Illegal? - Poker Fever Sweeping Area

3-2-05 - Poker, especially a form of the game called Texas Hold 'em, is sweeping the nation as well as Texoma. But just how legal is this new rage?

No longer in smoky back rooms, poker is the new rage. You can find it on-line and on TV nearly 24 hours a day. And many locals are heading to neighborhood restaurants, clubs and bars to play in person, sometimes winning pots worth thousands of dollars.

For some businesses, it’s a great way to bring in a crowd, and make money off increased food and drink sales. But local and state authorities are paying closer attention.

There are three basic criteria that determine if a game is legal or not. 1st, the games cannot be held in a public place. A private club would be an exception, as opposed to a public restaurant. 2nd, the house can't take a cut of the winnings. Some places charge an administrative fee for cards and chips, but that could mean their game is illegal. 3rd, everyone must have an equal chance of winning.

Last Saturday night, agents with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission gave a warning to the owner of Cheers in Sherman for running an illegal game. TABC is also investigating at least four other complaints in Sherman.

Experts say it may take a change in Texas law to make it clear if they're truly legal or not. For now, local law enforcement is waiting on a ruling from the state attorney general - that's likely to come in May.

For more information about which poker tournaments are legal, click here to go to the TABC website or click
here to go to the Amateur Poker League website.