Police In 'Riot Gear' Raid Poker Game With $0 Buy-In
'Nutz Poker League' In Florida Suffers Crackdown, Organizers Arrested
A poker league that runs its tavern-based games without a buy-in was the target of a police crackdown in Florida this past weekend.
On Saturday, state and local authorities raided a monthly poker tournament at a bar in the city of Largo, after an investigation into unlawful gambling, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The Nutz Poker League, which was running a free game open to the public at Louie’s Grill and Sports Bar at the time of the crackdown, said on its Facebook page that some of the police were in “full riot gear” and had their “weapons drawn.”
The tournament’s 140 players reportedly were told to stop what they were doing, and when the dust settled, six were arrested and accused of being involved with a “gambling house.”
One woman present described the event in a blog post: “Today, while out playing poker with this poker league, we were raided by the [Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco], all with men and women officers wearing black masks so we couldn’t see their faces. We were forced (by a threat of going to jail) to place our hands on the table where they could see them and to stay there until we were told.”
Felony charges have been filed, according to the league. Under Florida law, the felonies would be in the third degree and could carry a prison sentence of up to five years.
Luke Lirot, an attorney involved with the matter, told Card Player that players took cell phone photos and video of the raid, and that they were “ordered by officers to delete” the material.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the undercover investigation, dubbed “Operation Cracked Aces,” had been ongoing for months prior to the bust.
“The ‘crime’ here is the waste of valuable public resources, and the misguided efforts to enforce an archaic law that was never intended to be used to criminalize events such as the one here, where six individuals were unjustly arrested and terrified, and now face prosecution,” the league said. “If state statutes can be exploited and stretched to criminalize these types of events, legislation needs to be adopted to clear up this unnecessary abuse.”
Nutz Poker added that the raid was an example of “tyrannical [law] enforcement.”
The games typically awarded prizes to players. The league operated by taking a cut of what revenue the bar received from food and drinks during the games. However, players were not required to purchase anything, the league said.
According to its website, league points are accrued based on one’s tournament finish and bar tab. The top point earners at the end of the month play for bigger prizes such as vacations, computers and cameras. A semi-annual “championship” sends a registered league player to the World Series of Poker.
Buy-ins have been used before, although not at bars. In August, Nutz Poker ran a private event with a $50 entry as part of a series at Tampa Bay Downs, which operates legal gaming.
On its website, Nutz Poker lists 10 different venues where it runs games. League-sponsored tournaments have occurred seven days a week. After nearly a week-long break, Nutz resumed action Friday at locations other than Louie’s, where the Oct. 20 raid took place.
Photo via the Nutz Poker League, from event in September at the Lucky Dill Deli.
Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus
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