A poker road trip through Texas: San Antonio

A Poker Road Trip Through Texas

In our ongoing quest to escape the New England winter, Paul and I departed in January to take a poker road trip through Texas. As in previous winters, our goal was a month-long trip somewhere warm with lots of new poker rooms to enjoy. We had a wonderful journey, with stops in North Carolina, Seaside Florida, and New Orleans along the way. Once we reached Texas, we spent time in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. On our journey we visited 15 different poker rooms and are eager to share our favorites with you.

Houston Texas

Our visit to Houston was relatively brief. We spent only three days in the city, but managed three different poker rooms while we were there. Our very first Texas card room was Texas Card House Houston. It served as a fine introduction to the Texas poker scene and introduced us to the Texas membership set-up. It also introduced us to the ubiquitous Texas security guards. Paul even got a full pat-down when we entered the room. However, in the end we were more taken by the restaurant next door, Mezza Grille, than the room itself.

Poker Road Trip through Texas - Champions Club

Our accommodations in Houston also housed our second card room. The Champions Club, despite its odd and seedy past (you’ll have to read the review), turned out to be an excellent card room, and a fine hotel. We were particularly struck by the food at the in-house restaurant, which you can order from your seat at the poker table. Champions Club was definitely our favorite poker room in Houston and the only one we would likely return to.

Paul also played some cash at Legends in Houston, but the less said about that room the better. We definitely do not recommend a visit there.

We did little in Houston on this poker road trip through Texas other than play poker and work. However, we have been to the city previously and do have some recommendations. If you appreciate a good museum, the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts are both good. The Menil Collection is even free! The Contemporary Arts Museum is also quite interesting (and, again, free!) If you are more the mall type, The Galleria in Houston is one of those malls of your dreams (and my nightmares). It is enormous with every store, restaurant, and amenity (even a skating rink!) you might imagine.

San Antonio Texas

After our brief stay in Houston, we settled in for over two weeks in San Antonio. Despite our plans, and best attempts, we only managed to visit two poker rooms in all that time. We found than many of San Antonio’s poker rooms were quite small and lacked the numbers for either consistent cash games or tournament play. However, we did have a nice time at the San Antonio Card House. It would be our first recommendation to someone looking to play in the area. We also visited Rounders card room, which was very active, but not really our speed.

Poker road trip through Texas: San Antonio

Fortunately, for us, San Antonio offers so much beyond poker. For starters, the weather was gorgeous there in the first half of February. Which is enough in itself to draw us back someday. We walked everywhere. We visited the Pearl District where you will find a multitude of restaurants, small shops, and Lick Ice Cream (expensive, but worth it). Then we walked down the San Antonio River Walk, which we learned is so much more than just the downtown madhouse that we had heard of. The River Walk stretches far north of downtown, up to the Pearl District and beyond.

poker road trip through Texas Pearl District
Pearl District Section of River Walk

We visited the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens, and took a small train through the park surrounding the San Antonio Zoo. One day we visited the McNay Art Museum and toured several of the famous San Antonio Missions. We even took a day trip out to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch and on to Fredricksburg. For us, the Wildlife Ranch was a huge hit, but Fredricksburg was a miss. The town was packed with people whose primary goal seemed to be day drinking for free.

Japanese Tea Garden - San Antonio
Japanese Tea Garden

We stayed in an Airbnb in San Antonio and did not eat out many times. However, we can recommend Best Quality Daughter in the Pearl District and Hungry Chameleon Pizza if you find yourself uptown. The Chicken Mole pizza will rock your world. Our trip to Houston also involved multiple visits to the Nowhere Bookstore (I am obsessed with The Blogess), and a fast-acting addiction to Central Market. Central Market is simply a large grocery store with the best bakery and prepared food you will ever encounter. If you ever get the chance to visit a Central Market, do not pass it up.

Austin Texas

From San Antonio, we made the short drive to Austin Texas. We spent just under a week in Austin and visited our new favorite card room. It is hard to fully describe just how much we loved the Lodge. We do our best in the linked poker room review. The Lodge was definitely our favorite room in Texas, and up there in the top five in the entire country. If you can only visit one poker room in Texas, definitely make it the Lodge.

Poker Road Trip through Texas: Texas State House
Texas State House

The other poker rooms we visited in Austin ranged from fine to meh. We would probably visit the Texas Card House Austin again. TCH is definitely a solid chain. They also have a deal where you can buy a monthly membership for $30 and use it across all of the TCH properties, which can be useful if you are traveling through the state. On the other hand, we recommend you give Shuffle 512 a pass. It was among my least favorite rooms in Texas.

Austin, like San Antonio, has much to offer apart from good poker. We visited the huge Ziker Park and played some disc golf on an excellent course. We took in some great art at the Blanton Museum of Art on the U Texas campus. On another day, we enjoyed touring the Texas State House down the street. Definitely one of the more interesting State Houses we have seen.

For food, we can recommend Lolo, which is not far from Shuffle 512 and offers a lovely outdoor dining experience. Bird Bird Biscuit closer to downtown offers divine chicken sandwiches held together by – you guessed it – a biscuit. And Voodoo donuts (with several locations around town) offers a wonderfully sinful breakfast treat.

Dallas Texas

Finally, we spent a couple of days in Dallas Texas. We didn’t spend any time in the center of Dallas, or particularly see any of the sights. We were here for the poker, and poker we did play. Our first night we spent at yet another Texas Card House. This time TCH Dallas. We greatly enjoyed our time at TCH Dallas, and not just because we were both seated at a table with the great TJ Cloutier. Read all about it in our room review.

TJ Cloutier in the flesh
TJ Cloutier in the flesh

Our final poker room in Dallas was Shuffle 214. Although this was our biggest cash of the entire poker road trip through Texas (Paul won over $1,000), we just couldn’t give it a positive review. If you find yourself in Dallas, definitely stick with the tried and true Texas Card House chain.

Walking path at the Cooper Institute

While in Dallas we happened to stay at the Cooper Institute. Briefly, we were worried that we had signed ourselves up for three nights in a cult, the Cooper Institute turned out to be an aerobics facility founded by the guy (Kenneth Cooper) who invented the term “aerobics”. While we enjoyed learning about the history of the place, what we really loved were the amazing miles of comfortable walking paths throughout. They were a great way to get a little exercise in before a long session at the poker table.

Summary of a Poker Road Trip through Texas

We can not be more positive about our poker road trip through Texas. We visited a lot of great rooms, spent February in the warmth, ate some great food, and enjoyed a variety of experiences. While San Antonio is the city we are most likely to return to, The Lodge (in Austin) is the poker room we would most like to play again. Our favorite restaurants in the state were Best Quality Daughter in San Antonio and Lolo in Austin. Above all, we reaffirmed that we both love a poker road trip, and can’t wait to start planning our next one!

  • Comfort
  • Tournament Structures
  • Personnel

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