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Two Men Arrested in Texas Poker Club Shooting/Robbery

Earl Burton, May 22, 2018 02:54 UTC

After more than three weeks of investigation, Austin law enforcement has announced that they have arrested two people in the robbery and shooting of a poker player who was leaving a local poker club.

The Austin Police Department announced that Jermaine Patrick Spirlark, 41, and Charles Clines-Martinez, 24, were charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the April 30 attack outside the Texas Card House in Austin. The two men allegedly attacked poker player Tom ‘3betpanda’ Steinbach as he exited the club at 4AM, robbing him and then shooting him in the abdomen as they fled the scene. Steinbach was initially hospitalized in critical condition but has since been released and is recovering nicely.

The investigation has provided some intriguing information. According to the Austin Police Department, Clines-Martinez was a “contract employee” of the Texas Card House and, in an interesting twist, allegedly an inside informant for Spirlark. If this is the case, Clines-Martinez wasn’t aware of the fact that the Texas Card House had extensive camera surveillance of the business’ grounds, giving investigators a full look at the crime as it was committed.

Because of the attack, the Texas Card House has increased their camera surveillance and is reportedly thinking about hiring additional security for its players. But even with that, law enforcement reminds players that playing in these clubs is a risk. “Anytime you’re around an establishment at four in the morning and you have an establishment that deals with money or anything of monetary value, it’s always wise to be cautious of your surroundings,” said Detective Steven Nash of the Austin Police Department to Fox 7 Austin.

The card room that Steinbach was playing at – and others like it around the Lone Star State – are certainly under the microscope from law enforcement and the political community. But that isn’t exactly something out of the ordinary under the laws of Texas regarding poker and gambling.

Even though the state is the namesake of the most popular format in the game of poker – Texas Hold’em – the state itself has had a longstanding love/hate relationship with the game and the people who play it. The poker games of the “old days” are legendary in the far-flung cities such as Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and other major locations dating back to the Wild West. These games were the purveyance of saloons in entertaining cowboys coming off the trail, looking for some action with their hard-earned wages, and the freewheeling gamblers who were ready to take those hard-earned wages as their own.

In the 20th century, those “saloon” games gradually worked their way into the back rooms of businesses in those major cities, away from the prying eyes of the Law and, in some instances, those freewheeling gamblers who weren’t above using their wiles to gain an advantage. Still, there were those legendary Texans – Doyle Brunson, “Amarillo Slim” Preston, Johnny Moss, and many others – who would “fade the white line” in crossing the state for poker games that helped fund their bankrolls.

In those days, it wasn’t uncommon for the games to be robbed, either by bandits, a player who had lost more money than he planned or sometimes raided and “shaken down” by the local constables. Brunson has told several tales about those days and other stories exist of guns frequently being used in these robberies. Usually, however, there wasn’t anyone harmed during the commission of the crime.

Although “underground” games have existed for decades since those days of Brunson, et. al., the recent phenomenon of the “poker club” in Texas is challenging the laws. These businesses are circumventing the gambling laws in Texas because they aren’t taking anything from the pots that the players play. The poker clubs are abiding by the law that they are a private, membership only business, charging a membership fee (and selling drink and food) to make a profit.

It seems that the legality is there for these rooms to exist, but different cities have interpreted the laws differently. In Dallas, for example, a couple of potential poker clubs have been shut down as local legal experts and law enforcement have threatened the business owners with arrest should they operate. In other cities, the poker clubs have been embraced and have brought poker to a very thankful group of players.

Under the laws of Texas, aggravated assault is a first or second-degree felony, punishable from two to 20 years in prison (second degree) to five to 99 years in prison (first degree). As of yet, no court dates have been set for the alleged perpetrators, but you can guarantee that the eyes of the poker community will be paying attention to the case.

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