Reports of Texas Poker Bill’s Looming Death: Greatly Exaggerated

by , Apr 29, 2009 | 12:21 pm

Our little Texas poker bill was chugging along well, and then I blinked … poof, and we were supposedly down to the proverbial chip-and-a-chair yesterday. For all our hard work to get it to the Calendars Committee and then let them know how much support it had from a diverse group of constituents … it was just sitting there? The blinds were eating us up, and, supposedly, we were about to take a bad beat from some arm-twisting higher-ups who had had just about enough.

(Note to self: politics is hard.)

But politics is about compromise — I truly believe that the more I learn about the game — not to mention perception of intent. Our opponents apparently didn’t have a problem with poker so much as they did with the amount of poker we were trying to make possible in this bill. So as we speak/type/read, Austin politicos are “ratcheting back” HB 222. If you were a bar owner hoping to get your hands on a license for some live or electronic tables … well sorry, you’re out of luck. The slimmed-down poker bill the Calendars Comittee will (hopefully, fingers crossed) be sending to the House floor in coming days will allow for poker only at parimutuel race tracks and on Indian Reservations.

OK, imho, we can definitely live with that. And great to hear that any opposition is working with us, not against us, in pursuit of a win-win for poker and the people of Texas. Because that’s really what it’s all about, right?

(C’mon river …)

38 Comments to “Reports of Texas Poker Bill’s Looming Death: Greatly Exaggerated”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    It seems like a good move, when is the Texas Legislature session scheduled to end?

  2. DanM

    June 1.

    We have to get through the House by May 23.

    May 11 is the last day we can send a bill to the House … but if we get it to them then, it will be just like last time, where they simply don’t get to our bill for a vote.

  3. Lavigne In Austin

    thanks for the post, Dan. We are alive and well indeed. Keep the pressure on your elected officials. get your poker buddies to do the same.

  4. Ken

    All I have to say is CRAP!!! There goes my 5 room plan.. 🙁

  5. DanM

    Sorry Ken. Seriously. Likewise, there are a lot of people who were psyched about selling electronic tables to bars, too. As for me, I gave up on the bar concept when SOB’s were excluded, meaning I wasn’t gonna be able to set up a real money operation at The Lodge.

    But don’t shoot the messenger, OK? With the bar provision in there, the bill was gonna die. Period. For sure. So you’d still be out of luck. Without it, the likelihood for passage is much stronger. And if we can get any poker in Texas, it will be a good start.

  6. Ken

    I totally agree with you.. Hell, I have 22 Indian Casinos to chose from here in Az but I had investors GALORE lined up to give me money and open up 5 rooms across Texas.. I knew it was a longshot but oh well.. I’ll still buy you lunch tho if I am ever in Texas.. 🙂

  7. Mojo

    I can’t say that I’m surprised. I knew the racetracks would demand that they either limit poker to them or else allow them to have sports books to compensate for potential lost revenue. But what this report does NOT do is to update on the parallel gambling bills before the House, like video lottery and full-on casino gambling. The compromise better take those into account or Perry will have an easy alibi for his veto: no consensus on gambling.

  8. DanM

    Great point, Mojo. I’m not sure of the status of the VLT bill (is it rude of me to not care?) … but the casino bill seems to be going through some revamp:

    it looks like they are trying to recraft it such that the issue would be put to a general election in November. (Not bad … I think it would win. Maybe.)

  9. Jimmy

    This makes me nervous. What would the poker at racetracks be? Hopefully not the sucky worthless poker that Florida has at its tracks, where the games are legislated into unbeatable territory.

    Plus who the hell wants to drive out to Grand Prairie to play poker?

  10. DanM

    jimmy, have you been to Florida recently? Poker is BOOMING there. At first the betting limits were terrible and made the game no fun … so they changed that a year or two later. And this year, they have new legislation pending to up the betting and buy-in maxes even further. (Up to $1k tourneys.)

    Here in Texas (oops, forgot i didn’t live there for a sec), we have the advantage of getting to see how things worked in Florida. And, don’t forget, there will always be competition in Oklahoma and Louisiana … so if we run shit games, then people will still go to WinStar, for example.

    That would defeat part of the purpose of this bill.

    P.S. If I lived in Dallas, I would HAPPILY drive to GP.

  11. Ken

    While I do agree that any poker is good in Texas, this still will not take care of the Illegal Poker Rooms. As of right now there are how many tracks in Texas(2)?? And Indian Casinos…??? As far as I am concerned, you can throw away the concept that this will raise money for the states charities and get rid of the Underground Rooms.. I do think there will be some games spread but the Underground rooms will cut their legs out from underneath them, have less of a rake or basically a time fee, kinda like we have here with our underground rooms..;) This is a total, 100% loss in my opinion and I feel sorry for the state as they have absolutely no idea as to what they are going to miss out on.. Just my .02c..

  12. DanM

    Yes, excellent. Thank you for your opinion. I will pass on the info that we should just give up and there is no need to carry on.

    Honestly, the bar part was the loosest part of the bill — always has been.

    But we’ll have to see how it all shakes down. I am confident that we are making steps in the right direction and playing well, regardless of the immediate results.

    Poker is a long-term game.

  13. Kevin Mathers

    There’s about 10 tracks total in Texas (thoroughbred and greyhound).

  14. DanM

    Yeah, I’ll need to check to see how they got it all worded, but I think the bill would allow for 13 poker rooms in the state now. Local-option elections are still part of it, so a specific community could still decide not to have poker — or more specifically, i think they’d have to vote it in. Honestly not sure how the details would work yet. But I know the rules they are messing with have to do with taxes and voting procedures, not the play of the game itself.

  15. Stuart Slagle

    Active Horse Tracks

    Lone Star Park – Grand Prairie
    Retama Park – Selma (near San Antonio)
    Sam Houston Race Park – Houston
    Manor Downs – Manor (near Austin)
    Gillespie County Fair – Fredericksburg

    Inactive Horse Tracks
    Laredo Downs – Laredo
    Laredo Race Park – Laredo
    Longhorn Downs – location not fixed (proposed Lancaster)
    Saddle Brook Park – Amarillo
    Tesoris Race Park – McAllen

    Active Dog Tracks

    Gulf Greyhouund – La Marque
    Valley Race Park – Harlingen

    Inactive Dog Tracks

    Corpus Christi Greyhound – Corpus Christi

  16. DanM

    Hey, there ya go … 13!

  17. Stuart Slagle

    oops – typo

    the track in McAllen is Tesoros

  18. Stuart Slagle

    If the legislation includes Indian tribes, here are the addresses of Texas’ Indian reservations:

    1 Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas:
    Rt 3 Box 640
    Livingston, TX 77351

    2 Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas:
    HC1 Box 9700
    Eagle Pass, TX 78852

    3 Ysleta del Sur Pueblo:
    PO Box 17579, Ysleta Stn
    El Paso, TX 79917

  19. Card Chucker

    I wouldn’t mind driving to Lone Star Park to play. It takes me 1 hr to get to Choctaw, 1 hr 15-45 min to get to Winstar (depending on I35 horrific traffic), and 30-40 min to get to Lone Star Park. Besides saving the little drive time, the scenery going to GP is much nicer than the scenic route to OK.

    Honestly, I figured that the only true chance we had was with racetracks and Indian reservations. What about bingo halls though? I wouldn’t mind my Auntie Mildred handed me a bad beat and fistpump with dabber in hand.

  20. Amy C

    Now that the bill would no longer legalize poker in titty bars, why do you care?

    I love poker. I love Texas. I love that poker is already is legal in Texas. Why would I give a crap about paying a rake to race track owners — or any of y’all who are trying to make a buck from this bill?

  21. DanM

    Amy Amy Amy … I was bummed when they removed SOBs from contention a couple years ago … but considering the owners of the lodge also owned a struggling greek restaurant (“Stratos. You love it, baby!”) that could so easily be converted to a poker room, well I still figured all would be good in my legal-poker world.

    But now that option has been removed, too. So why am I still good with it? Because though home games are generally legal, and tournaments like the one in Stephenville can be pulled off without running afoul of the law (especially when the Sheriff helps you run it), bottom line is that poker in Texas is still nowhere near as good as it is at WinStar.

    That’s what we want … the ability to have our version of WinStar. We want to be able to host regular cash games, and big-big tournaments. (Bonus for all the money it brings in to the state.)

    You can claim poker is legal in Texas (just like people can claim online poker is technically legal) … but the bottom line is the games at WinStar don’t get raided by cops, they don’t get robbed by gunmen … and though I’m sure Indian casino operators aren’t the cleanest people in the world, you can be confident you are sitting in a game run by mostly legitimate people who have a vested interest in not screwing you over.

    Just because a rake subtracts from your personal EV doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a purpose. It’s what pays for a nice environment (chairs, TVs, automatic shufflers, food, etc.) and allows people to hire true professionals to run great events (TDs, floor staff, dealers, security, et al). Honestly, if you already have a place where you can play a 10-table $200 Omaha-8b tourney in Austin, then you are right, you don’t need this bill!

    OK, bad example, because frankly I doubt we would see the above-described tourney right from the git-go … but that’s the point … if we have one motto here at Pokerati it’s “In Pursuit of Better Poker”, and that’s why we are so behind the legislation … because I sincerely believe that HB 222 becoming law would make for better poker in the state of Texas. And without a doubt, I definitely hope to be one of the people making money by providing good poker services in Texas the way some poker professionals in Oklahoma are. But just because it might be a few more years (or never) before I could open up The Pokerati Poker Room and host a WSOP Circuit event there, that doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon “the cause”.

    Speaking of causes … don’t you feel you, as a citizen of the Republic of Texas, should have the right to play a tournament at a race track if you so chose? The personal freedom shit ain’t exactly a joke either, ya know?

  22. DanM

    Oh, and charities … It makes me sick that many major charity tournaments are afraid to award the non-raffle winner a WSOP main event seat. Looking forward to finally clarifying that they can.

  23. Amy C

    Hey – the rake (or lack thereof) is probably the only thing that keeps me positive EV. I’m just not that good.

    And I don’t know of a case in Texas where a legal game has been raided.

  24. DanM

    fair enough … though there have been a few legal home games that have been robbed.

    do you really not see the difference between a kitchen-table home game and a full-fledged poker room? i’m convinced the kitchen-table crowd will happily pay a little rake and/or entry fee for the games and services provided — and they should have the right to do so!

    hey, if i’m wrong, i’m wrong … go capitalism! but i feel pretty confident that a well-run, regulated poker room in texas would be a profitable enterprise.

  25. Amy C

    My home game is a room with four full tables. Nice low-limit action. Great bunch of guys.

    Of course I’ve also played a Dallas home game where 5 figures traded hands during the course of a single day — at a single table of six players.

    Neither game raked and both of them beat any poker room I’ve ever played in.

    If the bill passes — you’ll never get a Winstar. You’ll get some sleezy race tracks rooms at best.

    And that crap about job creation is bullshit — and we all know it.

  26. DanM

    wow … it must be nice to have someone who can afford to run four full tables of action without taking a rake. this, of course, i’m sure you know, is rare.

    as to never getting a winstar? it may take time, but florida’s racetrack rooms (and scene) continue to get better and better. winstar itself started as shit, and since has grown into arguably one of the great poker rooms in the country.

    as to the job creation bullshit, well, frankly, i am shocked that you of all people wouldn’t have a firm grasp on how much of the poker economy — and ancillary economic benefit — exists off the tables.

    so you have a great home game … sounds like one of the best anywhere. very good for you. i presume it’s in a nice neighborhood and possibly even a gated community, so you don’t feel the need to hire security. but so what … therefore you don’t think the rest of us should have a chance to begin to create a similarly comfortable poker environment? well fine then … i won’t be inviting you to the grand opening freeroll of the Pokerati poker room in 2016ish or so. How you like them apples? Hater.

  27. DanM

    p.s. i’m nervous about the bill. we shoulda been through to the floor by friday. if we don’t move out of calendars committee by tuesday afternoon, i fear we may be dead. but if we do get through by then … i think we’re going the whole way.

  28. Amy C

    Lol. If I’m a hater, you’re a dreamer. This is a special interest bill – and that’s all it ever was. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some PokerTek tables at a few tracks. You’ll pay a $5 rake. And the state won’t lose too much money regulating it, for the meager taxes they’ll make from it.

    This bill is just playing on poker players’ emotions for someone elses fast buck.

  29. DanM

    With all due respect, aimlesslychasing, FU!!!!!

    (really, i say that with love.)

    special interest, maybe. but fast buck? as someone who began working on this three years ago, i should probably resent that statement.

    and the sub-special interest of electronic tables … well they just kinda lost! though electronic tables would still be an option for the race tracks, where PokerTek stood to make money was in being able to sell/lease their tables to bars. but that provision has been scrapped in a compromise toward passage. so while yours truly may be happy that we are getting this bill closer to law, lyle berman presumably isn’t at this point.

    with this bill we (poker people) are just playing the same game that the education and health care and textile industries are — on an admittedly much smaller scale — not to mention various businesses that want to see certain roads and bridges built, for example.

    would you rather we not be at the table at all and just leave the future of poker in the hands of Big Casinos, who have been ineffective in pushing their agenda for the past 12 or 16 years?

    I can respect that you may think I’m wasting my time — along with the real politicos in the trenches in Austin … but heck, you could make that argument for just about any of my pursuits or endeavors! After all, I’m just a friggin’ blogger!

  30. Amy C


    That’s what I love about you Dan. You are so friggin’ easy to tilt.

    Best of luck.

    P.S. Loved the comment about the gated community – too classic.

  31. DanM

    i so hope you get robbed. don’t get me wrong, i don’t want you to get shot. but i would think it funny if you had to drive home having pooped your pants.

  32. Amy C

    Well if it makes you feel better, I lost my prop bet. I bet I could tilt you in three posts. But they said I didn’t officially tilt you until the FU post.

    So now I’m out $10. Damn it.

  33. DanM

    awesome … you did tilt me — i could actually feel my face get hot. normally such a feeling costs me about $200. where should i send the check?

  34. Amy C

    Cool. (Btw, you’re my second favorite person to tilt. Wil Wheaton is the absolute best to put on tilt.)

    Save the check. How about you just buy me a drink at the first legal card room in Texas. After all, istn’t that the happy ending you’re really looking for?

  35. DanM

    No, you buy.

  36. Poker Shrink

    I guarantee that legal card rooms in Texas is not the happy ending Dan is hoping for.

  37. Ken

    Wow I came in a little late here didnt I…. I guess its too late for me to post what I feel so I wont. Hopefully I run into Miss Amy someday, let her put me on Tilt.. 🙂

  38. Mojo

    The idea that underground rooms would cut the legs out from racetrack rooms is far-fetched. I doubt severely that any track would want to put in fewer than 20 tables. I mean, this is what they’ve been WAITING for, ever since Louisiana allowed their tracks to have slots: permission to expand. Sam Houston is a great example. They have a TON of land adjacent to the track, just sitting around, waiting for the time to come when they can build a huge facility. Poker is big in Houston, and any well-done market analysis would reveal that Sam Houston could easily run a poker room with forty to fifty tables SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. No underground game that I know would be able to compete with that kind of availability-of-action. Add to that the other amenities (racing book, REAL food) and the ability of a legitimate operation to force rakes to near-zero (effectively) and the dens will go down.

    Oh, and the penalties for running an underground game will go up. Dramatically. The state won’t brook competition with its new Golden-Egg-Laying Goose.