The story behind an underground game in Houston that broke with a flurry of bullets last week — resulting in one fatality and two others wounded — is starting to emerge. Filtering through braggadocio, legal ambiguities, and the inherent fuzziness of thirdhand sources, here’s what we definitely know, what we are hearing, and then some speculation about an “inside job”. And what this robbery may or may not have to do with similar ones in Houston, Dallas, Arlington, and San Antonio.
Included is a semi-thorough timeline tracking the progression of violent poker robberies across Texas over the past 2+ years. The casualty tally so far: 2 dead, 4 wounded by non-fatal gunfire, at least 1 pistol-whipping, >150 players in the middle of it all (surrendering anywhere from a few hundred to more than $10,000 at a time). 3 arrested so far.
The game currently being talked about was known as Club 203, located in a southwest Houston semi-industrial warehouse complex, nestled in a nook about a quarter-mile from the intersection of a highway and major thoroughfare.
The dead robber’s name is Barron Glenn Boutte. (Anyone recognize the name?) He was a 24-year-old black male. The official cause of death is homicide/multiple gun shot wounds. It’s not clear where Barron was from, though one mention of him on the internet does suggest Houston.
From the Houston Police Department:
Houston police are investigating the fatal shooting of a man at 5645 Hillcroft #203 about 1:45 a.m. on Thursday (Sept. 3).
The victim, 24, suffered a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity is pending notification to family members by the Harris County Medical Examinerâ€™s Office.
HPD Homicide Division Sergeant E. Cisneros reported:
Patrol officers responded to a shooting-in-progress call and found the victim had been shot to death by unknown suspects inside of a business. Further investigation and witness statements determined the victim had been involved in a robbery of persons inside the location when he was shot.
The suspects are described only as three black males.
Anyone with information on this case or on the identities of the wanted
suspects is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600
or Crimes Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
So how did it all start? And what happened from there?
One source says the robbers just barged in through the front door as a player was leaving the game. Another says the bad guys had trouble getting in and shot the lock to gain entry. The masked intruders then reportedly fired multiple shots in the air (not confirmed) and told everyone to get down on the ground before corralling patrons into a back “break room”. One dealer supposedly was not moving fast enough, at which point one assailant shot him in the leg. (Others say he wasn’t shot until the multi-way barrage of gunfire erupted.)
Players were also supposedly taken out of the break room individually, presumably to be fleeced, and at some point in the process were ordered to remove their clothes. This is when the player carrying his own 9mm began firing — 11 shots from about six feet away, five or six of which hit Barron Boutte and killed him. The gunslinging player also shot twice at one of the other robbers, and claims to have hit him as well, but he was still able to escape.
When police arrived — not sure how many minutes later — not all the players had stuck around. The shooter is saying he left to chase down the other two robbers … though eventually he did show up at the police station with legal counsel (and presumably Concealed Handgun License) to answer questions. In Texas you are allowed to use deadly force to protect your property, and you can tell from the comments in the Houston Chronicle story how the supermajority believe this was indeed a heroic killing. Police supposedly let the man go and have no intent to file charges.
HPD Homicide also questioned the game runner, and called in HPD Vice to confiscate the tables, cards, chips, etc. No word on whether or not any money was left behind/confiscated … but no charges thus far against any players or room operators either.
Supposedly there had been a handful of poker “hijackings” in Houston in recent weeks … all with similar stories of three gun-wielding masked black males. Suspicion abounds about one player who supposedly had been at more than one of these games and left shortly before the gunmen arrived.
Similar Texas Poker Robberies
Two unmasked black 20somethings attempt to rob a popular suburban card room in north Dallas with a pistol and a shotgun, but are stopped by players and room operators at a second security door.
Shortly thereafter, two unmasked black 20somethings succeed in robbing a Dallas 5/10 game in an industrial warehouse part of Dallas. Lots of speculation abounds about the possibility of it being an inside job by the game operator.
Two weeks later, a lower stakes game in Dallas was robbed by three black males wearing masks (one of them orange). It took place about a half-mile away from a game at a VFW hall being raided at roughly the same time by police.
Click here to read the police report on this one.
Three men armed with what players say are AK47s and a sawed-off shotgun rob a big Omaha game in Dallas. Shots fired, one player mildly injured.
Three masked men break into a home in San Antonio where a $300 sit-n-go was going on. They fire two shots into the chest of a player who stood between a robber and a file cabinet where the $3,000 prize pool was being held. The player survives.
The Ashton in Dallas — a very high-stakes game in an uptown high-rise — gets robbed (on a relatively low-stakes night) by two black males, one brandishing a 9mm. One of the players robbed in this game was also present in the April 2007 5/10 robbery, and says the robbers were the same two guys.
Two armed, masked black males rob The Office in Dallas, a relatively new 15/30 Omaha and 2/5 NLH game, and make of with more than $25,000 worth of stolen cash and property. Dallas players continue talk about the possibility of an insider being in the game to tip off the assailants and debate the merits of shooting back at robbers.
Four masked armed robbers succeed in robbing the biggest 1/2 game in Dallas — the same room where an unsuccessful robbery was thwarted by game runners in April 2007.
The Dallas underground experiences its first homicide when two masked men attempt to rob an apartment game in Arlington — shots are fired when one player attempts to blockade the door, hitting him three times. “John” dies at the hospital shortly thereafter from internal bleeding. [Ed note: apologies for not following up on this.] On the day of the deadly shooting, APD reportedly were raiding another game in Arlington — but it was an off-day for the room and no one was there.
A Cedar Hill home that had been the site of a high-stakes Asian game gets robbed on a night that a low-stakes surprise birthday tourney is going on. Robbers are two black males, fitting the descriptions of assailants in similar robberies — tall skinny guy wearing an orange ski mask, shorter guy wearing a “Scream” Halloween mask.
Two black males wearing masks and hoodies rob players and room operators outside a near-legendary game in northeast Dallas, shortly after a schism between two owners over the need to spend money on additional security.
Two rooms in Houston are reportedly robbed by two black males wearing masks and hoodies that same week.
And another one in San Antonio earlier this year, where three black males (two of them masked) fled the scene of a robbery only to be nabbed by the SAPD, who were waiting for them outside, successfully responding to a player who dialed 911 and left the line open during the robbery.
Unconfirmed reports of poker room robberies in and around Houston …
Gun battle at Club 203. Poker players rejoice over “winning one” by killing would-be poker robber Barron Glenn Boutte — it remains to be seen if he had indeed struck before, and who all abetted and/or abandoned his final heist.