March 18, 2024 2 min read


Raided Cardroom Owner Accepts Plea Deal after Two Years in Court

Many poker players were also charged with gambling offenses, although these were eventually dropped

Joe Vongkaysone, the Texan who ran the state’s biggest poker club, has agreed to plead guilty to a count of participation in organized crime and a single count of gambling promotion. As reported by PokerNews, the man has avoided the charge of keeping a gambling place, thanks to his plea deal.

Vongkaysone ran the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club in Fort Worth, Texas, which had cemented itself as the leading club for poker. However, the property was raided in 2022 during a big poker tournament, leading to dozens of arrests. The police also seized the $132,840 prize pool and gambling equipment. The total cash seized by authorities stood at approximately $205,000.

Many poker players were charged with gambling offenses, although these were eventually dropped. Vongkaysone, however, kept fighting.

Despite trying his best and spending $195,000 in legal fees for himself and eight staff members, Vongkaysone eventually ran out of money and accepted a plea deal. He agreed to forfeit $170,000 in penalties and, in return, no longer faces jail time.

Vongkaysone released a statement on the matter, saying that he is relieved to finally “close this lengthy chapter of his life.” Although the inequitable plea deal was a “tough choice,” he felt good to have the opportunity to progress and “look to the future.”

My heart goes out to every individual who got entangled in this unfair situation – the players, employees, and all my investors. Truly, it’s a regrettable predicament for everyone involved.

Joe Vongkaysone

Why Was Vongkaysone’s Club Raided?

Texas has strict rules on gambling and generally outlaws poker. However, poker clubs in the state exploit a loophole to stay in business.

For reference, the state allows gambling in a private place if no person receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings and if all players have the same chance to win. As a result, private clubs that offer poker do not take a cut from players’ bets but instead charge an hourly rate.

While some argue that clubs are not private places, many cardrooms have continued to operate thanks to this loophole. The legality of such establishments is still being debated.


Although Fiona doesn't have a long-spanning background within the gambling industry, she is an incredibly skilled journalist who has built a strong interest in the constantly growing iGaming network. The team at is glad to have her on our roster to help deliver the best stories as soon as they hit. Aside from writing, she loves to dabble in online casino games such as slots and roulette, both for her own enjoyment and also as research to better improve her understanding of the industry.

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