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Instagram's 3betpanda Shot Outside Austin Cardroom

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The membership-based Texas Card House in Austin was the scene of an attempted robbery that left one man shot and injured. The incident occurred at approximately 4 a.m. on Monday, April 30. The victim, popular Instagrammer 3betpanda, was transported to David's Round Rock Medical Center where he is being treated for serious injuries.

About the Shooting

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Witnesses report that 3betpanda, whose first name is Tom, left the Texas Card House as it was closing on Monday morning. Under Texas Card House policy, patrons can request that a security guard escort them to their vehicles, but it seems Tom did not take advantage of this protection. As he was walking to his car, he was approached by a robber.

It's not exactly clear what happened next, but there was some kind of altercation, and Tom was shot in the back while attempting to flee. The police were informed of the incident at 4:04 a.m. and rushed to the scene. The victim was transported to David's Round Rock Medical Center with what were described as “serious potentially life threatenging [sic] injuries.” He is currently in stable condition.

The robber fled and has not yet been apprehended. The crime was caught on an exterior security camera, but the police have not released the footage. As we understand it, the police are close to identifying the shooter.

Tom's backpack full of cash was not stolen during the robbery. However, Professional Rakeback has learned that one of 3betpanda's friends who was travelling with him, and who was also outside with him attempting to go home, had his backpack stolen.

  [UPDATE: May 1st - Tom is out of ICU. He is awake and cracking jokes.]  

About the Victim

3betpanda, a man in his 20s also known as Tom, is a popular face on Instagram where he has attracted 7,632 followers. He posts images of his poker hands and chip stacks at casinos around the world as well as scenery away from the tables. He travels a lot and has uploaded photos from many different cities worldwide, including Barcelona, Las Vegas, and Prague.

3betpanda User on Instagram
Instagrammer 3betpanda, Victim of the Austin Cardroom Shooting

On the evening of the shooting, Tom was seen playing poker at the Texas Card House in the company of several friends. None of them were residents of Austin. Some of Tom's friends were supposedly sending messages through the Snapchat app about how soft the games were.

About Texas Card House

Logo of Texas Card House

Texas Card House is located at 13376 N. Hwy. 183, Ste. 605 in Austin, Texas. It's open noon - 4 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and noon - 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Traditional casino poker is illegal according to Texas law, but Texas Card House and other operations like it believe they have found a workaround. As explained in the text of the law, games that occur in private places, don't provide economic benefit to anyone other than the players, and give all participants an equal chance of winning and losing (apart from the advantage of skill or luck) are exempted from being covered by the anti-gambling statute.

This has led to cardrooms opening that are funded by membership fees rather than normal poker rake and tournament fees. These memberships entitle visitors to partake of the facilities offered by the establishment, including the gaming tables, without paying anything extra. Because they are just charging for being able to enter the club and access its rooms, the owners of these businesses contend that they're not deriving any economic benefit from gambling. It's even prohibited to tip the dealers because this may be construed as an economic benefit to those dealing cards at the tables.

Interior of the Texas Card House
Interior of the Texas Card House

At the Texas Card House, membership fees are $10 per day, $30 per month, and $300 per year. In addition, there's a Club Access Fee of $2 plus $10/hour that's levied on the time spent inside the club. After agreeing to pay these amounts, members are able to access all the amenities of the Texas Card House.

Small-stakes NL Hold'em and PL Omaha cash games run nightly. The tournament calendar consists of mostly of events with buyins of less than $200 although pricier competitions are hosted every once in a while, like the $1,000 buyin $100,000 guaranteed tournament scheduled for May 5 - 6, 2018.

Besides poker tables, Texas Card House also contains billiards tables, lounges, and televisions. There's no kitchen or drink service, but patrons can bring their own refreshments and place orders with food delivery services.

Reasons for the Failed Robbery

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While the motivations of the criminal in this case are unknown, police said they have reason to believe that 3betpanda was specifically targeted. With his friends using messaging apps to let others know how they were doing at the tables, it's likely that the Instagram star drew the notice of someone envious of the big money being thrown around. Many posters on poker forums have commented on the dangers of social media and poker. Sending pictures of huge piles of chips marked with one's exact location provides a temptation to wrongdoers that could be easily avoided.

This case also illustrates the need for professional security personnel at gambling establishments. Many forumites echoed the sentiments of Redditor “MrSutta”:

Reddit Comment About the Austin Shooting Incident

As “MrSutta” noted, there's usually only one armed security guard on the premises of the Texas Card House, but management has indicated that it will add a second guard during the night. Furthermore, the owners of the club are looking into ways of enhancing their use of video cameras and other security equipment.

What This Means for Texas Poker

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Texans looking for some card game fun used to have to play in private home games, illegal underground establishments, or casinos in neighboring states like Louisiana. However, organizations like the Texas Card House have begun appearing in recent years not just in Austin but also in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Houston, and other spots around the state. They sometimes run into trouble with local officials and are periodically shut down due to vagaries in interpreting what's legal and what's not. Counties and municipalities across Texas have differing ideas about whether or not these cardrooms are permitted under both state and local laws.

Post Oak Poker Club in Houston, Texas
The Post Oak Poker Club in Houston, Which Uses a Similar Business Model as the Texas Card House

Although the proprietors of these cardrooms contend that they're in full compliance with the law, anti-gambling activists have a different perspective on the matter. Opponents of Texas live poker argue that the membership fees collected by these enterprises constitute an economic benefit in the eyes of the law and thus make their operations fall into the category of illegal gambling.

State Representative Geanie Morrison and a group called Stop Predatory Gambling Texas have both filed documents requesting a clarification on the law regarding these poker rooms from Attorney General Ken Paxton. The attorney general hasn't yet weighed in with his opinion, but he is expected to do so in July. Whatever guidance he issues will likely have a dramatic impact on the way local law enforcement views private card clubs, and he could effectively put them out of business if he decides that they're against the law.

We would like to believe that AG Paxton and legislators will take a dispassionate view of the situation and come up with rules that are based on an unbiased view of the law. However, public perception undoubtedly plays a role in the decisions of public officials, and the recent shooting might have significantly tarnished the game of poker in the minds of voters.

Robert Paape, the former owner of the Throne Poker Club in Austin (now closed), feels that the shooting will lead to a poor climate for poker in the state. “This is likely the end of Texas card rooms,” he said.

It is worth noting that on the very next day after the shooting, the Texas Card House had 8 full tables of poker running. It seems none of the regular patrons were dissuaded from playing due to the prior night's robbery and shooting.

Other Alternatives

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Even if the authorities eventually decide to shut down the existing poker rooms in Austin or indeed all across the state, you have several options as a player. Neighboring states, like Oklahoma and Louisiana, have casinos, and some of them are set up pretty close to the Texas border. If the prospect of driving hours just to play cards doesn't appeal to you, then you can always try out one of the reputable Texas online poker sites.