December 7, 2021 Featured Articles, Poker News Petr Černý

Johnny Chan’s Texas Poker Room closed with hundreds of thousands in chips can’t get cashed

Reports are circulating that a Texas cardroom that bears back-to-back WSOP Main Event champ Johnny Chan’s name has closed. Many players are unable to cash in the chips they hold…

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Johnny Chan’s 88 Social club appears to have shut its doors after weeks of rumour and troubles that have seen a big winter series cancelled, players apparently making a “rush on the bank”, and unverified claims that staff have recently gone unpaid.

Johnny Chan’s Texas Poker Room closed with hundreds of thousands in chips unable to be cashed

People started cashing out from Johnny Chan’s poker club in October

Formerly known as the ‘52 Social’, the Houston cardroom was looking to cash in on the brand name of 1987 and 1988 Main Event champ Chan. He is believed to be a part shareholder in the club.

Although a legal grey area, Texas has seen dozens of cardrooms sprout up in the past few years. Not all of them have an easy time as they vie with rivals and seek to avoid somewhat random “policing” by the Texan authorities.

The first sign that Chan’s club was struggling came several weeks ago. It was reported that players were cashing out their boxes at 88 Social.

Some say this was to head to a rival local club after a sports bettor pissed off many players by refusing to pay up on a lost bet. Others that the money was taken out for WSOP trips.

Whatever the reason, player withdrawals were seemingly capped at a $2k daily limit. This oviously didn’t go down well in some quarters.

Chanh Nguyen, part owner of rival Houston cardroom Prime Social Club posted on Facebook that the cap rule was “fucked up”.

As someone who sends his “horses” to several poker rooms, Nguyen says Chan’s 88 Social “has the best action and the most tables running…”

Johnny Chan's Texas Poker Room closed with hundreds of thousands in chips can't get cashed

Pokerroom setting cash out limits for players

However, he goes on to state: “I’ve got about 5 players, some with high 5-figures chips and some with lows. Now is the time to collect and start splitting the profits but guess what? They limit players to $2K a day!!!! Wtf??? Seriously??? Now we can’t get our money?”

What the problem with payouts is, remains unclear. The Texan laws revolving around the licensing of cardrooms is clear, but at the same time murky.

Gambling is generally illegal, so casinos and cardrooms in the traditional sense are a no-no. However, operating as a “social club” gets around some of the legal difficulties.

A membership fee and the take from food and refreshments, rather than rake, is how the clubs turn a profit, and the law hasn’t intervened since a 2019 scandal that involved a couple of Chan’s rival cardrooms.

Nguyen’s ‘Prime Social’ and the nearby The Post Oak Poker Club saw nine members between them arrested during a raid after a two-year investigation into alleged money laundering, organized criminal activity, and gambling promotion.

The tale took a twist when it transpired that a consultant to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg had taken $250,000 from the clubs to apparently help enact a bill that would have allowed poker to flourish. Ogg later dropped the prosecution citing a potential conflict of interests.”

Is Johnny Chan’s pokerroom going to pay out all players?

That is the climate in which the poker social club scene has been operating in Texas, which makes it unlikely that players will have an recourse to the law should Johnny Chan’s 88 Social be unable or unwilling to meet demands for player cashouts.

Chanh Nguyen hinted at this in his FB post last month, writing: “I remember when I was raided! I reopened and paid back close to $800K to all the players that had chips. Even those who pre-registered for the tournament we were supposed to run!

He added: “This is some bullshit!!! Nothing toward the people or staff there, just mad at their money system. If this was Prime, everyone will come at me sideways. Am I being too nice??”

Quite what the 1987 and 1988 Main Event champ’s involvement in the social club that bears his name is unclear. Some have suggested that he has merely given his name to the club in exchange for a cut of takings or a straight up fee.

Others say that he has a share in the club, poker journalist Haley Hintze writing recently: “Chan himself is only a minority owner. The reputed primary owner and operator of the room since its founding as 52 Social allegedly remains Chris Dupre.”

Hintze also mentions “one other alleged partial owner, Adam Feierstein, may factor into the situation as well” and has reported unverified claims that “paychecks bounced for the room’s employees over the past two weeks.”

The 2021 Winter Classic poker series due to run from December 1-12 was cancelled. In addition, it has been reported that several employees have either jumped ship or been pushed, although there are also rumours that a “refinancing plan” is in the works.

Dan “Hold’emMedia” Ross tweeted what most right-thinking poker fans were thinking…

So far neither Chan nor anyone speaking on behalf of Johnny Chan’s 88 Social have commented on the disturbing situation, but we’ll keep you updated as and when we hear more.

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