Is poker legal in Texas? The casual poker observer would be unable to answer this question as the laws are pretty sketchy. Poker pros in Texas are now optimistic as the World Poker Tour-DeepStacks recently released the schedule for the second half of Season 5. One of the stops that is scheduled to take place later this year is set for Houston, Texas. This has encouraged Texas poker players to remain bullish about the future of legal poker in the state.
The WPT DeepStacks stop at Houston, Texas will be the last stop in season 5 and will also be the very first non-charity major poker tournament that will be held in the state. The historical $1,000 buy-in event will take place on September 21 to 24 and will be held at the Freerolls Poker Club.
Poker Legislation In Texas
The present set of laws in Texas that govern poker is rather vague and archaic. This set of rules was defined by the Texas Penal code regarding gambling in the state and that includes gambling in poker games. Under the current law, there are three things that define whether a group of people are allowed to play poker or other card games.
The first rule is that the games must only be conducted in a private place; the second is that all participants must have an equal chance of winning and losing apart from the odds presented by skill and luck; and three is that all payments to be made must only be personal winnings to players.
The third provision has become the trickiest part of the law, which makes it almost impossible for cardrooms to make money from gambling. It clearly specifies that the house will not be able to take any rake or profit from the winnings or the prize pool, and the dealers are not allowed to take tips. This makes gambling a non-profitable activity for most membership clubs. This has also the provision that has been constantly breached by many Texas cardrooms, leading to their closure and raids.
WPT Partnership With Freerolls Poker Club
Freerolls Poker Club is one of the latest poker clubs to open in Houston and has only been in operation for a few weeks. Unlike traditional card rooms, Freerolls operates more like a country club where customers are only required to pay a daily, monthly, or annual membership fee and they can play at the venue however long they want. There are no seat rentals, no house rakes, no time charges.
Their unique way of making money is using an advertiser-supported model, where the club allows advertisers to reach their customers via 7-inch touchscreen devices located on each table.
According to Trent Daniel, club co-founder and business development director of the Freerolls Poker Club, they are operating on a model with no grey areas when it comes to gambling laws.
When they were organizing the WPT DeepStacks stop in Houston, Daniel said that the WPT committee and Freerolls even met with Houston police to discuss the legality of the tournament, citing the 2005 opinion letter from the Texas Attorney General on the gambling law that said that the activity is legal as long as the players do not risk anything of monetary value to try to win.
The partnership and the tournament is set to be a historical moment in Houston and both the WPT and Freerolls are confident that everything will run smoothly and in accordance with the law.
In a statement, Chris Torina, executive director of WPT DeepStacks said “Anytime you enter a market for the first time, especially as a pioneer, it’s a big deal. It’s exciting. We can bring our brand to an emerging market and to the doorstep of so many poker players, fans, and enthusiasts. We are hopeful that WPTDS Houston sets the bar for what the City of Houston and the State of Texas should expect from a first-class live event.”
Players who are entering the WPT DeepStacks event will only be charged the membership fee to get into the venue. Officially, since the house is not getting any rake, the buy-in is listed as $1,000+$0.
Freerolls is expecting the stop to become a success since they have already been getting inquiries on how they got WPT DeepStacks to come to the state. Both the event organizers and the club hope that the success of the tournament will bring more tournaments and more Freerolls type of clubs into the state.
WPT DeepStacks Series
Apart from Houston, four additional stops were announced for the second half of the season which are fixed for Montreal, San Diego, Edmonton, and Calgary. This is also the first time WPT DeepStacks is hosting a stop in Houston and Montreal.
The season will close with the DSPT Championship which will take place at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary, Alberta from November 30 to December 3, where a prize pool of C$1 million awaits the players.