Earlier this week I wrote about the brand new Poker Club of West Houston. Since the club finally opened on May 7, I decided I needed to play to get the full experience of one of these Texas poker clubs popping up all over the state.
The club is situated in an L-shaped strip center with two notable restaurants around the corner. Ironically, one of those restaurants, Landry’s, is owned by Golden Nugget mogul Tillman Fertitta.
I walked through the smoked-glass door and found two ladies with ID badges working the reception desk. I gave my name, and they located the registration form I’d filled out when I interviewed the owners last week.
Then, they requested my driver’s license and used it to make my membership card. For this, the club charged me $10 plus a $15 daily fee.
I must admit, the $15 rankled me because I’d not seen it as one of the advertised costs on the website. However, I wasn’t going to let that stand in my way of playing poker 10 minutes from my house.
Cashier and seating
I entered the poker room through – no lie – a pair of swinging saloon doors and proceeded to the cashier cage for chips. At the cage, I bought $225 in chips, $10 in singles for tipping, and four half-hour time cards for $30.
I’d arrived around 4 p.m., so there was only one $1/$3 NLHE table running at the time. I took a seat in the 8 spot and looked around the table at my competitors.
The table was playing eight-handed, with six men (including me) and two women. I recognized the 2 seat as a longtime Houston player, and to my immediate left was the amiable and bear-like owner of the club, Scott Ketcham.
Each dealer rotation meant that I had to surrender one of my time cards to remain seated. The time card scheme ends up being a bit of a hassle, because they must be purchased separately and without using chips.
However, gameplay itself was quite smooth for a club on its first day. The dealers were smooth and relaxed, and I didn’t see one misdeal during my entire session.
The people around the table were quite friendly. Many seemed to know one another already.
As a result, club play felt like a hybrid between a home game and a casino game for the most part. Pots were on the large side for a $1/$3 game, with opening raises between $15 and $21, typically.
In keeping with the hybrid feel, the service personnel acted in ways familiar both in a casino and in one’s own home. Nonalcoholic beverages were available, and players could be served any alcohol they brought into the club themselves.
Interestingly, one of the servers was willing to run errands to the liquor store or convenience store on the players’ behalf. One player gave a credit card to the server and sent her for Jack Daniels Apple.
Players also had at least two options for food available to them. In fact, the club managed to have one of Houston’s many food trucks set up shop directly outside the venue. Servers acted as food runners as the orders came.
- Aesthetics – It is a beautiful room that beats the accommodations of several casinos I’ve visited, including some on the Strip.
- Dealers – The dealers are all smooth and professional in their execution, which is surprising in a city 150 miles from the nearest casino.
- Staff – The staff were all very polite. Everyone with a nametag wanted players to feel comfortable in the room.
- Equipment – The table, cards, and other materials were all professional-grade and clean.
- Time Cards – The awkwardness of the time cards is damaging to the flow and sustainability of the game. I was acutely aware of the time throughout the game, and the hassle of getting new cards gave me added motivation to walk from the game.
- Tipping – In order to remain in compliance with the law, players had to tip the servers and dealers in cash. In practice, that meant keeping a supply of ones in front of you at all times, and these had to be separate from your chips.
Although I sat with an undersized $225 stack, I ran well. I managed to get it all-in with a flopped straight, and two players called me down, each with two pair.
I also busted one of the ladies at the table when her trip queens ran into my deuces full. In two hours, I ran my stack up to $950.
I ended up cashing out for $910. So, on balance, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining much at all.