Game Host speaks out about the Austin Home Game Bust mentioned in an earlier post and also posted over at Pokerati and Mookie99.
I had a rather long conversation with the Host who had much to say about what has been posted regarding this bust. The game Host tells me that many of the things posted about the circumstances of the game and it's demise are seriously misinformed. Below is the Hosts rebuttal version regarding the incident and to the various claims that were posted.
He believes that the game's compromise was caused by a Rival tournament director (hereafter referred to as the Rival). Apparently this story starts months before the Austin PD ever knocked on the door.
There used to be a monthly tournament held at the Marriot in south Austin hosted by Let's Poker.com. The tournament was originally called the Barton Creek tournament, but as it became more and more popular, they moved it to the Marriot to accomodate more players. I played in this tournament a few times taking 2nd one month. After several successful months of running, the tournament grew to the size of 200+ players and was paid a visit by Austin PD who were obligated to investigate following a complaint they had received. The officers showing up was a bit unsettling, but the tournament continued unabated and no one was ticketed or arrested. However, following the visit, the tournament was suspended indefinitely pending the results of the investigation. Consequently, the hotel opted to turn away the tournament regardless of the outcome of the investigation. At about the same time, theRIVAL had decided to try running his own tournaments and the first one was cancelled as it coincided with the hotel's decision to walk away from holding any poker tournaments.
Fast forward. I am unsure where the Rival first started his tournaments, I had heard at the Omni downtown, but that is unconfirmed as I never played in any of them. I do know after several months, the RIVAL was holding his tournament at the Holiday Inn at 183 and Mopac. It was when he invited the HOST to come play in his tournament (and hopefully tap into his player pool) that things started to fester. The Rival explained to the Host that the tournament was self-dealt (fashioned after the old Barton Creek Tournament). The Host suggested the Rival provide dedicated dealers to make the tournament more legit. The Rival said he didn't know any. The Host tells me that this is when he first provided the Rival 5 dealers for the tournament a few months ago. When the Host showed up to this first dedicated dealer touranment, he discovered that the Rival was using the hotel's round banquet tables for the tournament (much like the old Barton Creek tournament did). The Host told the Rival he needed to get true poker tables to make the most use of dedicated dealers. The next month, the Rival did just that and provided oval poker tables for the tournament and had even asked if he could borrow one from the Host should he need one.
The Host then went on to say that the Rival was skimming the prize pool to the tune of several thousand dollars. The tournament buy in was $100. Unlimited rebuys for the first hour were also $100, and an add-on during the break was also $100. The Host suggests that a conservative figure for the tournament prize pool was $10,000. (50 $100 buyins = $5000, 25 rebuys=$2500, 25 add-ons=$2500.) The pay out was usually around $8,000. The Host says the Rival told him he paid ~$350 to the hotel for the room rental and the hotel would make additional income off of bar/food sales. As you can see, there was some serious skimming going on. The Host believes that the total money collected was proably closer to $12,000, considering the typical number of rebuys/add-ons he noted at each of the tournaments he attended.
The Host noted that players were complaining of the high RAKE of the Rival's tournament and that the Rival didn't disclose the number of rebuys and add-ons (a classic move to hide how much is taken off the top). The Host felt he could provide a much better tournament, ensuring that more money actually made it to the prize pool, provide competent dealers, better chips/cards, and a much better blind structure. After all the Host had significant experience in running tournaments and cash games since he had been doing it since September '04. With his large player pool and tons of experience, should be simple, right?
Thus the stage was set. The Host arranged to do have the tournament at the Holiday Inn. The Rival apparently didn't like this, or at least that is what it seems as you will soon see. Everything was set...until....the hotel called the Host to inform him they had been contacted by the TABC concerning a poker tournament that they had heard was being held and that they would be there to investigate. The TABC went on to state that if the tournament is in any way illegal, the TABC would revoke their liquor license on the spot. The hotel caved and the tournament was cancelled.
Because of the TABC letter, not only was the Host's tournament cancelled, but so was any future touranments held by the Rival. The Host then tells me that Wednesday February 7th, the Rival called the Host and commenced to speak to him in a threatening manner, telling him that "You are fucking done!" The Host said he told the Rival if he couldn't speak to him with some respect he would hang up....which he did.
On Sunday the 11th, the Host game was raided by APD. APD confiscated all of the gaming materials - tables, chips, cards, prize pool, a laptop, and a desktop. No tickets were written or arrests made.
We then hear over on Mookie 99, that a letter from the HOA was sent to the neighborhood where the Host held his game at his home. The Host believes this letter was written by the Rival as a way of knocking him off. A careful analysis of the letter would suggest that it is not something that someone from a HOA would write. Think about it.
1. IF the HOA received a complaint, why wouldn't they contact the home owner instead of putting out a flyer in the neighborhood which gave the address of the house?
2. Why ask other neighbors to call the police/DA instead of contacting them directly?
3. Attach a flyer that was never printed by the Host? (The Host would EMAIL the supposed flyer to known players. He says he never used flyers....Flyers bring undesirables....like robbers and the police.
4. Does this sound like a "concerned neighbor" or an angry Rival?
Other items that are in dispute.
Estranged Wife factor: The Host has been divorced for 15 years, is not currently married and is still friends with his ex who by the way is unemployed and was never employed by APD.
Garage Fire: The Host did not ever have a garage fire. He did however have a vehicle fire. The Austin Fire Department said while inconclusive, they did not believe the fire was started by Arson. Rather, the Host had a stereo recently installed with an amplifier in the trunk - which apparently is where the fire started. AFD believes the installation was faulty.
"I'm taking everyone with me": This is the furthest from the truth. The Host denies ever saying such a thing.
Dealer hiding in closet: One of the dealers was dealing at a table upstairs when the police came in. He thought the game was being robbed and went to hide in a closet. Apparently, when he heard it was the police, he came out.
The Host states that he was told by another player that the Rival was seen with a copy of both the HOA letter and the game schedule on Thursday February 8th. Things that make you go, HMMMM.
The Host states thata player that was playing at another game held on that same Sunday Night Feburary 11th, heard the Rival announce "The Host's game is getting busted right now." Apparently knowing by osmosis, since it was before anyone at the Host's game had informed anyone outside that they were being raided.
According to the Host, the police told him he can get his computers back in a month or two, as for the tables and other equip, he would have to take that up with the County Attorney. They left telling him to not start up again, or they would be back.
Until the Texas Legislature wakes up and realizes that poker isn't going to go away, this kind of underhanded ratting out of games will surely continue. Makes you wonder if the two games which were raided by APD in two separate apartment complexes in north Austin last November/December were caused by the same kind of "complaint".
As for this poker player, I've packed up my wagon and taken it north where I can play poker legally!