they were lambasting the tobacco and alcohol companies for having cute cuddly mascots, that though aimed at adults, actually lure kids to the nasty habit.

    I find it ironic, that the same state government who is against that, has a cute cuddly groundhog as it’s mascot for their gambling operation. The PA lottery.
    Gus The Groundhog

  5. #5 |  TC | 

    “… encourages citizens to report instances of heavy foot traffic,… ”

    Amazing that dunkin aint raided every morning! :)

  6. #6 |  Frank N Stein | 

    Taking the child away from their parents over a poker game. I don’t know what is worse, the existence of these ridiculous laws, or the existence of thugs more than willing to enforce them. What kind of poor childhood did they go through to come out as borderline sociopaths?

  7. #7 |  Wayne | 

    “… encourages citizens to report instances of heavy foot traffic,… ”

    I can see myself explaining to my six year old why her birthday party was raided by a SWAT team. We are so, totally, freakin’ screwed.

  8. #8 |  Jeremy | 

    I’m glad I live in Canada.

  9. #9 |  David Chesler | 

    How does an advertisement for a small-stakes poker game “unwittingly lure” someone?

    There are no victimless crimes. See for instance the statement by a cop in my city about why he has to raid escorts working out of hotel rooms, at

    [Woburn police Detective Lieutenant Bob Rufo] said “We’re just trying to stop the problem, not create them.”

    Although prostitution ranks as a lower crime-fighting priority than drugs, it poses a public health issue. It also often intersects with narcotics and sometimes has human-trafficking or illegal-immigration elements. “It’s certainly not a victimless crime,” Rufo said.

    (OK, that should have gone with yesterday’s entries about legalized prostitution, but the story was in today’s Boston Globe.)

    So, since poker isn’t a victimless cime there must be a victim. And the victim must be the player. And since he is being victimized, he must have been lured.

    The collection of fundamentalist chat room entries you pointed to yesterday is already paying off.

  10. #10 |  The Line is Here | 

    Crime Scene – Do Not Cross…

    (Guest blogging with us today is Robb Allen from Sharp as a Marble)
    The one thing that the government does well is punish criminals. The one thing they screw up more than anything is accurately define “crime”
    Police in San Mateo County, Cal…

  11. #11 |  Nando | 

    I think the “unwittingly lured” part comes from them claiming that the hosts were cheating. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

    I play in regular poker games (sometimes cash games, sometimes tournaments) but they are mostly BYOS (bring your own stuff). We do $20-30 tournaments with 10-30 people or the same amount in cash games in a $1-2 no limit blinds. We’re all adults and nobody makes enough money to actually affect our taxes anyway.

    This is ridiculous.

  12. #12 |  Persona non grata | 

    All bought and paid for with our tax-dollars. Where the hell is the “silent-majority” when we need them. If we the taxpayer don’t start pushing back against this state sponsored madness it will end with every last amercian shackled to the wall in one of our taxpayer funded gulags.

  13. #13 |  BayAreaBoonies | 

    I almost rented a house there a few years ago. It is a very, very quiet area. I suspect that the issue was the cars. If they had not gone beyond a smaller sized group, they would have skated. Still, it is pretty lame, when there are nasty areas elsewhere in the county, where real crime is a problem. Screwed up priorities. Code enforcement would have been the preferred approach.