Texas Poker Room Plans Stalled as Doug Polk’s Grand Vision Draws a Losing Hand

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In a cliffhanging council vote, the dreams of poker luminary Doug Polk were put on hold this week as the city of Farmers Branch, a suburb nestled in the buzzing matrix of Dallas, opted not to play their hand in hosting Texas’ future largest poker room.

Polk, a decorated three-time champion of the World Series of Poker, held rich aspirations of setting up a sprawling 47,000-square-foot cardroom replete with a bar, a restaurant, and 100 poker tables nestled within its walls. He had envisioned this grand establishment situated in the heart of Farmers Branch, a stone’s throw, or rather a 20-minute drive, from the thriving Dallas International Airport. Polk proposed that this high-stakes oasis would draw an upwards of 300,000 visiting poker enthusiast each year and contribute significantly to the local economy by creating around 300 jobs.

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However, in a 4-1 vote, the city council dismissed the ordinance that would have allowed the cardrooms to flourish with the law’s blessing. Polk, who showcased resilience typical of a seasoned poker player, held no grudge against the vote that pulled the rug from his grand vision. In a statement he gave to The Dallas Morning News, Polk held a poignant sentiment of regret, not for himself, but for the residents of Farmers Branch who he believed, despite the decision, supported his cause wholeheartedly.

His dreams may have taken a detour but the poker giant is far from folding his plans. With eyes set on another location, Polk remains as determined as ever to bring the grandeur of his vision to life. He already co-owns the Lodge Card Club in Round Rock, the current largest cardroom in Texas, and he believes the region holds a ‘premium market’ for live poker.

In the high-stakes world of poker, risk and reward are two sides of the same coin. Polk’s aspirations of expanding the live poker industry in Texas, much like his choice of hands at the poker table, is calculated yet uncertain. The legal fog surrounding poker clubs in the state adds an extra layer of complexity to his gamble.

Texas’ law states, only activities sanctioned by the legislature are spared from the gambling ban. Under this legislative umbrella, private clubs claim they are allowed to operate poker rooms. Their argument: customers are charged hourly for patronage instead of a traditional rake, and they keep no winnings except for personal ones. Undoubtedly, this interpretation of the law is far from unanimous. Critics argue that the legal loophole was designed for private home games and not for commercially operated venues.

The City of Dallas, a neighbor to Farmers Branch, took its own gamble back in 2019 by granting the Texas Card House its first-ever cardroom license—a move that now appears to be abortive. As of January 2022, the city rescinded the club’s permit on grounds of ‘keeping a gambling place,’ a setback influenced by an intervention from the Dallas City Attorney Chris Caso.

While the legal dispute continues to ferment, the Texas Card House remains operational, waiting with bated breath for the final verdict. It looks like this complex scenario is heading full throttle towards the Texas Supreme Court, which is set to decide once and for all, the fate and legality of poker clubs within the state.