Michigan Assigns Probation for Running Social Poker Room
There is a lot of talk about poker rooms, mostly in Texas. Some may be tied up in court or recovering from a police raid, but most of them operate continuously without trouble. And Chris Moneymaker opened one in Kentucky last year.
The common thread among these types of poker rooms is that the states in which they operate provide no other live poker options within their borders. The ones in Texas and now in Kentucky operate on a membership basis, wherein each player must pay a fee to be a member. And with that membership comes the ability to play cash games and poker tournaments.
In Michigan, however, there are casinos. And there are poker rooms on Native American lands. In addition, the state of Michigan has legalized online poker and casinos, all overseen by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).
With those forms of legal poker available in the state, the MGCB decided to crack down quickly and seriously on 906 Poker Social.
Wanting a Poker Club
Professional poker player Joshua Thatcher tightened his relationship with poker during the pandemic. He played more online, but he craved the ability to play live again. And he didn’t want to do it in a casino; he wanted a poker room dedicated to the game, something offering more cash games and higher buy-in tournaments than were available online and in the state’s casinos.
Thatcher put it all together and created 906 Poker Social. It was the real-life manifestation of his online game with friends.
He opened it in South Marquette, Michigan on April 1, 2021.
Players had the opportunity to pay a membership fee and a chair rental fee in lieu of rake. This private club operated out of a commercial building, complete with cameras and a security guard. Professional dealers ran the tables,
Owner Joshua Thatcher of the newly opened ’906 Poker Social’ says it’s the first social club of its kind in Michigan to legally host live poker. https://t.co/ULRi0y8NGE
— TV6 & FOX UP (@wluctv6) April 26, 2021
Raiding a Poker Club
Little more than three months after opening, the Michigan Attorney General and MGCB organized a raid on 906 Poker Social. The regulator’s Criminal Investigation division worked with the Department of the Attorney General determined that it was an “unregulated gambling operation.”
The raid included a seizure of six poker tables and $13,050 in cash, as well as 906 Poker Social bank accounts.
According to MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams, “The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s mission is to ensure fair and honest gaming in Michigan, and we partner with the Michigan Department of Attorney General to investigate and eliminate gaming activities across the state.”
The initial charge levied against Thatcher was that he operated an illegal poker room. In May 2022, nearly one year after the raid, the Attorney General’s office added more felony charges, including the use of computers to commit a crime – presumably because Thatcher kept records on his computer – as well as a high misdemeanor count that alleged he permitted a gambling house for gain.
On December 2, 2022, Thatcher pleaded guilty to just one felony count of operating an illegal poker room.
Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi of the 25th Circuit Court in Marquette then presided over the sentencing hearing on January 19, 2023. The plea deal resulted in the following sentence:
-12 months of probation
-forfeiture of all items seized from the club
-forfeiture of money in seized bank accounts
Michigan AG Dana Nessel commented, “My office remains committed to upholding business rules and regulations, and that includes our state’s gambling laws. I appreciate the work the Michigan Gaming Control Board has done to protect Michigan residents and businesses.”
Michigan Sharp contacted Thatcher a few days after his sentencing. He called the entire process “a really good learning experience.”
After the seizure and shutdown of his poker club, he refocused on playing more live poker. Thatcher traveled to Las Vegas for the late-year World Series of Poker (where he won a DeepStack Championship Poker Series event at Venetian for more than $53K,) and then he returned the next summer to play the WSOP again.
We managed to ship a tournament!!! pic.twitter.com/5ge9Zz0PQG
— PLO Professor (@Poker906) October 10, 2021
Still living in Michigan, though, he mostly sticks to poker at the Detroit casinos or online. He told Michigan Sharp that he is going to focus on being a poker pro, which he has been doing for years, and vlogging, which is relatively new for him.
As it turns out, Thatcher calls himself the PLO Professor. He posts his vlogs on his YouTube channel.