Chicago Cops Go After High-Stakes Poker Games


It happened this month at a weekly Sunday night Texas Hold ‘Em poker game between waiters and college students in Chicago. “Gambling police–game’s over,” David Sarrett recalled three plainclothes officers announcing after he saw them outside and welcomed them in, says the Chicago Tribune. Chicago police are using the Internet to scout illegal card games in private homes. “We’re just starting to write a few more [misdemeanor gambling tickets] now,” police spokesman David Bayless said. “Since the emergence of poker as a fad, we’re going to be looking at it. We’re always advising people not to invite strangers into their homes.”

Home gambling, including small-time poker games, is illegal under Chicago and Illinois law. News of the Sarrett bust spread through a network of dozens of Chicago card players–computer programmers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, theater performers, and others from many walks of life–who communicate online. “Like they don’t have anything else to do than bust $20 card games,” said James McManus, a high-stakes player and author of the popular poker tome, “Positively Fifth Street.” In the last month, police ticketed 18 card players in a N. Myrtle Beach, S.C., hotel room, raided a late-night game with an entry fee of $1,000 in Greensboro, N.C., and seized $30,000 from a Brockton, Mass., game in a building that also housed a day-care center. In Chicago, “It’s the games that are being hosted for profit that are of concern to us because those could escalate into higher stakes and people not being able to cover their bets,” Bayless said. “We’re not going after weekly, friendly home games.”


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