Legal Poker Coming to Texas?

by , Mar 6, 2007 | 4:34 am

As Lavigne in Austin informs us, the Texas Poker Act of 2007 will be filed as a bill by Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) today.

Click here to read the entire 71-page draft. In fact, feel free to mark it up (assuming you are of intelligent mind) and share your comments here. A little power-to-the-people, yo?

I haven’t read it closely yet, but from what I understand, poker-wise, this bill would let charity tourneys like [tag]La Riata[/tag] go back to giving away real prizes to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars … bars could host small cash games … and racetracks could open poker rooms. All sounds good to Pokerati. Where do we vote yes?

Now from what I’m starting to understand about this politics thing, the bill still has a long way to go. But the new reality is that gambling in Texas is officially on the table in 2007 — just as it was in previous sessions with horse racing and the lottery — and poker has been given special status in that discussion. Kudos to the Texas Card Players Association and Texas Poker PAC (and their supporters) for helping make that happen.

ALT HED: Poker in Da Hizzouse


28 Comments to “Legal Poker Coming to Texas?”

  1. Tim B.

    I’ve put a PDF of the doc file ( up on the web for those of us that don’t have ms office 🙂

  2. Tim B.

    Sec. 2004.003:
    (16)  “Electronic poker table” means a poker gaming table with components that provides up to 10 player positions and allows players to play against other players in the same poker game using electronic cards and chips.

    theyre going to want to revise this to say something along the lines of “allows players physically seated at the table to play against other players physically seated at the same table in the same poker game”… otherwise someone WILL build a computer server into a piece of furniture and run a game online.

  3. BenMatlock

    they are copying Washington. You DO NOT want that bill to pass. Washington’s games suck ass. Their max on a single bet of any sort is 20 bucks. I’d say any progress is good progress, but not with that bill. Because, “they” will claim, those allowances will still keep the game “recreational” and meet a “majority” of the population’s betting requirements. You’ll be screwed trying to get more. It will also make it easier for them to police the illegal games because they will have to set up a commission to license and monitor the legal and illegal establishments. What you’ll probably have at that point are card rooms similar to what they have in Washington which are real pieces of crap. California has it going on from what I understand. Everything I’ve read says the The Commerce in CA is one of the best card rooms in the country. Now, that’s a model we need to follow.

  4. Tim B.

    never mind on the “server in a table” thing… Sec. 2004.055 (b) & (c) pretty well rules that out…

    Sec. 2004.462.  COLLECTION FEE. (a) Each licensed operator shall collect a collection fee on each poker hand played. The collection fee may not exceed 10 percent of the communal pot in each hand of poker played, with a maximum of $4 per hand.

    this is good. i dont think anyone wants to see a seat time charge like the cali cardrooms… do they?

    Sec. 2004.003 (27)  “Poker” or “poker game” means a card game in which players place a bet based on the highest or lowest ranking hand of cards held or combination of highest and lowest cards held. For purposes of this chapter, the term includes the game known as Texas Hold’em or any variation or combination of Texas Hold’em, but does not include blackjack, hearts, pinochle, rummy, Internet poker, video poker, or Asian card games such as Pai Gow.

    this will obviously have to be expanded. will the bill allow flop games, stud games, draw games, some combination thereof, or all of them? what specifically constitutes the various game types? as an example of why it must be clarified, clearly chinese poker and pai gow is out… but why? because they have “asian” names? they meet the definition of a gard game in which players place a bet based on the highest ranking hand of cards held… the definition is simply too broad to be useful or enforcable without a lot of grief.

    Sec. 2004.101 (e)  A commercial operator may not operate more than four poker gaming tables at a single location licensed by the commission.

    4 tables?? this pretty well sucks, but its a start… although it looks like according to Sec. 2004.103.  MANDATORY ISSUANCE OF COMMERCIAL OPERATOR’S LICENSE the commission MUST issue a license to anyone who already holds a liquor license and meets the other requirements… although that whole “applicant holds gross capital assets, including land and buildings, of at least $1 million” means dont expect to see poker in your favorite little corner watering hole any time soon…

    Sec. 2004.453.  TABLE LIMITS. Table limits for each poker gaming table shall be established by the licensed operator. A single wager may not exceed $20 per player per betting incident in a poker game. The licensed operator may conduct tournaments at any time and charge a buy-in fee not to exceed $100 and a tournament registration fee not to exceed $30.

    well this totally sucks balls… and i imagine makes this bill worthless for most texas players… this pretty well rules out any kind of no limit or pot limit structure, just limit and spread limit games… personally, im totally ok with being able to play some $10/$20 limit, but i know most folks are going to want no limit.

  5. DanM

    Tim, according to the people who have worked hard over the past year to pull this together, the betting limits are not gonna fly. Check the comments here. That’s a good thing for poker, clearly.

    But hey, four tables, in a way that excludes mom-and-pop bars from running games? I’m OK with that. There would obviously have to be a limited number of licensed establishments. And if one of the purposes of this legislation is to “protect” players — i.e. let them know they are playing in good, clean, fair games — I have no problem with a law ensuring that the establishments have proper resources to do that.

    p.s. I kinda agree with you on the “Asian” card game thingy. But Pai Gow is a house game like blackjack, so that’s easy to exclude. And Chinese Poker is played with points, not a rake, not even chips — kinda like gin … so people can play that on their own anyway without any sorta “house.” Still, no need to get all racist about it.

    I think the way the laws work in California, they name the games specifically that are allowed. Maybe someone out there can tell us how they handle crazy mixed games like Badugi that were likely unlegislated.

    p.p.s. regarding the rake … yep, sounds good. But if the other side insisted on a seat charge instead of a rake, we’ll, I guess we could be OK with that, too.

    p.p.p.s. and not to get too picky — I’m really thinking opening up this sorta conversation to the likes of me and Tim B. may have been a bad idea — but really the house should only take a rake on hands that see a flop.

  6. DanM

    Oh, and oops … some of the above stuff shoulda been addressing Ben, not Tim. Yo, Ben, chill-da-fug out, dude! If you have real concrete insight into how games work in Washington State, we’d love to hear it. But just screaming that something sucks — when I’ve never heard anything similar from people who have played in those card rooms — doesn’t help.

    I’m not denying that their set-up might be flawed. Indeed, the state of Florida spent like eight or 10 years getting semblances of poker legalized, only to have some weird betting limits that don’t work within the structure of the game send poker force the courts to render what essentially were simple floor decisions.

    p.s. **It will also make it easier for them to police the illegal games because they will have to set up a commission to license and monitor the legal and illegal establishments.**

    Yes, that is an axiom for those of us who publicly stand for “playing good poker.” we are OK with them setting up a bloated bureaucracy an efficient organized system to ensure poker venues of choice are running everything legit. I know there are some underground room operators out there who might not be able to comprehend living a non-criminal life, but if they are run out of business, sorry, so be it. Collateral poker damage, dude.

  7. Woody

    Ben lives up in WA and plays there regularly. And I tend to agree that (1) the limits (which are apparently going to come out) would be very bad, and (2) I would rather keep things the way they are now than to have crappy legal games that will make it much harder for the better underground games to survive.

  8. DanM

    Ah, cool … OK Ben, see, now we know what you conceivably might know what you are talking about. I take back everything I said that may have been wrong, but reassert everything where I was right.

  9. Tim B.

    I would rather keep things the way they are now than to have crappy legal games that will make it much harder for the better underground games to survive

    well, i guess that depends on how you define “better games”… personally, i think filling limit or spread limit tables with a bunch of no limit players would qualify as very good games indeed…

  10. Pat M

    I had a viewing/printing problem with the .pdf that Tim put up, so I created a new one. In case anybody else is having the same problem (the line numbers were all wacky, Tim, and as a recovering lawyer that was driving me nuts!), you can find it at

  11. BenMatlock


    You are sooo right!!! The mere fact that I would compare a poker craphole like La Center Washington whose entire setup and bet structure is very similar to what they are proposing in the Texas bill to a nicer venue across the Columbia River in Oregon where there is no set limit on betting structure is unconscionable.

    The fact that I have invested substantial amounts of time at both facilities and boil it down to ECON 101 (let the demand of the people set the stakes/supply) vs. GOV 101 (let’s regulate the “fug”…as you so nicely put it…out of it so that only a portion of the population will enjoy it) should in NO WAY influence what is being proposed. I guess it all depends on your preference, but don’t kid yourself for a second into thinking that this is the band-aid you’ve been looking for if they keep the limits in place.

    I personally don’t know many card players in Texas who will be jumping for joy that they can now legally play .01/.02 LIMIT…all the way up to a whopping 10/20. I’m all out!

    And, by the way, depending on what type of license you have in Washington, you can charge seat time by the half hour ($2 per) or take a rake.

  12. Lavigne in Austin

    Thanks for the commentary on the bill.

    Turns out they plan on filing it this afternoon!

    Hopefully all your conversations on limits will be for nothing. We do plan on eliminating that from the bill, but we had to file the draft we had.

    More importantly, what we need is support. Your criticism is important, necessary and welcomed, but if you live in Texas and want to play poker legally for real money you are going to have to start somewhere. I contend that this is the best starting place we have ever had.

    There is absolutely no chance-zero percent- that the current legislature will open up california-esque card rooms. sorry, but ain’t gonna happen.

  13. DanM

    Hey, I would be happy just to get charity games legalized. interestingly enough, it was a crackdown on a planned annie duke charity event in oregon that inspired the new laws that allowed the current set-up there, so it’s good to hear that those games are well received.

    And Ben, thanks for clarifying. Your insight is much appreciated. We now agree with you — Boo Washington model! (After all, that was the first state to make online poker a felony.)

    And Mike, wouldn’t the games at racetracks at least begin to resemble California card rooms?

  14. Woody

    “well, i guess that depends on how you define “better games””

    Absolutely right. And being one of those NL players that you would love to get your hands on at a limit table, they definitely meet my definition of ‘crappy’!!!

    And based on the games spread at nearby casinos and in Vegas, I would venture to say that the lion’s share of people who want to see poker legalized prefer NL games.

    P.S. – Dan, did I mention that Ben can also be an arrogant ass?

    P.P.S. – Assuming the rake amount over the course of an hour is the same, winning poker players should prefer a time rake. It’s an equally distributed rake, as opposed to raking the pots you are hopefully dragging.

  15. Lavigne in Austin


  16. Lavigne in Austin

    that shush was directed at dan

  17. DanM

    ah, right … i understand. there is nothing to see here. these are not the droids you are looking for.

    go politics.

  18. BenMatlock

    woody is right. i am an arrogant ass, but i’ll be check raising him every chance I get in about 15 days! Count on it!

    Good luck with the bill gentlemen. I hope it passes without limits, then I can move back to Texas. That’s why I left to begin with (just kidding, kind of)

  19. Tim B.

    Absolutely right. And being one of those NL players that you would love to get your hands on at a limit table, they definitely meet my definition of ‘crappy’!!!

    youre absolutely right, id hate for a NLHE player might accidently encounter other games and structures, god forbid…

    “poker” != “NLHE”

    i think it would do the game a lot of good if players could stop being such one trick ponies…

  20. DanM

    link to a review of “poker craphole” (Chip’s Casino?) in la center washington. perhaps a reminder that if a game’s not set up right, it’s hard to find good people to run it right?

  21. Headlines: Poker, Law, and Politics (3/06/07) « Poker Players Alliance Blog

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  22. jackie trehorn

    I wouldn’t get too excited folks. Overall the mood in this state’s leadership is anti-gambling. when the Lottery passed a few years ago, it just barely passed. Also, note that the governor has floated the idea of selling off the Lottery to private interests. This would get the government out of the sordid business of gambling, and be a quick fix for $$.

    Anyway, if you go to the state’s website (link below) and check out Rep. Menendez’s sponsored bills, co-sponsored bills, authored bills, and co-authored bills YOU WILL NOT FIND ANY MENTION OF THIS POKER BILL. Which means that he maybe hasn’t filed it yet (which may or may not be good news), or he isn’t going to. Anyone want to make a bet with me that the poker bill, or anything that legalizes poker ala Florida, Washington, or California, will pass is welcome to. I am confident it will NOT. I will entertain any interesting wagers.

  23. Fresh Princess

    1.I hate to say it but I’ve been hearing this for fourteen years. Seriously.
    I lived in Colorado

  24. Fresh Princess

    I need a lesson on my keyboard.
    Anyway, I lived in Colorado in 96-97. They had and still have a five dollar max bet with a four cap. Sorry, but it fugin sucks. However, as a long time pot limit player I would love 10/20 limit.
    If you play 5-10 NL at the Wynn or Bellagio then you are paying time, not a rake.
    And finally, I heard last year that Perry wanted to pass the video poker.
    Now if you will excuse me…I need to get back to mourning my dead cat and the murder of my son’s friend’s hamster.

  25. DanM

    Michele, very sorry to her about your cat. You do live in Harris County … so you know, all hamster-killers kinda have to be executed.

    I’m not sure what’s more important … to look at our state’s process of capital punishment or to make sure Texans are able to make a twice-the-pot-sized bet on the turn.

  26. Fresh Princess

    It was involuntary manslaughter (recklessness).
    I’m thinking he thought the hamster could fly like the hamster on wonder pets.
    Kids and television.
    Thanks for the feline sympathy.

  27. Marisa

    I have been a licensed poker dealer in the midwest for 13 years, and I have been waiting many years for Texas to legalize poker rooms in Texas. I am originally from the midwest, but lived in the Dallas area from 1981 to 1989 and have wanted to move back to the area for quite some time, but I would like to stay in the poker industry. I am currently employed by the largest poker room in the midwest (34 tables), and it is located at a horse racing track. We are a card club/horse track only. It has been a wonderful combination. From the rake we take in the poker room, at least 25% of that is put toward the horse racing purses which has allowed our horse track to increase its payouts and draw more and better quality horses. We also have a “casino games” room in which we spread blackjack, carribian stud, pai gow poker, let it ride, 3 and 4 card poker. Although those games are normally considered “house games” ours are not. The only “profit” that the house makes from these games is by taking a fifty cent rake from these games put up by the player. Any monies lost by the player are put into a “player’s pool”. This money must be given back to the players by the end of the year. It is given back in the form of bonuses for each of the different games (example…get 3 blackjacks in a row, win an extra $500. And for every blackjack in a row after the intial 3, the player is awarded $1,000 bonus
    for each consectutive blackjack).
    We are not a tribal casino, we are a horse racing track owned by a holding company, I believe similar to your Lone Star Track. We are monitored by the State Lottery Commission.
    If there is anyone down there who might present this to your legislature, perhaps they might amend the bill to something like what we have here. Along with satsifying the poker players of ours and neighboring states (so they don’t have to play in “illegal” home games) it has worked out well for our state, as we are the only gaming establishment in the state to pay a
    substantial amount of taxes to the state (all other casino’s in our state are tribal and they pay no state or federal taxes).
    I believe that if your state legislators would look into something similar to what we have, and amend the bill (eliminating the $20 bet limit, the 4 table max., etc., that has proven not to work well in states such as Washington) I am sure that this would satisfy: the poker players of Texas… the State of Texas (new taxes taken in)….provide many new employment opportunities…the horsebreeders assoc. (if your racetrack is allowed to have a poker room) by establishing larger purses for the horses who run there….and the Dallas Police Dept., no more spending money and manpower raiding private games.
    Good luck to Texas Poker Players, and thank you Texas Lawmakers for finally thinking about joining the other many states who already have legalized poker rooms.
    I hope to find out that a great NEW and IMPROVED poker gaming bill of 2007 is passed soon, so I can hopefully start planning my move back to Texas!

  28. Pokerati | Texas hold’em blog » Blog Archive » RE: State of Dallas Poker Cases

    […] late comment on an older post, semi-related … comes from Marisa in the Midwest: I have been a licensed poker dealer in the midwest for 13 years, and I have been waiting many […]