Re: Re: Dallas Poker Bandits Strike Again
Guns and Poker Pose Difficult Decisions for Players

by , Apr 13, 2008 | 2:23 am

There’s talk in the comments down below about poppin’ caps in the poker bandits. It’s a shame when your decisions about where to play factor an EV calculated as Expected Violence. (Fortunately most poker players I know are a bit too lazy to hunt down bad guys and show ’em who’s boss with a barrel, and the CHL holders steer clear of premeditated homicide — no matter how justifiable — for fear of losing their license.)

But still … guns were in play in last night’s robbery. Not just on the thugs who obviously come in not wanting to shoot anyone, but also on a player or three … At least one guy last night had a (legal) gun on him when being robbed. Afterwards, some apparently questioned his decision not to use it. The rub is that had he fired as robbers were kicking their way in through the wall, the ski-masked duo woulda turned right around and skeedaddled. True enough, but as liberal as Texas is when it comes to shooting people messin’ with your property, the nature of the venue might negate that defense. And what if it was the police?!? Yeow, shooting blindly at what may or may not be a SWAT team can never be good for a game. Hmm, Class C misdemeanor or Death Penalty … decisions decisions.

Clearly a good fold. In general I’d prefer loaded weapons to be in the hands of a rock more than a maniac.


  • zach

    It’s bound to come to a stop at some point down the road, someone is going to get tired of guns pointed at there heads.

  • Scott Chaffin

    People who carry guns follow this simple rule: Know your target. We don’t ‘shoot blindly.’

    As for no-knock, SWAT-style raids by the po-po, where do you think the thieving bastards got the idea? Nobody wants to kill a police, but all it takes is a trip to the army/navy store for the thieving bastards to arrive at your friendly home game looking exactly like a police. Now what? Juries are debating this all over the country. The police are barely holding the line on no-knock raids that are emulated by the thieving bastards.

  • ItsOverJonny

    I am not aware of any special circumstances regarding such a venue that would mitigate a citizen’s rights regarding use of deadly force and that would therefore negate the defense. Perhaps the Fat Guy could lend a hand here if there are indeed such components of the penal code. It’s pretty clear in this circumstance that you can justify the use of deadly force when confronted by armed individuals that have forcefully entered a private place wearing ski masks.

    If such a circumstance did result in the loss of a villian, murder charges would be filed against the shooter (charges are ALWAYS filed in these circumstances), but a Grand Jury would quickly no-bill the shooter.

    And he’s right – you have to know your target – and even in such an extreme situation, I do not think it would take more than a split-second to ascertain that these guys were NOT police and to act accordingly if you deem it prudent. Ski masks are usually a dead giveaway. And SWAT doesn’t work in two-man teams. I have met the SWAT team – their look is very distinctive, and there are a LOT of them.

  • Scott Chaffin

    I am not a lawyer.

    I concur that defense of your life against armed bandit is not mitigated because you’re playing poker.

    I repeat, I am not a lawyer.

    As far as the SWAT question goes…yes, there are more than two. However, I’ve yet to see the entire team materialize in situ. They come in one by one, one after another, just as the laws of physics demand. I can easily see a SWAT team takedown being mistaken for the crackhead militia, unfortunately, and it has happened plenty of times (documented quite copiously by Radly Balko.) The adrenaline surge alone is most likely going to ruin the split-second judgement that we all pray for, and when that happens, we fall back on our training, which is shoot to kill armed intruders.

    I personally am thankful I’ve never been in the situation. I have no idea if my training and judgement would hold up, and I sincerely hope I never have to find out. But then, that’s why I train (an almost laughable notion, when you consider punching holes in paper as training, but you do what you can.)

    As an aside, when you say ski mask, I picture the SWAT team with red and blue dime-store tobaggons that have reindeer designs and a tassel on top. When I say balaclava, the sight picture changes. I know that most SWAT have ballistic balaclavas available…whether they wear them on every raid is unknown to me.

  • Just to be clear, the SWAT team wears masks, too, when busting in to poker rooms. More like motorcycle masks than ski masks, but still …

  • ***I concur that defense of your life against armed bandit is not mitigated because you’re playing poker.***

    But what if you weren’t defending your life, but you were defending your sack of marijuana? That’s a more apropos comparison, no?

  • ItsOverJonny

    How do you know that your life is not in jeopardy and that the bandit only wants your sweet, stinky weed? Particularly if the assailant has a weapon, you are reasonable in being concerned that you may be in jeopardy of bodily harm. Of course, the ultimate judgment lies with a jury, but the penal code requires only that one “reasonably believes the conduct (use of/threat of deadly force) is immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm”.

    The statutues go on to break “harm” down into self-defense, defense of another person, and defense of property. Specifically regarding self-defense, “a person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree he reasonable believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force”. (Texas Penal Code Sec. 9.31)

    In my mind, in this circumstance where the villian has a gun and I have a gun, me shooting first fully complies with the requirements of this section. Case closed.

    But I’m not a lawyer, and juries are, well, juries.

    P.S. Retreat is no longer required if that option is available. Previously, if flight was an option, you had to use it rather than using force. No more. God Bless Texas.

  • ItsOverJonny

    In the photo you posted, the mask is being used to protect the identity of an undercover officer. I seriously doubt that the UC was involved in the initial incursion. In my one chance encounter with SWAT, they were wearing helmets, not masks.

  • IOJ, I’m kinda an Andy Griffith when it comes to guns — I don’t feel the need to carry one, but I enjoy shooting them and respect the rights of others to use them. And you are the exact kinda CHL holder I want holding one if I am anywhere near trouble.

    So tell me, in the robbery situation that has been described to us, would you have fired a warning shot in the air? I am guessing you’d have, literally, between 2 and 5 seconds to make that decision.

  • ItsOverJonny

    I whole-heartedly concur with Scott. I can make very tight groups of holes in a paper silhouette, but I hope to never find out if I can make sound decisions and act accordingly in high-pressure situations. It’s always possible that instead I’ll piss myself and quickly find a fetal position.

  • Re: comment #7 ….

    So is being engaged in a criminal act not a mitigating circumstance in the self-defense defense?

  • ItsOverJonny

    Well, it took me about 30 seconds to reason through your question from the comfort of my home, which doesn’t bode well for a well thought-out response to the crash of breaking glass, a rush of villans, and an overwhelming infusion of adrenaline. But I think a warning shot would only prompt return fire, endangering my fellow players, rather than immediate retreat by said villians. If I know my target and have a clear line, my first shot (if there is one) is center-mass on the first villan.

    Tactically speaking, I am not familiar with the layout of this particular crime scene, but most such venues that I can envision have one or two distinct points of entry into a much larger room. My best chance at repelling an attack is when the villians are coming through a narrow passage where I can see them, but they must survey a much larger, chaotic scene with many more people. If I’m lucky, the villains never see me.

  • I don’t know this crime scene personally either … but from what I understand, they had the standard two-door security entrance, but they came through the wall into the smoking room.

    Which by the way, what does that say when the thugs knew the layout of a relatively new room? Now mix that in with the fact that the robbers were not afraid of being identified by voice … meaning they probably hadn’t played there before …

    The police had a man inside the games before they came crashing through walls. Can’t help but wonder if these guys followed the DPD model of extracting money from a poker room in more ways than one … and if everyone who was robbed Friday night was really robbed.

    I hate the suspicion that puts on players, but speculation is speculation, and sometimes not without reason.

  • ItsOverJonny

    Re: #11. Define “Criminal Act” – I’m not sure which angle you are asking about.

    All of the civilian Deadly Force statutes are written from the point of view of a disinterested person who is faced with agressive action by an assailant. I don’t think the fact that I am “gambling” at the time of an attack changes my status as the victim. No Grand Jury (at least not in Texas) is going to indict you because you were engaging in a misdemeanor by playing cards and then used deadly force against an armed intruder.

    On the other hand, the agressor/assailant is not entitled to the same protections and justifications in the use of deadly force. You are not allowed to use deadly force because you were robbing someone and they produced a weapon.

    When the distinction between good guy/bad guy are very clear, then the application of the law is very clear. It’s when the lines are fuzzy that it gets dicey. If we are meeting to exchange cocaine for cash and a gunfight ensues, I doubt that any of the deadly force statutes are applicable.

  • ItsOverJonny

    re: #13. Without question there is a third party providing intelligence.

  • ItsOverJonny

    Here’s a simple example regarding my status as an “innocent” and the impact of my illegal conduct (playing poker in an illegal game) upon my rights. I was carrying (legally) during a SWAT raid on a local room. As soon as the dust began to settle, I called an officer over and informed him of my weapon and its location. The officer disarmed me, made my weapon safe (unloaded it), and verified that I was indeed licensed to carry said weapon. After I received my ticket and was freed to go along with the other players, an officer walked me to my car, returned my weapon and ammunition to me, and wished me a nice day.

    At least in this application, my right to carry a weapon (and presumably, my right to use it) was not compromised by my conduct at the time.

  • Thanks for the gun-rule education.

    I feel very comfortable in Nevada, btw, because they are just like Texas when it comes to no-state-income-tax and the right to carry loaded weapons.

  • Zero

    It doesn’t matter if you are participating in illegal activities. As of a few years ago when I looked all this stuff up, In Texas the laws pertaining the use of deadly force are written like this: “if you deem your life or the life of your family is in danger, deadily force is an acceptable solution” If you can reasonably remove yourself from the circumstance without using deadly force, you must retreat. (unless you are in your home)

    Basically the laws are designed around “intent”.

    In the end, a Jury will determine what is “right and wrong”.

  • Scott Chaffin

    A most excellent discussion all around.

    I’m simply amazed by this ‘came through the wall’ business. That’s not an easy thing, nor is it quick, nor is it quiet. Unless you’re the Incredible Hulk, and even then it’s not quiet. Did someone insist on finishing the hand before responding?

    And, lastly, this is a good example of why I agitate for a return of free, unlicensed open carry in Texas. It’s never gonna happen, but a man can dream.

  • Grunkzzz

    I wish no license open carry was legal

  • ***In the end, a Jury will determine what is “right and wrong”.***

    Right, but if you’re at your house playing scrabble, you don’t even have to go see a jury. Police just ask you, “is everything ok? ok, he’s dead, so have a nice night.”

  • ItsOverJonny

    Not true Dan. If I understand it correctly, any time one person deliberately causes the death of another, they are charged with homicide, and the case is sent to the Grand Jury to either indict or no-bill.

    I have a family member who shot and killed an intruder that broke into his home in the middle of the night when he was at home. It was an obvious, clear-cut case of a citizen defending their domicile, but he was still charged with murder. The Grand Jury chose not to indict, and his attorney explained that ALL such cases are handled this way.

  • Scott Chaffin

    IOJ has it right, except I think prosecutors have some leeway on whether or not to present the case to the grand jury, as well (“the charges were dropped”). Mostly, they do, just so there’s no question viz their impartiality.

  • Wes

    This is not exactly consistent with where this discussion has gone, but…

    The profitablity and profile of poker has grown rapidly in the past few years. Poker rooms are a growing black market and the money in poker has exploded. We have a maturing market in contraband, economically similar to the ones that arose in prohibition and with drugs.

    I believe that the robberies are a much larger threat to the Dallas poker scene than any vice-squad prosecution of gambling ever will be. Vice squad raids are an annoyance but not a serious threat to the existence the smaller, more private rooms. For lots of reasons, I think that is a very manageable risk.

    Not so with the robberies. Perhaps I am being naive, but taken together, the recent string of robberies and the frequent stories of large, unpaid markers, make me think that most of the poker rooms in Dallas are not, at present, tied to large criminal enterprises. If organized crime is supposed to be protecting these rooms, it is very suprising that the robberies (and dead beats) have not been handled. I do not believe that finding the robbers would be much of a problem, especially if your hands were not tied by the Constitution and the rules of evidence.

    Rather, it seems to me that the rooms really are small business, just like they appear to be, and the people who run them are very middle class. They have significant others, mortgages, kids, soccer games, the whole nine yards. This type of person cannot survive in an enviroment of significant threat of robbery with no police reaction.

    One bad scenario is that the robbers will continue to attack these places. The frequency will increase as word of easy money spreads and the attacks are likely to become more frequent as the robbers have success. I think that most owners will quit, but some may affiliate themselves with (or at least be replaced by) some organization that can provide protection when the police can’t or won’t.

    Involvement by orginized crime would probably change the character of the rooms, probably for the worse. Additionally, the stakes would be raised for the police. What was once viewed by the police as harmless will be viewed as a threat and dealt with more harshly.

    Another possible bad result of these robberies is a shooting, either by one of the robbers, one of the customers, or one of the owners. Whether or not that particular shooting is prosecuted as a crime, the event will get the attention of the police, politicians, the DMN, local do gooders, and others. Nothing good will come of this. The police are not going to look the other way if this happens and will really work to shut the rooms down. The criminals will still want the money, but will view their task as a more dangerous one and become more violent.

    This is all a very predictable result of a growing black market. The costs and dangers of the activity are going to rise until some enforcement mechanism arises to regulate the market or the market goes away because the culture in which the market exists changes.

    This is all bad and armed resistance by the current players or owners is not going to solve the problem. The only longterm solutions will either be a change in the culture so that fewer people want to play poker (and there is correspondingly less money to be made in hosting games), decriminalization, or organized crime.

    I do not know if poker will ever be legal in Texas, the combined forces of the Baptists and Winstar are probably too much. But that, and not armed resitance by otherwise law abiding poker players is what we poker players need.

  • Sean

    In late 2004, I was dealing in an underground game in Atlanta. Our game was the second of four to be taken down by 4 guys in ski masks with shotguns.

    It was later determined that they’d found the games on homepokergame.com. One of them would come in and play for a night to case the joint, then, several days later, they’d hit the game.

    My understanding was they’d moved on to Dallas after Atlanta, where they got into a gunfight, and several of them were pretty badly shot up. It lead me to make an insightful observation about Texas poker:

    Q: “Know what you are when you walking into a poker game in Texas with 4 shotguns?”

    A: “Outgunned”

  • donkey

    itsoverjohnnie “…components of the penal code.”

    hey beavus, he said “penal” hehe