Just give us all the information
Note to Cardroom Managers: Be sure to be upfront and explicit about all rules, fee structures, payouts, etc. when organizing a poker tournament. There’s absolutely no reason not to, and you can avoid situations like what happened this weekend at the Watauga Social Lounge in Watauga, TX.
On Saturday, the Watauga Social Lounge hosted a $3,000 guaranteed, $100 buy-in Bounty tournament. On the flyer posted on the club’s Facebook page, it is explained that $50 of the buy-in goes to the pot (the prize pool), $25 is “access” or house fees, and $25 is the premium of each player. The flyer also advertised an extra $60 at the break for an additional 25,000 chips (players started with 15,000 chips).
There was no price/fee breakdown listed for the add-on, which is the source of the drama.
Voices have been raised!
Poker player Ben Ross, in a video he streamed live on Facebook and which Todd Witteles collated and posted on his Poker Fraud Alert website on Monday, said the card room had taken a rake from the add-on. In the video, he was kicked out of the tournament and banned from the club for allegedly calling the place a “rat hole”.
After he left, Ross explained that he noticed the problem when the prize pool numbers came up, as the calculations just didn’t match up. The owner of the Watauga Social Lounge confirmed with him that the add-on had been earned by 20%, or $12. Ross complained that he hadn’t advertised this rake anywhere, and the owner agreed to include the entire add-on in the prize pool.
It looked like that could have been the end, but Ross said there were two other issues. First, he didn’t like the poker room counting antes before the big blinds. But what really triggered it was the confusion about what they were doing during a coloring. We won’t go into details here, but it didn’t make sense to Ross and his frustration boiled over.
Ross called the salon a “rat hole” and while he was taking a cigarette break, management told him that his membership had been revoked and that they would bring trespassing charges if he stayed. The start of the video shows Ross appearing to try to continue playing in the tournament, but to no avail.
What upset Ross even more was that there were only seven players left and the tournament paid out five spots, with $1,500 for the first. Fifth place paid $347. Watauga Social Lounge eventually refunded Ross’ buy-in and monthly subscription, he was able to cash in his nine bounties for $225.
The poker room knew they screwed up
Interestingly, it seems the club management knows they were wrong. Not only did they agree to put 100% of the add-on into the prizepool, but the person who ejected Ross (the owner?) can be heard in the video saying that the add-on rake “should have been” disclosed.
The Watauga Social Lounge announced the extra rake for its Presidents Day tournament on Monday night and even, for some reason, used the Ross controversy as a badge of honor, printing the flyer with a photo of a rat along with the text, “Come and get that cheddar in that rat hole! – dissatisfied customer.”
It will be interesting to see if there is a postscript to this, namely the legality of charging a rake in the first place. Texas cardrooms are hot right now, but live in a legal gray area of the state. It is illegal to charge a rake on poker games, so to circumvent this, cardrooms charge membership fees and/or time fees. So the question here is whether levying rake on tournament buy-ins and add-ons breaks the law or does it only apply to gambling?