Owners of east Texas’s Top Shelf Poker Room plead guilty to gambling-related misdemeanors

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: March 10, 2023 8:17 pm EST

Four co-owners of east Texas’s Top Shelf Poker Room have each pled guilty to a single Class C misdemeanor of gambling associated with their former operation of the room before it was raided by Smith County (TX) authorities in March 2022.

Labryce Carnell Duncan, 32, Paul Lee Stewart, 44, Todd Andrew Rowell, 42, and Jesse Dwayne Vann, 36, will each be fined up to $500 as part of the plea deal approved on Tuesday. The four ran the Top Shelf room in Flint, TX, just south of Tyler, before last March’s raid, which followed several months of investigation that included undercover officers playing in the room. Top Shelf Poker Room had been operating for five years.

The four men were arrested in May, and as part of the plea deal, more serious charges of promoting gambling, which could have resulted in a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail, were dropped.

According to local news outlet KLTV, authorities had interviewed the owners, who thought they were adhering to Texas gambling law by generating income from membership and seat fees rather than collecting rake from pots. The only rake collected was a “promotional” rake that was returned to players, and could’ve included things such as high-hand or bad-beat jackpots. (Top Shelf’s social-media accounts were deleted following the March 2022 raid, making the club’s older online promotions inaccessible.)

One of the four co-owners, Duncan, also acknowledged owning and and generating several thousand dollars in revenue from an ATM available to players inside the club.

Featured image source: Facebook / Top Shelf Poker Room (archived)