Home game vs. office game

Taghkanic

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I am thinking about moving my home office to a small commercial space instead. The space has a bathroom, a kitchenette, and plenty of parking... Conveniently out of sight from the nearby main road. It also has just enough room for a two-table poker game.

I’m wondering if moving my (unraked) home game to an office space would invite more risk of getting busted than at home. The game occurs twice a month on a weeknight. I wouldn’t be setting up a club or a commercial venture — just hosting the same home game which has been around for 10 years without any legal issue.

Generally my sense is that authorities tend to leave home games alone as long as they don’t grow too big or attract too much attention. Not sure if the same is true about private games in a non-home setting.

Thoughts? Anyone here host a game in an office, back of a store, etc.?
 
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trigs

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I'm curious about this also. I'd assume that as long as there's no rake, it wouldn't be a problem. However, since there is real money involved and it's on a commercial property (that I'm assuming you are renting and don't own), maybe the owners could be liable if something happens?

I've played tournaments with a bunch of players at venues before (a hall at a golf course) that was free to use as long as all food and drinks were purchased from the venue. Their only rule that I know of was we couldn't have money out on the tables, but other than that we were allowed to play poker there. Granted, this was run at most three times a year I think, so it wasn't a regular game.
 

Snapplefacts

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I think it varies from state to state, but as far as I know as long as the game isn’t raked and there’s no paid dedicated dealer then the game is legitimate. I’m not sure the location would matter per se.
 

Coyote

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From the Wikipedia ("underground poker"):
"This has been consistently interpreted to mean that a poker game taking place in a dwelling house is legal in Canada, so long as the host is not taking "rake" or otherwise directly profiting from hosting the game. Whether a poker game played on a similar "not for profit" basis somewhere other than a dwelling house (for example, in the warehouse of a small business) also enjoys the exemption of Section 204(1)(b) is disputed."

I guess it very much depends on the jurisdiction; ask a local lawyer friend.
If you don't own the property, it should get more risky.
 

Schmendr1ck

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I think it varies from state to state
100% this.

Each state has unique laws, and you'll need to check your state laws to determine the impact on moving your game. You may also want to do some research on busts in your area to get an idea of enforcement.

For example, Florida allows "penny-ante" games under a very specific set of restrictions. One of those is that the game must be conducted in your residence. By that standard, moving to a commercial space with no other changes would make your game illegal.

But that's Florida. Check your state and local laws.
 

Mojo1312

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Maine law forbids the exchange of money outside from the hands being played at the table. For example, you can't run a game and charge people who are playing $1 for a $20 steak dinner. Sounds ridiculous, but that is the way the law is written.

You can play $50,000 a hand as long as the game is unraked and the only money that is going back and forth is between those involved in hands at the table.

Don't be afraid to inquire about the law regarding home games in your State.
 

Rhodeman77

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I am assuming the game is happening when the business is closed and will be locked so the public can’t just walk in.

If that is the case, and your home game is being legally run now there should be no difference if you move to the back room of your office.

a friend of mine used to use the conference room of her law office for games after hours. It was a great location being downtown with plenty of parking nearby.
 

tabletalker7

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I am thinking about moving my home office to a small commercial space instead. The space has a bathroom, a kitchenette, and plenty of parking... Conveniently out of sight from the nearby main road. It also has just enough room for a two-table poker game.

I’m wondering if moving my (unraked) home game to an office space would invite more risk of getting busted than at home. The game occurs twice a month on a weeknight. I wouldn’t be setting up a club or a commercial venture — just hosting the same home game which has been around for 10 years without any legal issue.

Generally my sense is that authorities tend to leave home games alone as long as they don’t grow too big or attract too much attention. Not sure if the same is true about private games in a non-home setting.

Thoughts? Anyone here host a game in an office, back of a store, etc.?
If it's not broke don't fix it. If what you are currently doing works, and LEOs don't care, why change anything?
 

Taghkanic

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Don't be afraid to inquire about the law regarding home games in your State.

I’m familiar with my State’s laws. If a home game is unraked the State turns a blind eye... The question is, does it cease to be a “home” game if it is not in your home?

I know that the State Liquor Authority definitely does not allow gambling for money in establishments it regulates. There is also some reference to the site needing to be “private.” Not sure if a non-bar office after business hours qualifies.
 

Taghkanic

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You may also want to do some research on busts in your area to get an idea of enforcement.

No busts in my (small rural) county in the past 23 years that I’ve been here. That said, there aren’t that many regular games with real money involved. I know the D.A., but would prefer not to put him in a spot by asking.
 

CrazyEddie

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I would not ask this question of anyone who wasn't a lawyer familiar with your jurisdiction, and I'd expect to pay to get the answer.

Failing that, I'd rely on your own familiarity with your state's laws.

Anyone else's speculation about the law and/or the behavior of the authorities in your jurisdiction will be literally worse than useless. Entertaining, perhaps, and great fodder for discussion, but it would be a big mistake to take it into consideration if you have serious concerns about the issue.
 

CrazyEddie

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Having said that... for entertainment and discussion purposes only...

If you're hesitant, then I wouldn't do it; you'd be constantly wondering if you're going to get into trouble, and who wants to play poker like that?

On the other hand, if there's been no busts in two decades and you know the DA then it sounds like you could run a poker game with cocaine and hookers as long as you kept the invite list small and discrete.
 

CrazyEddie

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... and note that what the law says isn't necessarily the overriding concern. There's plenty of games that are technically illegal according to the laws in that jurisdiction but that go on anyway because a) nobody cares and b) the cops have bigger things keeping them busy. And on the other hand being perfectly in accordance with the law won't do you much good if some politico (police chief, DA, local councilman, whatever) gets it into their head that a big bust will score them some headlines. You might eventually win the court case or even get the charges dismissed, but in the meantime your life will be turned completely upside down in ways you'll never recover from.

Whatever you decide to do, do your best not to draw attention or make anyone upset or angry.
 

Frogzilla

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I’ve played in a game after hours in a dentists office, right in the main lobby. Never had any issues as far as I know

It was pretty cool because his lobby had a great coffee machine
 

Taghkanic

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The laws in my state (New York) are not very clearly written vis-a-vis poker. They do protect players from prosecution: any legal risks are overwhelmingly for those “promoting gambling,” not those participating in a game. The rules as enforced seem to derive more from court precedents interpreting the law, rather than the explicit provisions of the law itself.

Generally my sense is that unless either (a) you piss off a neighbor who wants to make trouble for you, or (b) you get very unlucky one night and a low-level officer on patrol happens upon the game and decides to make an issue, the chances of either discovery or anyone caring about it are very low.

I suppose the other risk is robbery, though I’ve never had that concern before because of who my regulars have been (including a former town judge, former State trooper, etc., though both have moved away now)... Also our home gatherings have been in relatively remote locations, which are both hard to find and more daunting to approach. I suppose there is a small chance for a commercial office closer to a population center of someone hearing about the game, and deciding to try a heist. Our cash game does sometimes play pretty big. Again, I think a heist is very unlikely, but then I’ve seen much dumber crimes attempted...

Overall I am leaning against it, but I will make some discreet inquiries to those who might have a firmer legal read on it.
 

trigs

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Again, I think a heist is very unlikely, but then I’ve seen much dumber crimes attempted...
Don't mean to hijack your thread, but this reminded me of some stories from my friend's mother who used to work at a bank. My favorite was about a guy who came in and robbed the place for barely anything (he asked for $1000). The ink package they put in his bag exploded and the police literally followed the drips of ink from the bank to his house and arrested him.
 

Taghkanic

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There was a guy in a town near where I grew up who robbed a local bank… who took a taxi to the bank and back home. Needless to say he was caught pretty quickly.
 

Papasatyr

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Authorities bust home games in New York?! Yeesh!

Come to California. We’re way too chill, and perhaps a little too baked, to bust home card games.

Unless, of course, you play “Texas Hold’em Stud Poker”. That particular game is illegal per a California law that’s still on the books, though nobody can figure out what “Texas Hold’em Stud Poker” is.
 

Moxie Mike

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@Taghkanic

Take this for what it's worth:

I (talking pre-covid) run regularly scheduled unraked, perfectly legal cash and tournament games out of my corporate office after hrs. I've been doing it for the past 2-3 years without incident.

Technically, these are promotional events to showcase my office and it gives me a chance to talk to people about my consulting biz. But if I'm being honest, most people are just there to play poker.

My office is on the 3rd floor of a non-descript office building with plenty of parking, bathroom, kitchen, etc. After hours we have the building to ourselves and games often run into the early hrs of the morning.

A few suggestions:

Vet EVERYONE in the game as well as you can. Discretion is paramount... the last thing you need is someone drinking too much and leaving your business in a condition they shouldn't be driving in. Insisting that players show respect for neighboring businesses is also important.

If you advertise the game anywhere publicly or semi-publicly (i.e. Facebook Groups), stop. You need maximum control over who is aware of the game's location.

You didn't say if you own the business in question, but if you do and don't already carry liability insurance, get some.
 

Rakrul

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Just want to point out that if the state turns a blind eye to home games, running it from a business venue might trigger some interest from the law. And if they start rolling, they can no longer turn a blind eye. Further more, even if it's technically legal, you might have to spend a small fortune on a lawyer convincing them and it's probably a lengthy process.

From your description, it doesn't seem to be high risk so in the end there is one, so is the reward worth it?
 
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