Livestreamed cash games and tournaments are common in the Texas poker scene. They are a great way to showcase poker and the players who play the game. And they serve as a means of attracting new players to participate.
But they could also put player safety in jeopardy.
Poker players can become targets of thieves
Texas Poker games in Texas still exist in a legal gray area. Technically, card rooms in The Lone Star State are not allowed, like most other gambling. However, there’s no specific law that makes them illegal, so dozens of card rooms operate in the state. And some of these games are livestreamed to the world.
Often, these livestreamed games have large sums of money at stake. Cash game players usually buy in for four to six figures, depending on stakes. Large-scale tournaments can see prize pools surpass $1 million, with top finishers earning six-figure prizes.
Because of that, players can be susceptible to muggings and even armed robberies. Given these circumstances, it is fair to wonder if these games unintentionally and unnecessarily put targets on participating players’ backs.
Livestreams are popular throughout the poker world
Venues worldwide routinely livestream their tournaments and cash games, including tours such as the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. Regular cash games on Hustler Casino Live, Live At The Bike and The Lodge Card Club are also popular.
Live and on-demand games have even grown so popular that they have replaced many television broadcasts throughout the poker world.
A decade ago, the WSOP broadcast dozens of final tables on ESPN, even games beyond No-Limit Hold ’em. Today, ESPN plays no role in televised poker, with paid streaming service PokerGO dominating the landscape. CBS Sports broadcasts the WSOP Main Event final table.
Streaming helps card rooms bring big names and games to their venue, creating action and buzz that can positively impact rooms’ bottom lines. Rooms that stream continually run bigger games than their competition, effectively giving them a leg up over smaller rooms in the area.
What makes rules different in Texas?
Nothing, and yet, everything.
Texas card rooms operate as “social clubs” because they fulfill three qualifications to differentiate themselves from gambling houses.
- Games are played in private places the public does not have access to
- No person receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings
- The risks of losing and the chances of winning are the same for all participants
By and large, these clubs are safe and legitimate places to play poker. But they also leave legal interpretation up to local jurisdictions. That can bring about raids by local law enforcement or a high level of surveillance by authorities.
Casinos and card rooms always face the threat of robbery and other related crimes, even in places like Las Vegas. The Bellagio, Resorts World, Venetian, Gold Coast and Silverton have all publicized robbery attempts in recent years.
At the end of the day, a regulated environment is safer for all parties.
Sen. Carol Alvarado is leading a charge to legalize casino gaming and sports betting in Texas, which could help advance conditions to be more like Florida, Nevada, California and other states with healthy poker economies.
Unsafe games are concerning, regardless of legality
With or without legislation, Texas card rooms have an obligation to take adequate safety measures toward protecting their assets, employees and patrons.
Texas rooms and players alike have come under fire. Last September, a poker player from a livestreamed game at the Lodge Poker Club was targeted and robbed in broad daylight. His backpack was stolen containing $30,000 worth of cash plus other personal items.
Houston’s Legends Poker Room has also been the subject of numerous violent acts, including an attempted armed robbery and a physical altercation that involved 2003 WSOP Main Event runner-up Sammy Farha. Other rooms, like Prime Social, Johnny Chan’s 88 Social (now 101 Poker Club Richmond) and Watauga Social Lounge have faced raids by law enforcement.
Livestreams are here to stay, so how do we make them safe?
Livestreaming games is arguably one of the best ways to increase viewers’ access to poker and attract new players to the game. Many of these games are entertaining, with players having fun and representing the opposite of the antithetic “headphones, hoodie and sunglasses” kids of the 2000s.
Nonetheless, whether playing for a few hundred dollars or a few million, safety must be paramount for players in these games.
Venues can increase access to player services like providing a security escort to their vehicle and allowing players to store funds through bank accounts or deposit boxes at casinos. Cashless options will soon become commonplace, with players electronically loading funds into their casino accounts.
Still, the ultimate onus comes onto the players. Players must decide whether or not a game is worth patronizing. Many will take their business elsewhere if a game feels unsafe.
Poker players deserve access to safe games and card rooms, and Texas could become the most attractive poker market in the US if the state and its rooms can come together.
And livestreaming will undoubtingly be a huge part of it.