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Michael Gracz, Chris Bell Busted at Private Poker Tourney

Police Charge 71 in North Carolina


Two professional poker players, including a World Poker Tour champion, were among 71 people charged with misdemeanor gambling during a poker tournament on Saturday night while they were playing in what police described as a miniaturized Las Vegas casino.

Michael Gracz, a 2005 WPT champion, and tournament poker mainstay Chris Bell ($1.4 in tournament winnings) were among those playing in a poker tournament when about 20 officers from North Carolina's Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agency walked in and told the players to place their hands flat on the tables.Chris Bell

All of the players, including Gracz, were written tickets for misdemeanor gambling charges, but Bell is facing several additional charges including engaging in a game of chance, operating a game of chance, and possession of gaming tables.Michael Gracz

"In a way, it's kind of like how Doyle had it bad in his day, when the cops would come in and take all of their money," Gracz said. "But the players, they're going to end up playing somewhere."

Police seized $70,196.75, along with dice, cards, chips, TVs, a craps table, a roulette table and wheel, and more than a dozen poker tables. Gracz wouldn't say how much the tournament's buy-in was, but he did point out that the cops were cordial and pleasant, and the whole operation was peaceful, unlike the first time Gracz was busted for playing poker in North Carolina.

Two year ago, he was playing a cash game with some players in a business complex in Raleigh when the game was busted by about a dozen rifle-wielding agents. All of the money was seized and the players were put into cuffs and charged with gambling. Eventually, the charges were dropped.

Gracz described the tournament that was being held Saturday as one made up of local friends and held in a building in a rural area about 50 miles south of Raleigh. Also found in the building was a fully operational kitchen to feed the players.

"We're out in the middle of nowhere for a reason," Gracz said. "I just feel as though (the police) could find something better to do with 20 hours of their time."

Bell couldn't be reached for a comment.

The misdemeanor gambling charge is akin to a speeding ticket, which Gracz said we would probably just pay. All of those charged were free to go home and the whole process took about four hours.

Tags: poker law


14 years ago

I had the misfortune of being at two poker busts in NC. One in March and this one. It was total chaos the first time, guns, helicopters, dogs, swat. This was a much more civilized ordeal they literally just kinda strolled in and tapped people on the shoulder.

No ones personal money was taken nor was anyone searched and treated like criminals. It was almost an atmosphere of "Yeh we gotta bust you ... but we don't really think it's a big deal either."


14 years ago

i dont understand how gambling has ever come to being even slightly illegal in any sort of way.
i repeat, what the hell is wrong with gambling???? its my money, i'll do what i want with it. damn christians.


14 years ago

Gambling on an individual basis doesn't harm anyone and is an action performed by a willingly free person, win or lose. However, the government tries to "protect" society with the notion that some people are addicted and just can't help it, even if it ruins their lives. But last time I checked, cigarettes were pretty legal and they rack up more $$$ medical bills and deaths than anything.


14 years ago

yea im in NC also, the charlotte area, and we had a game busted a few months back. The cops came in with rifles and everything being jackasses.


14 years ago

What I don't understand is how "the misdemeanor gambling charge is akin to a speeding ticket." Either it's a minor traffic violation or it's a misdemeanor. I don't agree with the bust or the principle behind the bust (applicable law notwithstanding), but I'd really like to see some clarity on the actual severity of the charge.