Poker Player Doug Polk’s Plan for Largest Texas Card Room Goes Up in Smoke

Estimated read time 3 min read

The City of Farmers Branch, a Dallas suburb, has passed on the chance to host Texas’ largest poker room. On Tuesday, the city council voted 4-1 against an ordinance that would have legalized card rooms, paving the way for the proposed venue.

Poker’s Doug Polk, above, wanted to bring a 47,000-square-foot card room to the City of Farmers Branch, Texas, but was rebuffed by city officials this week. (Image: 888)

The decision dashes the plans of three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Doug Polk, who wanted to open a 47,000-square-foot card room with a bar, restaurant, and 100 poker tables.

Polk said the facility would have employed around 300 people and attracted an estimated 300K visitors per year. Farmers Branch is a 20-minute drive from Dallas International Airport.

“It obviously wasn’t the result we were looking for. It felt like there were a lot of comments about residents not supporting us and that’s not true,” Polk told The Dallas Morning News after the vote. “We had a lot of supporters here and I just want to thank them. It’s not just the outsiders to Farmers Branch that lost tonight, but also a lot of residents.”

Legally Ambiguous

Polk and his business partners already own the biggest card room in Texas, the Lodge Card Club in Round Rock, but the Farmer’s Branch venue would have been bigger. The poker player indicated to The Morning News that he hadn’t given up on his plan and was prepared to look for a new location. He described the region as a “premium market.”

For a man who made his fortune taking calculated risks at the poker table, investing in Texas’ live poker industry seems like a pure gamble for Polk.

The legality of poker clubs is ambiguous in the state, and there is no certainty that the live poker scene will endure. This may have played into the thoughts of the Farmers Branch City Council.

Poker rooms like the Lodge argue they operate via a loophole in the law because they are private clubs.

Gambling is illegal in Texas unless expressly authorized by the legislature. However, it is a defense to prosecution [for gambling]” if “the actor engaged in gambling [is] in a private place [and] no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings.”

So, instead of taking a rake, Texas card rooms charge customers by the hour to be at the venue. Let’s just say not everyone is down with this interpretation of the law. Detractors argue the carveout was intended only for private home games and the clubs operate as commercial venues in practice.

Dallas U-Turn

The nearby City of Dallas legalized poker in 2019 when it granted a license to its first card room, the Texas Card House.

But in January 2022, the city revoked the club’s permit and advised the card room’s owners they were “keeping a gambling place.” That followed intervention from Dallas City Attorney Chris Caso.

The situation is tied up in legal wrangling, but the club has been permitted to remain operational pending resolution of lawsuits.

The case is likely on a collision course with the Texas Supreme Court, which will decide the clubs’ legality once and for all.

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