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Poker in Texas

Introduction

Population: 29,000,000

Capital: Austin

Currency: United States Dollar ($)

State name abbreviation: TX

Time Zone: UTC-5 – UTC-6

Casinos with Poker

  • Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel
  • Abby J Card House
  • 52 Social Poker Club

Texas, the second most populous state in the Union, gave its name to the most popular card game in the world – as you all know it, it’s Texas Hold’em.

Hold’em has an official birth place, enshrined into law. In 2007, the Texas State Legislature recognized Robstown, TX as the town of origin for the most popular poker game.

The document states: “The game’s invention dates back to the early 1900’s when it is traditionally held that the first hand of the popular card game was dealt in the city of Robstown, and from there it traveled northward in the hands of ‘rounders’ and up the sleeves of cardsharps who quickly recognized the game’s potential for mass appeal.”

It took around 6 decades, from its inception in the turn of the century up to the 1960’s, for Hold’em to make its way from The Lone Star state to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas.

A group of traveling gamblers brought it with them. Doyle Brunson, aka “the Godfather of poker”, Amarillo Slim and Crandell Addington went from town to town, looking for action. They couldn’t stay for too long at many places – back then, locals didn’t really take kindly to strangers coming to town and take heaps of money from them at the poker table. That is also why they chose to travel in a group of 3.

It was the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas that first put the new game from Texas into their selection, in the summer of 1967. It quickly drew attention, as the players realized that skill plays a larger role in this game than in the other poker variants. Prior to “the age of Hold’em”, Stud and Draw games were on top in popularity.

Texas Hold’em quickly overtook them all – however, at first, the Limit version of the game was most commonly played. It took another handful of decades, until the Moneymaker boom in the early 2000’s, for No Limit games to take over all stakes. However, since the first time the World Series of Poker Main Event was played out in tournament format, in 1971, the most prestigious poker tournament in the world has always been No Limit Texas Hold’em.

Speaking of the WSOP, it was inspired by another poker festival held a year before. It was called the Texas Gambling Reunion – counterintuitively, it was held in Reno, Nevada. However, it was organized by Texan gambling men Tom Moore and Vic Vickrey. Benny Binion was also in attendance – in 1970, he put together the first ever World Series of Poker, held in his famous Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas.

Famous Texan Poker Players

We’ve mentioned Doyle Brunson in our intro. He’s one of the true legends of the game, having won 10 WSOP gold bracelets during his career, 2 of which are from the Main Event in back-to-back years, in 1976 and 1977. He was also a prominent feature in classic poker TV shows Poker After Dark on NBC and High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network.

From the younger generation, Benjamin Tollerene has amassed over $9.5 million in live tournament winnings. He’s also cashed for $3.3 million in online MTT’s, playing under the screen name “Ben86” on PokerStars and “Bttech86” on Full Tilt.

– Playing Live Poker in Texas –

   Live Poker Legislation in Texas

Despite gambling being a big part of Southern culture, especially in the late 19th and early 20th Century, Texas has one of the strictest gambling laws in the United States.

From the Texas Law Library’s website:

“Under Texas law, (Penal Code §47.02) gambling is considered a criminal offense if someone:

  • makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest
  • makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or
    plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.
  • The law does provide for some exceptions such as participating in the state lottery or placing bets on horse and greyhound dog races (sometimes referred to as pari-mutuel wagering).”

Other exemptions include “charitable bingo halls” and pull-tab lottery tickets. On top of that, three casinos are allowed to operate on Native American land. The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, passed in 1988, permitted Native Americans in the US to run and regulate their own gambling establishments on their reservations.

Some poker clubs, however, do operate in Texas – even if they’re on somewhat shaky grounds. They know they legally can’t collect rake, so they went with the option of collecting so-called “seat fees” for each player. However, even under this system, two prominent card rooms in Houston were raided by the police in May 2019.

  Live Poker Venues in Texas

One of the three Indian casinos in Texas is the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel in the town of Eagle Pass. They have a poker room, where you can play Limit and No Limit Hold’em cash games on a variety of stakes. The stakes at the limit tables range from $3/$6 up to $15/$30; while the stakes at the no limit tables range between $1/$2 and $5/$10.

Two poker rooms managed to find a loophole to run legally in the harsh Texan legal landscape.

At Abby J Card House in San Antonio, you can even play Sit&Go’s. While they don’t list buy-ins, they do list their payout structure. In a 1-table (10 players max) S&G, two places are paid in 70/30 split.

They also have regular tournaments three days a week: on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Again, no information on the buy-ins is available (probably to comply with local gambling laws), but we do know the prize pool guarantees. They are $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000, respectively.

As for their cash tables, they have $1/$2, $1/$3, and $5/$5 No Limit Hold’em, $5/$5 Omaha (presumably Pot Limit), and a $3/$6 Limit Hold’em table.

In Houston, the 52 Social Poker Club operates under similar legal conditions. There, you can play No Limit and Limit Hold’em, as well as PLO cash games 24/7 after paying a $10 daily fee.

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Texas –

Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel

Abby J Card House

52 Social Poker Club

  Online Poker in Texas

The Texan penal doesn’t specifically mention online gambling. However, that is not necessarily good news for online players – remember, the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is a federal law. That means that anywhere where internet gambling isn’t explicitly legalized and regulated, the Feds or even the local authorities could shut gambling sites down, as they have in the past.

However, players who play on offshore online poker sites from Texas are never prosecuted. So, as long as the sites don’t block players from the region, they can chance to play on them.


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