We’ve all heard the saying that everything is bigger in Texas. That idea has taken on new meaning this year with the significant growth of poker clubs in the state.
In particular, huge tournaments with seven-figure prize pools have brought increased attention to Texas poker. Approximately 30 poker clubs continue to operate in the state amid a somewhat uncertain legal landscape for doing so.
However, plans for another big tournament have been scrapped for now after the Houston-based Champions Social Poker Club recently canceled its September Champions Poker Tournament at a new location in Dallas.
While the club still plans to open the Dallas club in the fall, the tournament promising a whopping $2 million prize pool will not take place as scheduled.
Event cancelation prompts speculation over causes
The Champions Club made the announcement regarding its event via posts on Facebook and Twitter on July 21.
“We regret to inform you that our September poker tournament has been canceled,” the post read. “Champions Club, Dallas will be opening this fall, offering a full compliment [sic] of entertainment options.”
Champions offered no explanation for the temporary closure of the Houston club. Some have speculated financial difficulties resulting from the Inaugural Texas State $1 Million Guaranteed Main Event played a role.
Nor did the announcement of the September tournament’s cancelation include any explanation. The $2M guaranteed event with a $1,700 buy-in had been scheduled for Sept. 14-21.
One potentially relevant factor could be the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Texas. This week the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 exceeded 7,300. That’s approximately the same number as a year ago when Gov. Greg Abbott first implemented a statewide mask mandate.
Gov. Abbott lifted the mandate in March. However, some local officials in Texas have begun to reintroduce mask mandates despite the governor’s threat to impose penalties on cities that do.
Meanwhile, the large tournament events have made the clubs more conspicuous than had previously been the case. In some cases, the added attention has evoked criticism. Last week a Dallas-Fort Worth television station reported on Texas residents living in close proximity to the poker clubs voicing complaints about their growth.
While casino gambling is illegal in Texas, the poker rooms operate in a manner club owners believe conforms to state law. Rather than take a rake, the clubs charge a membership fee as well as a daily and/or hourly fee to players, thereby circumventing legal restrictions.
Tournament aimed to be largest TX poker tourney ever
Back in the spring, Champions hosted a tournament series in Houston. That series culminated with what organizers called the “Inaugural Texas State $1 Million Guaranteed Main Event.”
It was indeed the first instance of a $1M guaranteed poker tournament in the state. Although, before it took place, two other tournaments with lesser guarantees both featured seven-figure prize pools.
In February, the Prime Social Club (also in Houston) culminated its Prime Signature Series with a $500,000 guaranteed tournament. The $1,100 buy-in event attracted over 1,000 entries, creating a prize pool of $1,079,000. Later in June, Prime Social Club would host an even larger tournament with a $1.459 million prize pool.
Then, in April, the Texas Card House in Dallas ran its own $500,000 guaranteed event that ultimately featured a $1.246 million prize pool.
The Champions Club tournament ultimately bested both of those with its $1M guaranteed tournament staged April 27-May 3. The $1,300 buy-in event drew 1,818 entries, creating a $2,090,700 prize pool. That established a new record for Texas tournament poker.
The event included participation by sponsored professional players Chris Moneymaker, Darren Elias, and Matt Berkey. However less than a month later, the Houston club announced a “temporary closure” effective May 30.