Breaking Down the Action:
  • Police Raid Prompts Poker Closure

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The Top Shelf Poker Room in Flint, Texas, has been shut down, but was the police raid justified?

The Top Shelf Poker Room in Texas has been closed down after a police raid saw funds seized, including charity funds, it has been reported.

The Lone Star State’s Top Shelf Poker Room is situated in Flint, East of Dallas and North of Houston. In a dramatic turn of events, one of the co-owners has spoken of his desire to fight the authorities, who have ceased operations in a bid for financial freedom that is fast developing into an important conflict in a state-wide sense.

Police Raid Prompts Poker Closure

The Top Shelf Poker Room has been in operation in Flint, Texas for five years, so last week’s raid on the property would have come as a total surprise to patrons and owners alike. The state police immediately froze all business assets and have seized all funds on site, including the takings for a charity event to benefit International Women’s Day.

With the poker room having gone through the process of owning a business license and all the necessary permits to operate within the Smith County mandate, co-owner Jesse Vann told PokerNews this week that he plans to fight the closure but will need financial assistance to take his case to court if needed.

“I met with my attorney today and he plans to meet with the district attorney to hopefully settle this,” he said. “Some of these other rich poker room owners in the bigger rooms have millions of dollars to pay for legal expenses, but I sure don’t.”

According to Vann, those court charges to fight his case may well escalate as high as $100,000, so he has set up a GoFundMe page to allow others to help him in his quest to maintain the poker offering in the location.

A Change of Heart from Smith County?

With a business license in place and an up-to-date permit, how can a business owner such as Vann be targeted by the authorities? Smith County’s stance on poker seems to have pivoted very quickly to that of no tolerance, but this is no new occurrence.

In Texas, it would appear that the existence of a poker room comes fraught with any number of issues. Dallas poker clubs have, in general, had a hard time of it of late. Lawmakers claim illegal gambling, so what is the problem? The process of playing poker in Texas is not as it is in other states, with no rake taken from cash games and a monthly membership rate to play in the room instead the fee. That is traditionally a fairly nominal amount, such as $200 per annum, but an hourly seat fee bumps that up and takes the place of cash game rake as it might usually be charged.

According to KLTV, a local news station, undercover police had been working undercover “for months” in order to establish that the business was illegal, so there seems a lack of understanding in some parts about exactly what was done wrong and if so, why it was done so apparently in good faith.

The Top Shelf Poker Room

The Top Shelf Poker Room in action in Flint, Texas.

Criminal Investigation Under Way

Top Shelf owners are waiting for felony charges or a return to poker.

The local authorities will now investigate the Top Shelf and dig deep into the business to establish what they initially see as illegal activity. If they are right, then the co-owners face possible arrests, with the police confirming to PokerNews that they see this as forthcoming “in the near future”.

The Top Shelf’s business model is apparently no different to how it was a year ago when Vann took over as one of the co-owners, but how poker rooms donate to charity, process money, and establish their business comes under extreme scrutiny in the Lone Star State. Part of the Texas Penal Code applies, as there’s no economic benefit to the business from rake or the games running alone. That appears to be a key factor in the progression of the case.

With Flint, Texas having no other poker rooms, the reputation of Top Shelf will affect a lot of patrons and may even inform the choices of interested parties in purchasing cardrooms in Texas, something Doug Polk and Mike Matusow have both spoken extensively about doing in the past few months alone.

Top Shelf owners will now be waiting for either felony charges or a return to poker being played in their venue. As ever with the game, however, players arriving to take their seats need to know that they’re doing so without fear of it being upturned. If they are, then any venue, no matter how big or small, risks losing its customers. And no poker game ever ran if it didn’t have enough players to shuffle up and deal.

Arthur Crowson

Arthur Crowson writes for about the gambling industry. His experience ranges from crypto and technology to sports, casinos, and poker. He went to Douglas College and started his journalism career at the Merritt Herald as a general beat reporter covering news, sports and community. Arthur lives in Hawaii and is passionate about writing, editing, and photography.

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