It was a friendly game of cards and, yes, it was illegal. But the Loughs thought that their Texas Hold 'em tournament was just like the hundreds of other poker games taking place in homes and bars across Idaho on July 16.
They couldn't have been more wrong.
"Anybody with the name of Lough, stand up!" Boise police ordered, weapons drawn.
"And that would be me, my husband and my son," said Jo Lough.
The trio was handcuffed, interrogated (separately) and ultimately jailed. Within hours, their faces would be splashed across Idaho newspapers and television screens in what was the first gambling bust in recent memory.
"This is the first time I personally participated in a bust of a gambling operation," Boise Police Sgt. Mike Harrington told Boise Weekly. "Most of the time, we send our community policing team to a gambling complaint and they usually issue a warning."
The Loughs insist that if police had warned them, they would have promptly folded their semi-regular poker party.
"This is ridiculous," said Jo Lough. "We're facing a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. We even had to get a public defender because we're broke. In fact, we had to get three, because one public defender couldn't take all three of us."
Making matters worse, the Loughs' high-profile bust wasn't even the worse thing that happened to them this year.
After several attempts to talk with the Loughs, Boise Weekly finally met up with Jo and her husband, Timothy, in a hospital room at the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center. That's where we found Tim locked into a hard-plastic clamshell from his neck to his waist.
"I fell off a roof," he sighed.
In the shadow of his July 16 arrest, Tim Lough was helping his brother build a new roof for a Garden Valley church on Aug. 28. He's not a stranger to rooftops. As a boy, Tim Lough assisted his father on construction jobs and eventually owned his own company, Lough's Remodeling, working Treasure Valley construction jobs for 22 years.
"In all that time, I never broke a bone."
But when he fell from a Garden Valley rooftop to some hard gravel Aug. 28, he broke his back, hip, pelvis, femur, ankle and shattered his left heel. After being airlifted to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Lough ended up at the VA (he served two years in the U.S. Army in the 1970s).
"He's already had three surgeries," said Jo. "He goes to therapy twice a day, takes three morphine tablets every 12 hours, in addition to Delada pain pills and Hydrocodone for a previous shoulder surgery."
Through good times and bad, the Loughs say they've always played cards, almost always Texas Hold 'em, with friends and family. They started out playing in their West Ada County home, shifted the game to a garage and eventually moved it out into a renovated shop in their backyard--a big 36- by 40-foot room with a full kitchen and pool table. That went on for the better part of four years.
"Anybody who wanted to come would show up," said Tim Lough, "and Ada County Sheriff's deputies would come out and say, 'We don't care about your cards.' But what they did care about was people having too much to drink and getting behind the wheel, or maybe there were too many cars parked on the street. After a while, there were sheriff deputy patrol cars out in front of the house all the time."
Eventually, the Loughs said, Ada County Sheriff's deputies urged them to take the poker game elsewhere.
"They said, 'Listen, we don't have a problem with you playing cards; just get it out of the neighborhood,'" said Tim Lough. "After all this crap, we said, 'That's not a big deal.'"
And that's when the Lough's 33-year-old son, Travis, went looking for space to rent. Eventually, they landed at 4477 Emerald St., Suite 250. Unbeknownst to the Loughs, another poker operation had already been running not far away, in the 4700 block of Emerald, operated by 32-year-old David Deboer.
"The big difference is that he was running those poker games, for years, during the day; ours were always at night," said Jo Lough.
Deboer, who was arrested the same night as the Loughs, has already pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of gambling and sentenced to fines and fees of $416.90 and 90 days in jail, with 85 days suspended, two days credited.
Boise Weekly learned that Boise police found out about the Loughs' gambling operation by accident, while conducting a welfare check on a man who had too much to drink. It turns out that in early July an unidentified man, spotted by a tenant at the 4477 Emerald business park, stumbled out of a parked van, threw up on the pavement and promptly passed out, sprawled in the open door of the van. The tenant called police, who questioned the man on the scene. The man reportedly said something about a poker game, leading police to the door of Suite 250. No one was inside at the time, but officers saw that the room had been set up for poker. The police raid of Suite 250 occurred two weeks later.
"Look, we were getting about 10 percent of our poker pots to pay for rent," said Jo Lough. "Plus, we always fixed a hot meal for the players. The money was like... well, it was like a tip."
That's not how Boise police saw it when they handed citations to everyone else on July 16, but hauled the Loughs off to a police substation.
"They came in screaming, 'Get your hands up,' with their guns pointed at us," said Jo Lough. "As far as we know, we're the first people to be arrested for gambling since anyone can remember."
The Loughs, who are still awaiting their court date--which has been delayed due to Tim Lough's injury--said their son Travis had already been offered a $500 fine, 10 days in jail and 40 hours of community service, which they called "ridiculous."
"A detective even told me that they were going to get a warrant, come to our house and dig up our yard to find buckets of money," said Jo Lough. "That's how idiotic this all is. Right now, we're hoping they'll drop this whole thing."
But that remains to be seen, when the Loughs get their day in court, presumably in a jury trial.