Jason's Poker Blog

  1. 2008-01-13 00:17:57

    San Francisco Poker Meetup Group Busted!

    This is my post about the San Francisco Bay Area Poker Meetup Group's end of the season freeroll, which we track results for on

    So we're about 30 minutes into playing the freeroll when things get interesting. I started on the button, and I folded my first 6 hands, which consisted of some terrible cards as well as A9 and A7. I decided not to throw away any of my chips since there were some strong players starting with more chips than me. I'm under the gun and see AQs! I raise 3 times the big blind and get five crazy callers :p

    The flop is J95 with two diamonds, which doesn't seem so good for me. I'm sure somebody called with AJ or KJ or QT or something. Everybody checks - wow. I tell the dealer to give me a deuce and he does, but it's a diamond, so that's too bad. Everybody checks again, so I start to think I could be good, but probably not. I call for another 2, and he rips it right off the top. Everybody is checking around because they are afraid of my psychic abilities, and then we hear a knocking on the door.

    Somebody jokingly said only the cops knock like that. Well, they were right. A grip of policeman come in with their guns drawn. Wowser.

    They took pictures of all the players at the tables, all the rooms, the chips, the cards, the dogs - everything. They made us sit with our hands on the table and finally put the guns away. Somebody tried to take a drink of their beer, and was told there would be time for that later. That was good news at the time.

    By the way, I was hoping to bust out early so I could go catch the Packers playoff game. The Packers were already down 14-0 when I left for the freeroll. I don't know why they have to start it out like that, but as I'm writing this, they are up 42-20. I think I gave it away with my cheese head hat that I borrowed from my roommate, so they let me be the last one to be interviewed. While we were waiting to be interviewed, one of the officers told us how stupid we were for playing at a place like that with open invitations on the internet, as thugs would be happy to come by with "big guns" and relieve us of our money.

    About thirty minutes later I finally get interviewed. They asked a bunch of questions about how long I've been on Meetup, how long I've played with the group, what my email address and username for Meetup was, if I'd ever won, if I'd ever done a rebuy, who I thought paid the rent and utilities, if cheating was suspected, what other locations I've played at, and probably some more that I can't remember. My interviewer did make it clear that "all of us guys play poker" and they weren't targeting the players. Yay for that.

    On the way out they took yet another portrait of me with my name on a note card under my chin. I guess that's so they can cross-reference my name with my interviewer to get any extra needed information later. Crazy. The guy walking me out to the street told me to be a little more careful about where I play in the future. He said they don't have any problems with poker, but as players we should be a bit more careful. He said it's not illegal to play a home game, regardless of the buy-in, but when people are "raking the pot, skimming off the top, and defrauding the players like what's going on here, it's not good." That's some pretty heavy stuff :/ It should be interesting to hear about how this all ends up, as most people were under the impression that everything with the group was complete legal and above the board.

    That's about it. I just wanted to get everything out so people could satisfy some of their curiosity.

    Oh, and by the way, we all flipped over our hands while we were waiting and I had the best hand!

    Update: Here is my wrap-up post on this situation.

    Posted by Jason M at 2008-01-13 00:17:57

Comments on “San Francisco Poker Meetup Group Busted!”

    • avatar for Ethan
    • Freerolls aren't raked - the "raking" (that wasn't raking) supposedly took place at earlier games.

    • anonymous
    • Fuck The Police!

    • anonymous
    • Who let them in? Did they have a warrant? How is a freeroll raked?

      I didn't read the other replies so maybe these questions were answered.

    • avatar for Jason M
    • I am close enough with the people who were charged to know that had any complaints been brought to their attention, and/or had an officer tried to clear up anything that was borderline illegal, they would have made immediate changes.

      It's just too bad that a 3-month stake-out was necessary to pretty much result in what could have been taken care of in an afternoon.

    • avatar for Ethan
    • Too bad that's not what happened here. The tournaments were low buy-in, usually $25. You'd have to have a pretty small paycheck to lose it all there. Being understaffed also doesn't jive with the 3 month undercover investigation.

      The point is that this wasn't a card room, just a home game that got large with an organizer that did overstep the law. It was a far cry from being an underground gambling operation. The fact that the two players who had charges brought against them had those charges greatly reduced speaks to that.

      All in all, a waste of time and money for the city.

    • anonymous
    • While it sucks for those that were does appear that a law was violated......Now while everyone wants to crucify thing must be understood here. Most police agencies in the US are they will not go out and look for the gambling...until they receive a complaint about some one losing their paycheck at the game.....I know it sounds goofy but we have police officer's that play in our group(we take no rake and everyone BYOB to include snacks), and this is pretty much what they always say...There's a card room in town they all know about and would love to play at but don't because it's illegal, and it pretty much runs until some slob loses his paycheck....and then the wife calls the cops and the rest is history....

    • avatar for Jason M
    • I was there - I think my facts are pretty straight. I learned to play poker with my Grandma, Aunts, Uncles, and parents. I don't see the problem with letting a minor play cards with a friendly group of people. How many 13-year-olds hang out with their parents on a Friday night? I'd say beating adults at poker is better than harassing shopkeepers and the like. As for the traffic (which, by the way was never 30 cars - get your facts straight): if it was really a problem, I'd think any "well-adjusted" person would just talk to the home owner about it instead of conducting a 3-month investigation.

    • anonymous
    • how come nobody has said anything about the 13 year old boy who was playing, enough to be allowed into the free roll, that mean she was in the top 20 players? Don't confuse him with the 13 year old female who was released to a friend not CPS! do all of you this that's okay to allow a minor to play? do you think that is not against the law? Isn't that why one of the suspects was arrested ? oh I forgot , it's just a friendly game that allows juveniles to play - whats makes you think thats okay? would you want 30 cars parked in you're neighborhood 4 X a week, do you think that you may have drawn attention to yourself by advertising on the internet ? on meet then posting all of you;re information on that site as well? Like some other well adjusted person put it in one of these blogs , why don't you just put a sign around your neck that says "Bust me." Do you think that DOJ was behind this case? after all didn't they play with you ?? Like 3 times? get your facts straight!

    • anonymous
    • It sounds like the policeman whose play was described either didn't have a clue or was purposely playing as bad as he could (calling station, rebuying after busting), maybe to attract information, maybe just because he had a big cash budget from the PD.

      The thing about your hosts skimming must have been from the previous games (since this was a freeroll tournament). Did you play cash games? Were any of you even alert enough to have noticed if you were being ripped off by a large rake? That would mean the cops were actually performing a service. (I imagine a world where the police only bust drug dealers with bad product.) On the other hand, if the PD just used the understood freeroll rake as a pretext, it's a letter-of-the-law excuse for harrassing a friendly game.

      More to read...

    • avatar for Jason M
    • Hey anon, thanks for the useful comments. I've passed this message on to the involved parties. They had requested people not get too involved with the media for the time being. It seems the story has made it into multiple syndicated blogs and on the Poker Players Alliance website (see my Link Roundup post), so whether they want it or not the news is spreading...

    • anonymous
    • Fellow Poker Players,
      Your story has made it's way to another poker group here in California.
      I myself was in a game that got busted almost 3 years ago in Southern Cal. I can assure you, as you've already figured out, that the cops played in your game probably at least 3 times, to "stake it out" and build a case. If you go to the police HQ and request a copy of the police report, you will find out lots of info you may not know about. The undercover cops in your game will have reported on everything each time they were there – this will all be in the police report.

      It sounds like if you guys were in a freeroll with a prize pool, then how that prize pool was created (such as from monies taken out of previous tourneys) is what is at issue here. Perhaps other things too, but that would be spelled out in the police report if you get a copy. It is technically illegal to take out anything from a prize pool of buyins, for future tourneys or a championship or whatever. California law calls this a "rake" and therefore illegal.

      Anyway, there's one other thing you guys should know and perhaps do. If any of your friends that got arrested are innocent and have not skimmed or done anything like that (again, check the police report and find out from those arrested what the charges are), then to help them, and help them get the charges dropped or lowered, you must GET THE MEDIA INVOLVED. Call the tv news stations and tell them about a home poker game that got busted and "isn't this an insane way to spend taxpayers money?" You will find at least one or more reporters who will want to do a story, you will get tv coverage, and THIS can be embarrassing to SFPD or whoever did the bust.

      You should also post about this at the 2+2 Forums, and other poker forums, as this can lead to publicity for you guys as well.

      The bottom line, though, is this is about publicity to embarrass law enforcement that has spent enormous resources and money to bust a neighborhood home game.

      I share this to assist you. It is what we did ourselves, and got all our charges dropped against us. As I prefer to be anonymous here, since I still play in home games, if you need more info from me, post an email address here, or phone number and I'll contact you. But pretty much what I've said is the important stuff. Good luck!

    • anonymous
    • fold preflop imo.

    • anonymous
    • Geez! Did you get enough responses! It'll take me an hour to read them!

      Great Blog entry, Jason! Thanks for filling us in. In a way, I'm sorry I missed it. My Mom was in town from New Jersey. I'd considered bringing her. Man, she would have been pissed at me.

      Okay, we will play again!!! No one can stop us!!!!!!

    • anonymous
    • Yeah - he was shorter and less stocky than the rest of them and he had on the full gear...helmet, vest, etc. He definitely looked the most serious of the force. If I remember right he was the guy doing all the yelling. I didn't realize I recognized him though until I saw Mark outside going through Bert's car. Then I got the picture of the Asian guys face stuck in my head because as I was walking out the door I saw him at the kitchen table talking to Bert. Then I remembered that he had shown up with Mark to at least 1 event. 100% no doubt about it, there were at least 2 members of the Sheriff's Dept that were there yesterday afternoon who had played with us in the past. Mark, for sure, has played more than once. The other guy I'd only seen once, and can't remember his name.

    • anonymous
    • ^ that was me

    • anonymous
    • Question:

      Is that asian guy you're taking about the one who was yelling nonstop at the beginning"


    • anonymous
    • Never thought I'd be glad to not be in the top 20...

      This is just wrong!!! Hauling off Bert and Trish was a complete waste of taxpayers money. Not sure which agency it was but all the real criminals must be happy all those officers were busy on Saturday so they could commit real crimes. Of course this is my initial and gut reaction so forgive me for just pontificating and being pissed off. I am not writing off our group we "will" still play...

    • anonymous
    • Where's the Sport's Book? Good thing somebody didn't have the sport's spreads posted!

    • anonymous
    • BTW - great posts and comments. I'm really glad to hear that everyone's on the same page in that they don't suspect anything wacky going on...I've been comfy with the group from day one. I hope that they come up empty on this and and that the County ends up with mud on their face. Fingers crossed!

    • anonymous
    • Hellooooo! 2 of the cops present at the raid had played with us before. The first one I recognized was while I was being escorted out. Asian guy, glasses, goatee, helmet, vest with all kinds of paraphanalia (sp?). The 2nd guy was Mark. He was outside searching B's car when I was out there. Mark played with us a few times. I called him "moolah muerta" because he was soooo bad. Any 2 cards, any position, would see every hand down to the river. When he was out of chips, he instantly did a re-buy.

      As a side note, I actually talked to a few neighbors - they were very relieved to hear it was just a low-stakes poker game. They had noticed the cars, but never had any complaints because there was no noise/music/partying/speeding/break-ins/etc, and there weren't people constantly coming and going (people would park and stay for hours).

      I posted my account of the afternoon at

    • anonymous
    • Hearing about this makes me mad. Seriously. What stakes are you guys playing? Does anyone ever bring more than $100 to these things?

      So, I'm a little confused. Are they taking the chips, cards and other equipment for "evidence?" And if there is no "rake," what the hell do they think they have on your host?

      That comment about not taking the card protector to be nice....I want to smack someone. Don't let this disband your group. Do some research into the law and know your rights. Then set things up in a way that will attract less attention. Like having private forums and letting your invites spread by word of mouth. I'm sure there's more you can do.

    • anonymous
    • Wow thats totally crazy!!! Thats just insane man!

    • anonymous
    • gee
      way to scare me

    • avatar for Jason M
    • K just gave me this link which talks about "thugs with big guns". Of course, our prize pools were much smaller....

    • avatar for Jason M
    • The grapevine has provided me with the information that one of the offices in uniform at the bust had played with us undercover on at least one occasion. I don't know if it's true, but that would make me feel a lot better than if somebody had gone to the police with an exaggerated story just to get the group in trouble.

    • anonymous
    • Fraud and shills are the only possible explanation why a player as dominant as myself did not win every tournament against you clowns.

      Seriously, feel horrible for T and B.

    • anonymous
    • WOW!......i can't believe AQ was the best hand

    • anonymous
    • I saw him being escorted to the squad car with his hands behind his back when I drove by the castle. Didn't actually see the bracelet but it wasn't a natural walking position if you ask me.

      Yup, the guns were drawn, saw the door buster by the front door and they did say they had a search warrant ... I'm pretty sure they did even though I didn't see one.

      Although their entry seemed rather excessive from our point of view, they had to be prepared for the worst case scenario. I don't blame them for it. I'm sure it's the Standard Operating Procedure for those guys. It was a f-ing raid, you know?

      Judging from the interview, they spent some time doing their homework. They knew how the tournament was organized, reviewed the website, picked a single event where all the 'major' players were present. Some of the questions, I thought, were too specific to our tournament structures, players and their relationships that it couldn't have come from unhappy neighbors.

      I would hate to think that but any disgruntle player could have provided the information.

    • anonymous
    • that "thugs with guns" comment made me crazy. is that a big problem in san mateo, thugs with guns at home games? and if it is, isn't it the job of the cops to do something about it? that's how they stop crime, by harassing potential crime victims?
      that was the same cop who wanted to know how much the chips were worth because he didn't believe they were worth a quarter each. i told him it was a tournament but he seemed confused after that and i stopped trying to explain.

      i really think we need to stand by bert and trish, find out what they are being charged with, if there is going to be a trial, if we can testify on their behalf. i don't believe a word of what the cops said about "fraud" and "shills". that's absurd.

    • anonymous
    • that or he at least had his arms behind his back

    • anonymous
    • So are you saying that Bert was taken away in cuffs??

    • anonymous
    • Looks like your community doesn't have any "real crime" going on!
      such as rapist, gang crime, or child molesters. I'll have to move there!!

      Friendly poker games, plus five (for drinks and munchies) WHAT A CRIME! I won't be able to sleep at night, my god, thank you so much for taking such horrible criminals off the streets.

      Our hard earned tax dollars at work folks! Thugs breaking in, right, the thugs had guns drawn for five dollars!

    • avatar for Jason M
    • I saw a door smasher laying on the ground, so I'm pretty sure they were ready to bust the door down. I have a vague recollection of them saying something about a search warrant for "gambling and other things" or something like that :p

    • anonymous
    • They dont have to have a warrent, upon probable cause, or invitation.
      All would boil down to what was said at the door. If they just walked in and caught you all at the tables the would need a warrent. Coming to the door and knocking. Perfectly legal... getting probable cause, easy.

    • avatar for Jason M
    • Did anybody actually see a search warrant?

    • anonymous
    • I feel kinda stupid for this

      when they walked in, after they settled down a bit I thought we'd get to play when they left. then I saw him in handcuffs, then gone, and I was like ooook I'm dumb

    • avatar for Jason M
    • Ethan found some interesting info about the legalities of poker in California. He posted a link in his blog. Check it out.

    • anonymous
    • Half of me wishes i would have stayed over at berts last night and dealt. The other half.... glad i didnt.

    • anonymous
    • Yup, that's pretty much what I remember. And the guns were definitely drawn. There were probably 10 officers in all.

      I saw the host freeze when he looked out the kitchen window after 3 or 4 very loud, rapid knocks. So I got up to see what was going on but before I got to the kitchen the cops were in (with guns drawn) and told me to put my hands up, then to stand over by the wall, and finally sit down on the chair with hands on the table.

      I was actually surprised at how calm I was. I guess I've seen too many episodes of "COPS". But it surely made some excitement. I"m sure everyone that was there will remember it for a long time!

      One of the officers gave me the same lecture that Jason got. He stated that he could have confiscated my $5 card protector if they wanted to but they were more or less being nice by giving it back to me. Gee, thanks.

      btw, posting photos of the person in question on the internet with chips, cards, and a description of his winnings was surely evidence. Not to mention the TV interview where he states his age. I really didn't think anything of it until now. Maybe someone had a bone to pick. I suppose it could have snowballed from a neighbor"s complaint about the number of cars on the street. In fact one of the neighbors was looking me over pretty obviously as I was parking and walking across the street. Seemed like an odd coincidence the raid happened on the freeroll game too. That's what I get for being in the top 20 ;-)

      In all fairness, I probably wouldn"t like 20 cars parking near my home 3-4 times a week either.

      I feel bad for T and B. I don't feel they were really doing anything wrong. They are OK in my book. But I guess the law doesn"t see it the same way I do.

      I guess we"ll never get to finish that game, or distribute the freeroll prize pool :-(. I"m sure all the tables, cards, etc are going into evidence.

      I hope the group can continue is some form or another. I did enjoy playing with this group of competitive poker players. I hope to see some of them in the WSOP sometime in the future (not that I'll ever make it).

      btw, I folded a 2 pre-flop on the hand Jason described!

    • anonymous
    • Also, kudos to everyone for staying calm. Seemed like the cops lightened up a bit, as they talked with our table while we were waiting for our turn. I've never played at a card club, all I wanted was to find a group of cool people like you to play with. Hope to play with you guys in some forum again.

    • anonymous
    • Yeah i saw the guns. that was too much.

      I hope Trish doesn't get in trouble for letting zak play. those questions were weird.

    • anonymous
    • I guess my view was blocked or just trying to erase the memory from brain! Ugh!!

    • anonymous
    • card rooms*

    • anonymous
    • It's so sad but it wasn't even 30 minutes into the game cause the blinds were 25-50. :(

      The whole gun thing scared me a lot, and like you said, the fact that they didn't put them away right away.

      The cops told me to be safe and smart, and play at licensed card games. I mostly liked the group so this sucks.

    • anonymous
    • The guns were definitely drawn though they were pointing them toward the ground, not us.
      So, it is correct that so long as the house isn't making any money off of it, the game is legal? I told my interviewer that was my understanding, but he didn't confirm or deny. If so, we should be able to all play again, yes?

    • avatar for Jason M
    • The guns were definitely drawn. They didn't put them away right away, either, which was pretty intimidating. I definitely was not enjoying myself!

    • anonymous
    • Jason,

      Your summary of events was good though I don't recall any guns being drawn. If they had, I definitely would have crapped my pants!!

      Anyway, I hope we can re-gather as a group sometime in the future after this crap settles down.

    • avatar for Ethan
    • That's nuts. I wonder if you'll have to testify or anything. And honestly, how often do 'thugs with big guns' come and steal money from poker games?