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Poker Players Upset After Poker Room Closes Without Paying Out Entire Promotional Fund

Leftover Money Used For Promotions At Ultimate Texas Hold'em Tables

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The Thursday closure of a small four-table poker room in a tribal casino in the state of Washington has some poker players upset.

Per a report from mynorthwest.com, the Snoqualmie Casino, about a 30-minute car drive from Seattle, is facing criticism from the local poker community over the player-funded promotional pot, which was used to award prizes for events such as “high hands.”

The casino said it wasn’t able to return all of those funds to poker players before the room closed, and so it is awarding the leftovers via its Ultimate Texas Hold’em tables. Unlike traditional peer-to-peer poker tables where the house takes a cut from each pot for hosting the game, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a house-banked game where a gambler competes against the casino. You can make money at traditional Texas hold’em thanks to skill, while Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a chance game where you are expected to be a loser over time.

In other words, a poker player would have to sit in a different casino game in order to reclaim a portion of the rake that was collected to fund the poker room’s now defunct promotional pot.

Though the casino informed poker players a full 30 days ahead of time that the poker room would be permanently closing thanks to renovations, poker players reportedly believe the promotional fund wasn’t discontinued and disbursed correctly.

“Outside of the [poker] room there [was] a description of ‘hey, we’re closing, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s what’s going to happen with the jackpots, and here’s where the rest of the money is going to go,’ which is where this whole thing came about because people read that and said, ‘hey, that seems kind of unethical,’” local poker player Lucas Newman told the website.

The poker room stopped collecting extra rake from cash game pots to fund the promotional fund on July 25, according to its website. That was weeks after notice was issued that the room would be shuttering and about a week before the room closed.

In a statement, the casino said that, in order to disburse the money before the room closed, it “nearly doubled the value of High Hand weekly payouts.” The doubling of the payouts in order to disburse as much of the fund as possible began July 25, again just eight days before the closure, per the casino’s website.

“To date, over half of the original [Player Supported Jackpot Rake] has been awarded in the poker room, and by implementing an accelerated payout plan, it is estimated that over two-thirds of the original PSJ will be awarded by the August 2 closure,” the casino told mynorthwest.com.

“After the final poker hand is dealt, any remaining funds will be awarded back to the player population via another on-casino floor poker progressive, Ultimate Texas Hold’Em, as required by gaming regulations.”

The poker room promotional fund was nearly $60,000 as of late July, the report said, and it dwindled to about $29,000 a day before the room closed.

The Washington State Gambling Commission has been asked to look into the matter, even though tribal gaming is regulated by the federal government.

“When you have a commercial card room that decides to discontinue a player-supported jackpot they are required by rule to distribute the balance of that jackpot to the players within 60 days," a gambling commission spokesperson said. “The National Indian Gaming Commission also has recommendations for how to handle these closed jackpots. Their recommendations are very similar to ours, but…they’re just suggestions, they aren’t requirements.”