US Poker Players In Fear: Armed Robbers Target More Games

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:

A series of poker game robberies in Texas over the past few weeks may have provided a precursor for more armed robberies of poker games outside the state.

Such was the case during the early morning hours Sunday in Portland, Oregon where players found themselves on the floor with guns pointed at their heads.

The robbery took place at a home near Southeast 114th Avenue and Holgate Street.

 "They were all wearing black and had masks covering their faces," one of the poker players told Newschannel 8's Wayne Havrelly. "One of them hit me in the back with a shotgun until I was flat on the floor."

The victim said there were 18 poker players in the room and most of them were friends. He said poker games are there, but it's invitation only.

 "The men roughed some of us up and then patted everyone down stealing money, credit cards, jewelry, even cell phones and car keys, said the unidentified victim.

Before leaving the scene, the armed robbers sprayed all the players with pepper spray. 

Portland police said no one was seriously injured. Two people were treated by paramedics at the scene. 

In two of the recent Texas robberies, all the perpetrators were apprehended not far from the scene of their respective crimes.

A subsequent Austin poker game robbery turned even more violent.  The assailants in that attack were yet to be captured. 

"Yet another reason to play at online poker rooms," suggests Ace King of 

The risk of robbery at high stakes poker games has been high for many years though it seems only recently they are becoming more plentiful, or perhaps more publicized.

In 2006, the Washington Post presented this report:

As poker's popularity explodes, swallowing basements and living rooms in its wake, the danger also has increased, police say. No one tracks the number of poker-game heists because they are recorded simply as robberies, and many go unreported by hosts fearful of gambling charges. But police across the region and nation say private games are ripe for robberies.

The games' hosts acknowledge the danger and are reacting by keeping guest lists more exclusive and often risking serious criminal charges by taking money from players to pay for armed security.

For police, the mixture of a high-stakes game in a low-security spot such as a home is cause for worry.

"It can be a situation for a very volatile event to occur," said Lt. Rich Perez, a Fairfax County police spokesman. "Throw in there just one person wanting to capitalize on the money, and you are going to end up with a robbery or shooting or something. Those are the things we try to prevent."

Jason Kirk of Bluff Magazine points out the dilemma associated with most poker-related crimes:

In terms of legal charges the worst that could happen to any player would be a Class A misdemanor for illegal gambling. But cooperating with the police investigation would mean identifying other players in the game, essentially shutting down the best regular games because a thief decided to involve himself. That's a risk most players aren't willing to take.

Alejandro Botticelli,