When the World Poker Tour announced WPTDeepstacks Houston, there were plenty of questions raised – not the least of which was whether the controversy over poker clubs in the state of Texas could end up stopping the tournament from being held at all. But by all indications, the WPT stop has gone off without a hitch, pleasing local players and potentially opening the door for more events in the future.
The $1,000 buy-in tournament, which began on September 26, attracted 790 entrants at the FreeRolls Poker Club in Houston, a club that believes it has found a way to offer poker that is undoubtedly legal under Texas law.
Poker Clubs Find Loopholes in State Law
Under state law, Texas Hold’em and other forms of poker are illegal if an operator makes a profit off of the game, as would be done in a casino. But private poker clubs in Texas have started springing up, charging seat fees to each player who wants to sit down and play rather than raking pots directly in an attempt to work around those legal hurdles.
FreeRolls believes it has found an even better solution. The club offers daily, monthly, and annual memberships for those who wish to join, but otherwise earns revenue through advertising. The club also offers additional amenities, like a lounge where members can watch sports or play games like pool and chess.
Whether this will pass legal muster in the long term might still be an open question. But in the meantime, Texas poker players are loving the opportunity to play in a major poker tournament without having to leave the state.
Texas Players Relish In-State Opportunity
“I’ve been waiting for something like this,” Michael Granchelli told the WPT during the tournament. “I hate driving to Louisiana or Oklahoma to play in tournaments. I hope there’s more coming.”
That sentiment was echoed by Lisa Fleishman, who noted that serious players in Texas were short on reasonable options until now.
“It’s one of the most exciting things to happen to Texas poker,” Fleishman said at the tournament. “So many of us have been playing and traveling all out of state, and to finally have it in our home state is pretty cool.”
The tournament built a prize pool of $790,000, with 99 players making the money. The final table is being contested on Monday, with the eventual winner set to win $143,765, a total that includes a $3,000 WPTDeepstacks (WPTDS) Championship package. Heading into the final table, Robert Breshner held the lead with 4.92 million chips.
According to WPTDeepStacks Executive Tour Director Chris Torina, getting a foothold in the state that lends its name to Texas Hold’em fits in perfectly with the overall WPT growth strategy.
“We believe bringing WPT events to everyone, no matter the region, is important to the continued growth of the game of poker,” Torina told PokerNews. “WPTDS is committed to finding the best partners, and creating the best events, for players across the globe. Partnering with FreeRolls is a great opportunity to join with a player pool hungry for WPTDS events.”