The Fairfax County Police Department SWAT team raided a high-stakes home poker game, held the players at gun point, and seized $150,000 from the poker table. Eight of the participants of the home poker game were charged with illegal gambling, a misdemeanor that can be punished with a fine of up to $500.
This was no ordinary home poker game as it had a buy-in of $20,000 and allowed participants to buy in again if they lost all their chips. It is worth noting that the buy-in was double that of the buy-in for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. The game was being played at Great Falls, and among the participants were a couple of professional poker players. The host received 1.5 percent of each buy-in so that he could pay the dealers and the assistants hired to serve coffee and give massages.
The law permits home poker games as long as the host does not make a profit. Since the host of this game was taking 1.5 percent, the game turned into a criminal activity. However, the police have not charged the host.
The Fairfax police are known to raid home poker games. They did the same once in 2005. And in 2006, the SWAT team arrested an individual accused of placing illegal bets on football games. At that time, Salvatore J. Culosi Jr, an optometrist, was accidently killed by an officer. Although the Fairfax police promised to be less aggressive in future, they haven’t exactly stopped being so.
The police have refused to make any comments as they are currently investigating the case. Spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said: “In general though, detectives have seen that some of the organized card games, even in private homes, may involve hundreds of thousands of dollars. At times, we’ve seen illegal activity involved in these games. Additionally, at times, illegal weapons are present. With these large amounts of cash involved, the risks are high. We’ve worked cases where there have been armed robberies.”
The arrested players and dealers are now trying to get out of the legal soup. Their lawyers are making preparations to argue that poker is not a game of chance as per Virginia’s definition of “games of chance.” But prosecutors have promised that the charges against them will be dropped if they stay away from all gambling outfits for the next six months. The police have also agreed to return sixty percent of the cash seized.