Snoqualmie Casino, an Indian tribal gambling hall near Seattle, closed it’s four-table poker room last week, leaving behind an unclaimed bad beat jackpot with $58,000, money the players believe they deserve but likely won’t ever get.
Former players of the now defunct poker room believe an oral agreement written by the casino proves they are entitled to the money. In the bad beat jackpot rules, the poker room agrees the funds are to only be used to pay out a poker bad beat jackpot and not for other jackpots for casino table games such as blackjack.
Poker room customers contend this agreement between the casino and the players proves they are entitled to the remaining balance.
“The promise and the claim that Snoqualmie makes is that 100 percent of the funds collected from the player-supported jackpot will be allocated to poker jackpots,” poker player Lucas Newman told KIRO 7, the area’s CBS affiliate. “So not blackjack jackpots, not slot machine jackpots, not other games, but specifically poker jackpots.”
A month prior to the poker room’s closure, a sign was posted outside the poker room letting poker players know the remaining bad beat jackpot balance would be allocated to other games in the casino. Newman said this decision was “unethical” and, along with other area players, is fighting to get back at least some of the money poker players contributed.
How Bad Beat Jackpots Work
Many poker rooms around the world offer a bad beat jackpot which is almost always player-funded. They are used to attract more players to their tables, which is why you won’t find them in crowded Las Vegas card rooms such as Bellagio and Aria that don’t need gimmicks to get people in their doors.
Additional rake, usually $1 per hand, is used to fund the progressive jackpot. To win the money in the pot, a sick bad beat must occur which is usually aces full of jacks or better losing to quads or better, depending on the poker room’s bad beat rules.
In most cases, the player who was dealt the bad beat receives half the progressive pot, the person who won the hand gets 25 percent of the pot, and the rest of the money is equally distributed to the remaining players at the table.
What Does Washington Law Say?
Newman believes the casino should be forced to give the remaining $58,000 bad beat jackpot balance back to the poker players based on the written agreement. But the Washington State Gambling Commission disagrees.
Heather Songer of the WSGC told KIRO 7 that Snoqualmie Casino wasn’t breaking any rules by allocating the poker jackpot funds to other casino games. Although she doesn’t think this is the proper way for the casino to handle the situation, she said no state laws were broken and, therefore, can’t impose any penalties.
“The casino continues to follow all applicable regulations as required by the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission, and the Washington State Gambling Commission. As an added courtesy, Snoqualmie Casino provided its poker players with 30 days’ advance notice of the room’s closure, which also serves as the first day of construction, and the casino has nearly doubled the value of High Hand weekly payouts since the announcment.
To date, over half of the original PSJ has been awarded in the poker room, and by implementing an accelerated payout plan, it is estimated that over two-thirds of the original PSJ would be awarded by the room’s closure date of Aug. 2.
“After the final poker hand is dealt,” the casino said in a written statement, “any remaining funds will be awarded back to the player population via another on-casino floor poker progressive, Ultimate Texas Hold’Em, as required by gaming regulations.”