State tells taverns to fold their poker tournaments

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Players might argue otherwise.

"Gambling activities in places with a liquor license are illegal," said Barbara Subastian, deputy director of enforcement for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. The commission in November ordered Art Dore Jr., owner of the Hooters restaurant in Bay City, to shut down a Texas hold 'em tournament that had drawn 25 to 40 people over several nights. The event had been planned to run for four weeks and offered the winner an electric scooter donated by an area business.

"Liquor Control came in and said any form of poker could not be played in an establishment that served alcohol," Dore said.

Dore told The Bay City Times for a story published Sunday that he didn't think the tournament entailed gambling, since no one paid to enter the event or received cash in winnings. "A lot of them said it had nothing to do with the prize, they just wanted to compete and see who was the best," he said.

The Liquor Control Commission defines gambling using three guidelines -- chance, consideration and reward, Subastian said. "The random draw of cards is the element of chance," she said.

In Texas hold 'em, players receive two cards each, then combine them with five face-up community cards to make the best poker hand. Bets are placed between the revealing of the community cards.

Consideration is what is required to play in an event, often an entry fee or a charge for chips, Deputy Chief Christopher T. Rupp of the Bay City Police Department said.

Rewards are not limited to cash prizes. They can be gift certificates or merchandise such as hats or T-shirts, Subastian said.

Tavern owners that allow gambling in their business face commission penalties, while players face fines of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

Subastian said she wasn't sure if violations have increased along with Texas hold 'em's popularity. But, she said, "We have received a lot of phone inquires and requests in writing to hold those type of events."

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