A Vero Beach, Fla., bar was raided Thursday by police and investigators who believed illegal poker games were taking place there.
Four undercover agents surrounded a table near the back of the Hillbilly Hideaway at about 11:30 p.m., forcing the players at the table to stop their poker game. Deputies also surrounded the bar, locked the doors and even the people and staff members not playing poker were checked before being allowed to leave.
Nine people were arrested and charged with misdemeanor gambling after it was found they were playing with real money rather than for points like the rest of the players at the free poker tournament run every Thursday at the bar. Two of the people arrested were also charged with felonies such as running a gambling operation and possessing cocaine.
The free poker nights are hosted by One Stop Poker Tour, which was hired by the bar as entertainment. Authorities agree that the free poker games are legal, but in this case, they found out that during the free tournaments there were also "invite only" cash games going on as well.
Acting on tips from other companies, undercover investigators played in the free games for several months during which time some were asked to play in the "invite only" games being played in the same area as the free ones.
Players paid out an average of $40 to play in the cash game with the top winners receiving several hundred dollars and the house keeping 10 percent. To keep the cash game and the free game separate, the cash games were played with different chips to signify money instead of points.