It has been a week of poker controversy, but even for the greatest card game on the planet, players of all levels must be shocked at the swift closure at a cardroom in Texas. After the shocking tragedy of the Susie Zhao trial starting and the Garrett Adelstein and Robbi Jade Lew affair, which seemingly gets weirder by the day.

This week, Texas is back in the spotlight after the sudden closure of a cardroom caused state-wide controversy.

Watauga Poker Club Raided by Police

It was on Sunday that the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club in Texas was raided by the police as the club, which has only been open since the start of the year, was shut down. Local authorities entered the property and made several arrests, linked to the money that players pay in rake for extra chips.

Texas and poker sound like they would go together like Phil Hellmuth and a black baseball cap, but with regulations super-strict in the Lone Star State, the game is not as simple as in other territories in the United States, let alone the rest of the world.

PokerNews has launched an investigation and according to their anonymous source, authorities came in and asked players to “raise their hands” before fining individuals $360 and arresting a dozen members of staff for an overnight stay in the county jail.

A Fall from Grace

“Citing ‘unlawful activities’, the club has been closed.”

It’s a long way from the cardroom’s grand opening, at which the mayor of Texas, Arthur Miner, was present to welcome players and staff to a bright new future. Nine months in, it looks unlikely to be a long one, with the club now close.

In the midst of the arrests and play being suspended, it emerged that a $100,000 guaranteed tournament was in progress, with authorities seizing the entire prizepool. Citing ‘unlawful activities’, the club has been closed and in a warrant signed by the presiding Judge Gallagher, said that “All of the windows for the poker room [prevent] anyone from seeing inside. On either side of the door are large images of playing cards [with] black, blue, and white poker-style playing chips.” That much is true, but if the mayor was happy to open the property, what’s wrong with it nine months on from him cutting the ribbon?

On Day 2 of the Fall Classic Poker – which had a $420 entry fee and a $20 optional dealer add-on that gave players another 15,000 chips — a planned live stream to the final table had to be abandoned as action was definitely over, and not just for the day.

What is the Future for the Watauga?

After a tournament that welcomed 369 players had to be abandoned, what kind of future can such a venue have? It’s hard to see how the Watauga keeps going, especially since the $132,000 that had been raised for that event was handed to police when they seized all available funds.

16 levels into that event, play was canceled – seemingly permanently. With any players still in seats fined $360, it would appear that anyone who busted before the final 49 players might have been better off, financially as well as emotionally.

Players weren’t just fined and thrown out, as authorities required them to reveal whether they were members, and what they had paid to play in the tournament as well as exactly what the breakdown was. It would certainly appear that there was an issue with the so-called ‘dealer tip’ that gave players a not insubstantial extra 15,000 chips to begin the tournament with.

While there are no end of places players can play poker at in Texas, the Watauga was one of the biggest, though its days in operation now look to be numbered.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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