Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Dallas SWAT team, object of television affection on A&E every week, has apparently run out of real criminals to go after. Over the last few days, they’ve been raiding poker rooms all over the area, busting in with M-16s and even jackhammers to bravely protect us from people playing a game of skill with other adults. God bless you, brave policemen! Pokerati has multiple reports on the raids, including many eyewitness accounts. In at least one case, a club called Jackie’s, after the police busted in and busted up the place to stop fake crimes, that allowed looters to come in after they left and commit real crimes, including stealing a big screen TV and many other things. Are you feeling protected and served yet?

Let’s keep in mind a few telling statistics. Dallas is one of the most violent cities in the nation, with a violent crime rate 3 times higher than the national average. The murder rate of 20.2 per 100,000 people is nearly 4 times the national average. Rape occured in Dallas about 50% more than the national average, while robbery and aggravated assault were more than double the national average. And yet the SWAT team seems to have all the time in the world to waste on stopping consenting adults from playing poker with one another.


  1. #1 Joe Shelby
    November 22, 2006

    So we go in, we take out any semblance of order and any deterrent to theft, then leave the place alone for others to come and just rob the place blind?

    Sounds a lot like a certain administration’s foreign policy to me. The SWAT team learned from the best!

  2. #2 Deepsix
    November 22, 2006

    But, Ed, we need the government to protect us against ourselves! We simply can’t be allowed to participate in such dangerous activities as playing games or having sex in the privacy of our own homes with a mutually consenting adult! Thank god I have the government to make my decisions for me!

  3. #3 llDayo
    November 22, 2006

    This may seem like a stupid question (I honestly don’t know the answer) but if I invite a few friends and family over to my house and we play some poker (quarter/half) am I committing a crime? Especially, am I committing a crime worthy of a SWAT team to come in to my home to break it up?! At the most, after 4 or 5 hours of play, nobody usually loses more than $20-$30! The amount of money used in the game might pay for 1-2 of the SWAT members’ daily pay.

    I hate “justice”.

  4. #4 KeithB
    November 22, 2006

    If there is money involved, there is a crime.

    After all you are talking the food from the poor race-track owners babies mouths!

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    November 22, 2006


    The answer depends on what state you’re in. In Michigan, the answer is yes; playing a poker game with your friends for money of any amount is a crime (a crime I commit on a regular basis, of course). Is it enough to bring a SWAT team in? Not likely. But the police did bust up a friendly game at a VFW hall that I used to play in regularly.

  6. #6 jason
    November 22, 2006

    I’m so embarrassed to live in Dallas. You’d think, as you infer, that there could be more important matters to tend to other than poker games. If it’s not planting fake drugs on people so they can be arrested on felony possession charges, it’s shooting people in the face with pepper balls just because they asked a question, and now it’s arresting people for playing cards while thieves, murderers, rapists, and all manner of real criminals run rampant across the city. I feel safer already!

  7. #7 llDayo
    November 22, 2006

    I live in Pennsylvania and recent legislation has allowed for some gambling. Ed (or anyone actually), how do I find out whether it’s illegal here? It’s not going to stop me from playing but I’m just curious about it.

  8. #8 386sx
    November 22, 2006

    If there is money involved, there is a crime.

    Yeah but come on bringing in the SWAT team is going way overboard. I don’t know how to play myself, but I was told from someone who does that poker players are basically hard working honest people.

  9. #9 Aerik Knapp-Loomis
    November 22, 2006

    All your pieces about our government officials having a free-for-all against any gambling that doesn’t benefit the government was alarming enough. Now our militant city officials are having such visceral poker-phobia they’re erecting a police state around it? And we’re apparently not as mad as we should be with campus pricks tasering, beating, and choking college students to work out their frustrations at not being official school bullies anymore. We really are falling apart now.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    November 22, 2006


    You would need to search the state laws. I’m thinking about starting a blog specifically about the legalities of poker, actually. If I do, it will include analysis of state laws like that.

  11. #11 Greg Byshenk
    November 22, 2006

    So, is there any real information available about these dreaded raids? What I see following
    the links is mostly a bunch of ranting and rambling.

    And what little I can glean suggests that what were busted were illegal casinos. To
    elaborate a bit: when I lived in Oregon, the law (IIRC) was that gambling among individuals was
    completely legal, but casino gambling (without the proper permits, etc.) was strictly
    illegal. And ‘casino’ gambling was any gambling in which a “house” or some other third party
    collected a cut or otherwise made money from the gambling. Further, from my (albeit limited)
    experience, even in states where all gambling on cards is illegal, the authorities are almost
    certain to ignore private poker games between individuals — but may crack down hard on any
    illegal casinos, tournaments, or other gambling businesses.

  12. #12 llDayo
    November 22, 2006

    I look forward to it, Ed! If you start one up I’ll gladly add it to my small list of frequently visited blogs! I have someone coming over to visit on Thanksgiving who I can ask this question to. He might know (he just won election for the state senate of our district).

  13. #13 Baratos
    November 22, 2006

    Even if they were illegal casinos, arent there bigger fish for a SWAT team to go after? Like that roving band of criminals that would burst into random houses and let thieves take everything.


  14. #14 DuWayne
    November 22, 2006

    I would set aside the discussion of whether it was “casino” gambling or not. The point of this is that they were raided by a para-military force. The point is that the police use these tactics in nearly every situation – even serving minor warrants for non-violent offenses. The point is that innocent and minor offenders get hurt and sometimes killed because of these tactics. The point is that the police do not protect and serve, instead they risk the lives of innocent people to make themselves a little bit safer – indeed the deaths of innocent civilians and minor offenders seem to be preferable to the risk inherent to putting on a badge.

  15. #15 Greg Byshenk
    November 22, 2006

    So, how exactly are innocents being “hurt and sometimes killed” due to the use of SWAT
    forces — to a degree more so than what would be the case using some other police units?

    Indeed, I can imagine an argument going the other way: the use of SWAT forces could well
    lessen the risks, as it lessens the likelihood that someone will try something stupid.

  16. #16 Seth Anderson
    November 22, 2006

    Does the great state of Texas still have a lottery? I guess only state sanctioned gambling is acceptable.

  17. #17 DuWayne
    November 22, 2006

    Read The Agitator or even occasional posts here for numerous stories about civilians being killed by paramilitary police incompetance. One of the big problems being, they often do not identify themselves as cops. A person who hears people breaking into their home often reacts by getting their hands on some sort of weapon, the cops see a weapon and shoot them down. It happens way to often. The use of military tactics in civilian situations is an additional danger to innocents all around.

    33 cops with mchine guns busting into a house, holding one adult, a five year old, a seven year old and a nine year old with guns to their heads – over less than a 1/4 ounce of marijuana is insane. 24 cops busting into a house, tell everyone to shut-up, poke them in the head with the muzzle of their machine gun, while the adults are trying to inform them of the eight year old hidinging her closet – until tragicly, the child runs out screaming and is gunned down because the cops didn’t know she was there – all that on a tip from someones ex-girlfriend, that there were drugs there, which was a lie. The list goes on and on – but you get my point.

  18. #18 DuWayne
    November 22, 2006

    Greg –

    It just occured to me that I should include a link to Radley Balko’s Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, is an great source of information on this topic.

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    November 22, 2006

    the use of SWAT teams and the growing militarization of the police has caused all kinds of problems with innocent people being killed. Radley Balko just released a white paper about it that is available at the Cato Institute’s website. The list of deadly encounters because of having SWAT teams serving routine warrants is very, very long.

  20. #20 386sx
    November 22, 2006

    I don’t know how to play myself, but I was told from someone who does that poker players are basically hard working honest people.

    Well I did play once, but I didn’t do very well. But they were very kind about it and they said that I was very welcome to come back and try again anytime that was convenient for me. Poker players: basically hard working honest people… and on top of all that, very nice people too. Spread the word!

  21. #21 Shawn Smith
    November 22, 2006

    If you want to get into nice little flame wars, you can go over to the Reason Hit & Run site and see a few of the posts from Radley there. The latest was about a 92-year-old (black) woman getting shot and killed after a no-knock search warrant for drugs was served. She was able to wing a few of the thugs with her pistol before getting killed.

  22. #22 Greg Byshenk
    November 23, 2006

    I have only read the first few pages of the Radley white paper, but I have no intention of
    wading through 100 pages unless someone can point me to something specific. And this is partly
    because the paper seems to mingle several different issues rather indiscriminately: one may
    well fully agree that there are serious problems with “no-knock” warrants, particularly when
    executed with flimsy evidence — but this has nothing at all (at least so far as I can see)
    with the use of SWAT teams. One would have the same problems — if not more so — if such
    warrants were executed by the local drug squad.

    Perhaps the earlier references to SWAT teams were only a sort of shorthand for the larger
    issue, in which case I recognize the concerns. But I would suggest that using “SWAT” as that
    sort of shorthand is a poor choice, as the type of police unit really isn’t the problem — at
    least so far as I can see.

    Indeed, I submit that, if the police are going to storm a building, then everyone
    the police and those in the building — are better off if the officers doing so are those
    trained for that sort of action. Of course, one may feel that the police shouldn’t ever
    storm a building — or shouldn’t do so in certain cases — but that is a different issue.

  23. #23 DuWayne
    November 23, 2006

    Greg –

    Here are specific instances, by location. This is a short list of some victims.

    Trying to seperate the drug war out of this discussion is virtualy impossible. The tactics that are being used were adopted specificaly to fight the war on drugs. And the types of warrants, the training of the officers involved – or lackthereof, the tactics used on the ground, are all related issues. The problems with the drug war aside, the fact that these tactics have moved into raids on an optometrists home for gambling – leading to his death. Or to serving warrants that would indicate no dire threat to officers. Or flimsy enough evidence that they end up at the wrong address.

    The problem I have, is that the tactics, out of uniform, little to no announcement, trigger twitchy cops with inadequate training to use these tactics to ensure civilian safety at all times. The attitude that their lives are more important than the lives of the people they have vowed to protect. Certainly, civilian casualties can happen under the best of circumstances. But protecting citizens should always be the first priority. The policy of no-knock raids kills people. The tactics used in those raids kills people. The laws that allow the state to unnecessarily intrude on our lives kills people and increases crime (aside from the crime of drug use). They are all critical components to this issue.

    All right, I must finish preparing the last of my end of a dinner with my ex and our son. My son alleges that his vegitarian mom is producing turkey, that isn’t really turkey. It really is moments like these that throw into sharp relief, how much I love my son.

  24. #24 Greg Byshenk
    November 24, 2006

    If you are going to follow-up to what I write, you should at least attempt actually to
    respond to what I have written.

    A map showing the location of a bunch of largely unspecified incidents does not so respond. Nor
    does a general listing of “Drug War Victims”, particularly one that includes Veronica and Charity Bo
    wers (whatever one might think of their deaths, they plainly have nothing at all to do with US
    police force SWAT teams). Nor does an accidental shooting by a tactical officer — unless one is
    going to argue that tactical officers are less trained than ordinary police (which I don’t
    think is an easy argument to make).

    Note that I specifially addressed the issue of SWAT teams, and differentiated this from
    no-knock warrants and the like. It may well be true that

    The policy of no-knock raids kills people. The tactics used in those raids kills
    people. The laws that allow the state to unnecessarily intrude on our lives kills people and
    increases crime […]

    …but just none of these issues has anything to do with SWAT teams, per se.

    As I wrote just above:

    […] one may feel that the police shouldn’t ever storm a building — or shouldn’t
    do so in certain cases — but that is a different issue […]

    than the issue of what sort of officers should engage in such actions, if they occur. As
    I wrote:

    if the police are going to storm a building, then everyone — the police and
    those in the building — are better off if the officers doing so are those trained for that sort
    of action.

    In short, I suggested that SWAT teams simply are not the relevant issue, here. And every
    response I’ve seen indicates that I was correct.

  25. #25 DuWayne
    November 24, 2006

    Greg –

    The point is that the discussion here is about the larger issue. No one is arguing that SWAT teams shouldn’t perform raids or are inherently bad. SWAT teams alone are not the issue, but they are relevant to the issue.

    To answer;
    if the police are going to storm a building, then everyone — the police and those in the building — are better off if the officers doing so are those trained for that sort of action.

    If they are going to storm a building, yes – in many cases they are. But then the issue isn’t that. It is first, do they really need to storm that building. Second, are they going to prioritize the safety of innocent people over their own. All too often the answer to both questions is no.

  26. #26 Greg Byshenk
    November 25, 2006

    DuWayne, you seem to be agreeing that the issue really has nothing to do with “SWAT teams”
    per se.

  27. #27 Steve
    November 25, 2006

    According to the reporters, last year, 3 people were arrested and 8 citations were issued. This year, 31 people were arrested and 180 citations were issued.

    Now, a reasonable person might ask, what’s changed from last year. The answer, they now play poker at two Indian Casinos in Oklahoma, an hour from Dallas!

    So, after carefully considering the entire situation, the most likely purpose of the raid is to benefit the Indian Casinos in Oklahoma by closing Dallas underground poker rooms. And, the most likely reason for using SWAT was to get some TV time and exposure for the A&E program as well as to give Channel 11 news something to bust a pathetic news programs sweep week ratings.

    Now, you tell me, where’s the real crime in this whole episode? I would love to see this put it in front of a jury to see what they had to say.

    By the way, I was at one of these rooms when it went down and the careless, brutal and rude attitudes of the police officers involved was appalling. It is obvious that the psychological profiling used to screen the officers on the DPD SWAT teams is terribly inadaquate. These officers, sworn to protect and serve, were totally over the top in the way they treated people who were doing nothing but playing cards. Of course, as I have said over and over again in these discussions, it is much safer to raid a poker game than to be out trying to catch real criminals!

    Cowards and bullies…not everyone of them…but enough of them to make me sick…to treat people as I witnessed on Friday November 17 makes me ashamed to live in Texas and that’s something I never thought I would have to say.

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