London players try to pass off lockdown poker game as a wake

Jon Pill
Posted on: February 06, 2021 06:03 PST

With England in its third lockdown in ten months, the number of poker games being visited by the bobbies is on the rise. One of the latest set a new record for brazenness. After twenty-five men were caught playing cards at a basement flat in Hackney, London, they tried to pass the gathering off as a wake.

The excuse was a flimsy one. The all-male group was playing poker with cards, tables, and "gambling machines" filling up the underground space. The real problem of claiming they were holding a wake as a legal defense is not that it was a blatant lie, but that the limit for attendants at a wake is six people. The group exceeded this by nineteen.

Under the newly ramped-up lockdown regulations, the attendants all received £800 (~$1,100) fines.

P.C. Aimee Murton, from the local Covid enforcement team, gave the gamblers short shrift.

"This was a foolish and ignorant event to hold," Constable Murton said. "Those there risked spreading the virus, which has already claimed countless lives across our city. Because of their selfish actions, they are each now facing an £800 fine. [...] They could face an even higher fine for further breaches."

Reasons why

Poker games have been illegal in many places at many points in history. But the current times are probably unique in how fast and how often your home game can jump back and forth from being a mere act of covidiocy to a breach of law and order. England is currently in its third lockdown in ten months with the other nations of the United Kingdom using their devolved powers to deal with things in their own — often far more effective — way.

The rules outside of lockdown are a headless mix of constantly changing and inconsistently applied orders. During lockdown, however, things are much more sharply defined. The rules are black and white, and your home game is not in a grey area.

In the many tales of lockdown breaches that are picked over by the notoriously judgemental British press, the number of poker games that are being busted in Lockdown 3 stand out.

As well as this "wake," the UK has seen poker games broken up in all sorts of places. In Birmingham, one event was held by players so unfazed by the law that the police were called in on a noise complaint. They found 17 men playing cards. Fines all round.

Another Birmingham gathering tried to explain that they had held the poker tournament because they were "really fed up." The police officer pointed out that 1,500 people had died that day, and that "fed up" didn't cut it.

Featured image source: Flickr