Texas’ “Cowboy Capitol” becomes “Poker Capitol”

by , Apr 21, 2009 | 3:01 pm

More than 250 players from 98 towns and four different states drove in to Stephenville, TX, for the 6th Annual Cowboy Capitol Poker Tournament. ($300+0 NLH)

I feel compelled to explain that I am writing this post on my laptop, on the back patio of Risky’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, during possibly the most beautiful day that Spring will bring to my beloved city. I smile as I listen to one Australian tourist at the table behind me attempt to explain to his mates the American concept of “All-You-Can-Eat Ribs”.

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Doc Fletcher: “It’s like trainin’ a horse. After a while you don’t have to keep whippin’em. They go where you want to go.”

Interview with Stephenville Tournament Director Doc Fletcher 6:58


Zoom up and out to a poetic blend of southern culture and urban bustle that has made my fair city of Fort Worth a Texas jewel, and the subject of 3.4 million Asian tourist photos. Somewhere a diminutive, fair skinned traveler points out the genitalia of the bovine shaped shrubbery (ala Scissorhands), and covers her mouth to giggle before turning and rushing off in very short, quick steps. And I order another Dos Equis.

A couple of blocks away is the ornate and grandiose Bass Hall. The Hall is big sister to the Maddox Muse Center, which was once slated to host, what was at the time to be, the largest poker tournament in the state of Texas; The Southwest Poker Invitational. Well,… Until the powers that be leaned on us, referencing an obscure liquor license, used for the occasional wedding reception, and shut us down and took tens of thousands of charitable dollars out of play. The call came on Friday; The tournament was scheduled for Sunday. Just like that 325 players and countless deserving beneficiaries of the charitable event were sucked out on at the river. I remember well, because it was my tournament. Go Texas!

Cowboy Capitol: West Texas is ready for big-tourney action.

Some of the more loyal Pokerati readers may recall a post I once penned, telling of my road-trip with Poker Legend, T.J. Cloutier, to a mammoth Texas tournament, held in an “undisclosed location”. While I received many comments and emails asking that I complete the multi-part recounting of the event, I eventually mucked my hand at the request of the Tournament Director, who was concerned about the attention that the post might bring so close to home. I was disappointed. I don’t post often, but when I do, I like to get it all out. And this was a great story about a great Texas tradition; Stephenville’s Annual Cowboy Capitol Poker Tournament, a $300+0 No-Limit Texas Hold’em event that I competed in last month.

For the last 5 years, the Cowboy Capitol Poker Tournament, affectionately referred in Texas poker circles simply as “Stephenville”, has exceeded expectations every year, making it the to-play event in the Lone Star State. This is quite an accomplishment when you are forced to fly slightly under the radar. I say “slightly” while remembering Dan Michalski and myself covertly interviewing chatting with a Sheriff’s Deputy who guarded the door in 2007. It’s even more impressive when you consider that every year this event has been operated as a self-deal tournament, operated entirely by volunteers and with absolutely NO RAKE! It couldn’t be said any better than this cut-n-paste from this year’s tournament invitation:

“It is our love of the game that drives us, friends that encourage us, and stupidity that allows us to take on such an endeavor.” – anonymous

Mmm, free beverages at what some are calling the Texas Amateur Poker Championship.

Despite the “Don’t mess with success” mantra of the Capitol’s Tournament Director, “Doc”, this year’s tournament was a great contrast to prior years. To start, the group of volunteers came together to help form a Club. This allowed them to charge an annual club membership fee that would help account for the sizable operational expenses associated with operating an event of this size. In addition, as a Club Member, one would also receive two free meals during the Club’s primary meeting. Tipping and other forms of compensation were strictly prohibited, as proclaimed in the Club Declaration and Membership Application that was received via postal mail by the players of years past.

See, that’s what’s great about “Stephenville”. Once you’re in, you’re in. Speaking as the “city boy” that Doc reminds me I am, I will tell you that once you make your way past the veritable sea of Duallies and enter the steel-fab building in the middle of nowhere,… Much like the new motto of my fair city, “You get it when you get here.”

A big check for the winner goes a long way toward making your poker tournament a success.

This year’s tournament was scheduled on what would be an unseasonably cold day in late March, where temperatures barely peaked 40℉. To make matters worse, the South end of the building hosting the event was open-air. A laundry line stretched from one side of the building to the other with huge flags draped to guard players from the elements. Propane fueled turbine heaters littered the floor. In any other tournament, this would have been an abomination. But anybody who’s ever played Stephenville knows that this is Good Ol’ Boy poker at it’s finest. Nobody’s making any money and nobody’s getting rich. Well… Maybe except for the Champion, who’ll pocket 20-30k in hard cash. But the rest of us know that we’re playing in a superbly run, no-rake, volunteer tournament that gives Texas players a chance to test themselves against a semi-major field, with major talent, at a minor price. Go Stephenville!

As in prior years, more than a handful of friends accompanied me out to this year’s tournament, now as Members. Also like prior years, our crew met at IHOP in South Fort Worth at 6:30am to talk shit and negotiate pieces of each. This year’s agreed mutual was 2 percent, which adds up quick.

We fell one by one until only two remained; Myself, and Chris Miller. We broke through the money bubble and entered the final two tables of the 254-person tournament with $137k and $80k, respectively. We would soon both leave the tournament in 12 and 13th, also respectively, taking an average of $1,100 each.

Sixteen hours of tournament poker in a given day is a daunting task for anybody. But if you’re looking to sharpen your skills against a real field, with real players, for real cash… Set course for Stephenville during March of 2010. I’ll see you there with my Pokerati patch on, far from my beloved city and the legal reach of the sensibly challenged.

Congratulations to this year’s Cowboy Capitol Club, Texas Amateur Poker Champion, Sam Washburn of Glenrose!

While I still love Fort Worth, most notably Risky’s Bar-B-Q, I’m going to leave it to our friend Men Nguyen to best explain our Texas Poker appetites…


5 Comments to “Texas’ “Cowboy Capitol” becomes “Poker Capitol””

  1. DanM

    Great interview, Karridy. I hope Texas representatives see this and realize they don’t have to fear losing their conservative voters because of poker.

  2. G-Squared

    How can I get involved with this tournament next year? I always seem to hear about local tournaments after the fact. The only reason I was able to play in the Bea’s Kids tournament you won a couple of years ago, was because I was invited by a business associate at the last minute. Any info you can provide would be appreciated.

  3. grunkzzz

    yeah I never heard of it, I thought I was in the “IN” crowd LOL.. So either i’m not in the in crowd, or I wasnt paying attention 😀

  4. Karridy

    Email me guys, and I’ll hook you up!

  5. Glenn Cline

    i attend scotts poker night in burleson each month. i would enjoy being able to attend the annual stephensville tournament. please consider adding me to the list for notification and requirements to attend. thank you.