Thursday, March 10, 2005

Illegal Poker Game Raided in Greensboro

The $1000 per seat game was raided in December. All players lost their buy-in and the ring-leader got the book thrown at him.
Posted in the Greensboro News and Record on 3/5/05:Poker players ante up in deal
By Eric Collins, Staff WriterNews & Record
GREENSBORO — Prosecutors on Friday won more than the pot from 14 poker players charged after a late-night raid of a secret Greensboro poker parlor in December.
Under a plea agreement, the players forfeited all the money they’d brought to the $1,000-per-seat Texas Hold ’em poker event — totalling more than $25,000, police officials said.
“I think we punished (them) right where it counts,” Guilford District Attorney Stuart Albright said. “Gambling is all about money.”
The seized money will become state property.
As part of the agreement, only one of the 14 pleaded guilty to criminal charges after stepping forward as the “ringleader.”
Joshua August Andrews, 34, of 4535 Cross Ridge Lane in Greensboro, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of gambling and possession and consumption of fortified wine, liquor or a malt beverage on unauthorized premises.
District Judge A. Robinson Hassell entered a prayer for judgment continued, which means it won’t count as a conviction on Andrews’ record. Charges against the remaining 13 were dismissed under a deferred prosecution agreement, Albright said.
Agents from the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement began investigating the poker parlor because organizers were serving liquor to players. Undercover ALE agents began gathering evidence by playing high-stakes poker in the business suite on Ashwood Court in the Lawndale North Business Park. They joined the games of Texas Hold ’em and Omaha poker by making contact with organizers through an e-mail address found on a poker Web site. It cost $1,000 per seat on high-stakes nights and hundreds of dollars for lower-stakes games.
Despite the growing popularity of high-stakes poker — boosted by televised matches on cable — Hassell told the courtroom that “it is and has been ... contrary to our public policy and against the law.”
Poker is legal in the state as long as players do not wager money.
After the hearing, Andrews’ attorney, Davis North, questioned why ALE agents pursued the friendly poker games with such vigor. Warnings to stop the games would have sufficed, he said.
“It just doesn’t seem like a very productive use of resources,” he said.
ALE officials said they received a complaint about the poker games and were obligated to investigate. Another complaint led agents to break up a poker tournament at a southwest Greensboro Ham’s restaurant on Wednesday night. No one was arrested.
The restaurant chain paid 5th Street Entertainment of Charlotte to host the card games, which did not involve traditional betting but included a grand prize trip to Las Vegas that ALE officials considered a violation of state statute.
Despite the recent high-profile cases, there is no statewide crackdown on illegal poker games, said Alan Fields, assistant supervisor for the ALE district office in Greensboro.
“We’re not specifically targeting people playing poker,” he said.

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