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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Poker Stories: When Winning Means Losing

Another story about a bad beat poker jackpot.

When Ameristar/St. Louis had its poker room upstairs, it was a very busy place. One day, there was a bad beat on one of the small-stakes tables, and everyone in the game was going to share in the jackpot. Except for one guy, who jumped up, grabbed his chips, and got out of there as fast as he could.

Why? Because before a poker room pays off a jackpot, they ask all the players for their IDs. Not only are there state tax forms that have be filled out (the casino has a fiduciary responsibility to gather this information and report it to the Department of Revenue), but the names are also run through a state police wants-and-warrants computer. If you're on the list as a fugitive, or if you owe back child support, instead of a payout, you're going to be arrested.

But this guy wasn't wanted by the law. His problem was that he was on the Disassociated Persons list.

That's a program in Missouri that was begun in 1996 (the first in the US) to allow compulsive gamblers to voluntarily ban themselves from all casinos in the state. Until a couple of years ago, once you put yourself on the DP list, you could never get off, but the law has been changed so that you can apply for removal after five years. Being on the list means that casinos can't send you direct marketing material, you can't have a casino's loyalty card, you can't cash a check at a casino cage, and if you're found on a gaming floor, you will be charged with criminal trespassing (a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail), removed from the casino, and forced to forfeit any chips or electronic credits you're carrying.

So, if this guy handed over his ID for his share of the bad beat jackpot, not only would he get no money, he'd lose his stack and be arrested. It was much easier to forget about the jackpot, grab his chips, and run. Then, he could come back another time to cash in the chips without any questions, or have a friend do it for him.

Because that's what compulsive gamblers do.