Past Wednesday evening, a hot poker tournament was in progress in Basel, Switzerland. By international standards, the 40 person tournament was far from spectacular, but for Swiss poker players it was a special event.
The illegal poker club (normally used as a storage facility for dried fruit) had 5 kitchen tables; three televisions and a web camera feeding the game live on the internet. The wife and the daughter of the host served beer, coffee, tea, and pastries at cost. Each participant in the tournament contributed $2 towards the nightly rental and gas expenses.
It wasn’t even thirty minutes after the start of the poker tournament that Swiss Federal Gaming Board (ESBK) agents along with members of the local police broke open the door.
One of the tournament players, Hans, was angry (by Swiss standards) that he didn’t have a chance to check raise with a suited Ace Queen. Hans explained, in a short interview after the raid, – ‘I had nothing the whole game and as soon as I finally get some good cards, those (idiots) ruin my game. Fourteen government people and police had to work extra hours to stop this.’
The poker club organizers will be charged in a criminal case for operating illegal Swiss poker rooms. This new criminal charge under revised Swiss gambling laws stem from the Swiss Federal Court’s decision which declared poker to be a pure game of luck with no skill involvement whatsoever.
Hans, when asked to comment, shrugs his shoulders – ‘They are judges, not people. It was luck and family connections that brought them to such a high government position. They cannot believe skill is involved in anything but making watches. I could have raised with my Ace/Queen or called, and at the end of the hand, I could have won 20 francs or 80 francs or folded, because of my choices. That is skill and not a slot machine.’
The forty participants of the tournament were immediately released after their names were taken down. According to the ESBK officials, if the same people are repeatedly found at illegal poker tournaments, they will be charged with a crime because ‘playing unlicensed poker is a punishable offense.’
This has been ESBK’s 10th raid on the same exact location. The tournament was advertised on Swiss poker websites, Swiss internet casino sites and was broadcast live over the internet. The raid was seen live over the internet and attracted a large number of curious spectators.
The Gaming Board and Basel-Stadt police officers were unaware of the raid being broadcast live, and according to ESBK – ‘would have prevented the live broadcast. Without a proper explanation, ordinary people will misinterpret what they see.’