Hidden rake allegation triggers player’s ejection from Ft. Worth, Texas social poker club

An allegation over rake being taken from tournament add-ons without being disclosed led to a player’s ejection from a suburban Ft. Worth, Texas social-poker club. Texas player Ben Ross’s removal from a tournament at the Watauga Social Lounge on Saturday not only raises questions about truth in advertising, but whether the club is operating entirely with the framework of rules that allows social-poker clubs to operate in Texas.

Ross was making a deep run in an event at the Watauga venue when he discovered that the posted prize pool did not add up to the amount that should have been paid out, based on the $100 buy-in and $60 add-on. As he discovered, and as the club eventually acknowledged, a $12 rake had been taken out of each $60 add-on before the remainder of each add-on was added into the overall pool.

Nowhere in the Watauga Social Lounge’s advertising or structure sheets for the event was the extra rake disclosed. Such “hidden” rake, in various forms, has been the subject of occasional disputes at numerous poker venues through the years. Here, it led to an argument between Ross and the Watauga room’s staff that led to Ross being ejected from the club, in part for calling the facility a “rathole”. Ross filmed part of his ejection from the room and posted that and a follow-up explanatory video on his Facebook account.

Meanwhile, PokerFraudAlert’s Todd WItteles pieced together the two filmed parts of Ross’s tale and posted them as a single video on YouTube. That video, which runs to nearly ten minutes, can be found here.

A review on PokerAtlas of the room, made by “Jamin99”, who appears to be Ross, reads as follows: “Called them out for stealing $396 from the prize pool of the tournament they tried to rake the $60 add-on at 20% with 33 add-ons they did add the money back to the prize pool however revoked my membership and kicked me out with 7 people left in the tournament and 5 made the money min cash was $347 and 1st was $1,551. I called the place a rathole 🐀 so if you do play there keep your opinions to yourself or you will be banned.”

As he noted, at the time of Ross’s ejection, just seven players remained in the single-day tourney, with five of them slated to make the money. Ross was refunded his buy-in, which included the $25 “seat fee” (one of the alternatives in Texas to the more normal rake found elsewhere). Ross was also paid $225 for the bounties he’d claimed to that point. but was told he’d be arrested for trespass if he returned to the club. During the argument, he also disputed a couple of the technical ways in which the room was operating the tournament.

‘Rake’ not allowed under Texas gambling law

Though the Watauga Social Lounge returned the secretly raked $12-per-add-on to the prize pool following Ross’s outburst, questions remain regarding the room’s operations. All venues that offer poker in Texas do so under various workarounds to the state’s gambling laws, which dictate that the hosting venue cannot derive income directly from the game’s operation.

Seat-fee and daily-membership solutions have been part of the solution most frequently used by Texas’s poker clubs. In this instance, however, extracting a percentage of an add-on in lieu of rake could be interpreted as the venue charging multiple times for the same seat in the same tournament. Such an arrangement may well violate Texas law, in addition to the truth-in-advertising problem regarding the extra rake’s omission from advertising and event materials.

The Watauga Social Lounge appeared undeterred by the situation and even embraced the episode. A Presidents Day event held last night at the club included advertising with a rat chewing on a block of cheese, accompanied by the caption, “Come and get this cheddar at this rat hole! – dissatisfied customer.” The attempt at humor may not play well should Texas’s authorities look into the situation, which is just the latest in a string of incidents plaguing the image of the state’s nascent live-poker industry.

Featured image source: Facebook / WataugaPoker

Author: Paula Dunn