Nine Arrested as Houston Authorities Raid Two Social Poker Clubs
Houston, Texas authorities on Tuesday, May 1 raided two West Houston social clubs offering real-money poker games, according to local news reports and a press statement on the arrest issued by the Harris County (TX) District Attorney’s Office, which encompasses greater Houston. Officers conducted raids on Post Oak Poker Club and the Prime Social Poker Club, arresting nine owners or operators of the businesses and seizing computers, records, and gaming equipment. Bank accounts connected to the operation of the two clubs, through which millions of dollars has allegedly flowed, were frozen and are also subject to possible seizure.
The two nominally “private” clubs are among several in the Houston area that have attempted to exploit possible loopholes in Texas’s strict anti-gaming laws. One such loophole allows in Texas law offers protection when the gambling takes place in a private place, and no person receives an “economic benefit” beyond personal winnings. Any poker game charging rake woulld necessarily run afoul of those restrictions, though details of how the games are operated inside these semi-private Houston clubs is not widely available.
“Poker rooms are illegal in the State of Texas,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “We are changing the paradigm regarding illegal gambling by moving up the criminal chain and pursuing felony money laundering and engaging in organized crime charges against owners and operators. Players are not being targeted.”
“We can’t allow illegal gambling to go on,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “It drives organized crime and fuels other criminal activity.”
A $150,000 prize-pool guaranteed tournament to be held at Prime Social May 1-5 was one of the immediate casualties of the raids. The tourney appears to have been sponsored in part by prominent tourney-schedule site Poke Atlas.
The nine people arrested were charged with various first-degree felonies resulting from what Ogg’s office claimed was a two-year investigation, which actually predated the opening of the newer of the two clubs. Prime Social Poker Club opened just last year. The investigation was a joint effort between the District Attorney’s Office’s Money Laundering Division and the Houston Police Department’s Vice Division. The raids culminate the second large anti-gambling investigation in the greater Houston area, following the arrest of over 30 people (including three police officers) and other “known” Houston-area gambling figures.
Houston Police and the District Attorney’s Office wrapped up an investigation last year that resulted in the arrest of nearly three dozen people, including three police officers and key gambling figures in Chinatown and elsewhere.
These are the locations of the clubs and the names of the people charged with running the allegedly illegal gambling operations:
Post Oak Poker Club, 1001 West Loop South, Suite 400
- Daniel Jeffery Kebort, owner
- William Jack Heuer III, owner
- Alan Harris Chodrow, owner
- Sergio Diaz Cabrera, owner
- Kevin Louis Chodrow, owner
Prime Social Poker Room, 7801 Westheimer Rd.
- Dean Maddox, owner
- Mary Switzer, comptroller
- Brent J. Pollack, general manager
- Steven Farshid, asst. general manager
Harris County DA Ogg’s office has yet to issue a detailed list of the exact illegal-gambling charges facing the games’ operators. Such a list of charges is likely to be made available when the nine are arraigned in Harris County court.