Across the United States and around the world, poker seems to be the game of choice. But as more play the game, the more notice that law enforcement gives to the game as well.
Recently, in Chicago, a home game was raided and all involved were ticketed for gambling. The police spent a year of surveillance on the game, even to the point of infiltrating the game with one of their own officers. They expected thousands of dollars to be circulating; what they found was a $20 maximum buy-in among sixteen people. After taking the money on the table, the chips, and issuing citations to all involved, the police left. The players simply drew out another $20 and continued the game.
In Greensboro, NC, two men were arrested for running a home poker game. In this case, the police found that the men were taking a rake from the game, thus the arrests. The Charlotte/Mecklenburg (NC) County Sheriffs Department recently concluded a two year sting operation that resulted in another home game being raided and the homeowners arrested. Both cases are still pending trial.
Throw in nightclubs and bars that are running Texas Hold 'Em games (two have been busted in Iowa and Louisiana), and it is apparent that the attention for the game of poker is almost as strong in the legal community as it is among the players.
The reasons for police getting involved is questionable. In the Charlotte arrests, the police said that the game of poker leads to "further, and more dangerous, crimes such as drugs and robbery". Additionally, for the police to spend two years scrutinizing this home game (in the Charlotte case), you have to wonder what other crimes were going on while the constables watched the cards fly.
Many websites exist that tout local games that play, including homepokergames.com and our very own as well, with complete information as to the game (or games) played, levels and other pertinent information. The police have admitted that they use these sites to track down where home games go on. With this in mind, it seems to be time that poker players change their tactics.
With a home game, you can always decide who you want to play and who you don't. If you don't know someone who wants to join your game, arrange to meet them somewhere else before they get into the event. Unless someone in your game vouches for a new player, they don't play. Finally, don't charge a fee or take a rake from the pot. That is where most of the arrests take place.
While the legalities of poker in some jurisdictions is not questionable, what may be is the extent that police are going to enforce those laws. It is the eminent right of people to conduct their lives as the wish. If people want to come together in the camaraderie of poker, then that is their choice. Furthermore, while the police have the right to go after criminal acts, maybe they should concentrate on the real crimes of our society.