Paul and I have been interested in the Texas poker scene for years now. We’ve tried to diagnose the ins and outs of Texas poker remotely but figured it was time to venture into the quagmire. Our first foray into the jungle (and it is a jungle) of Texas poker is the Texas Card House Houston. Houston was our first stop in Texas, and the TCH happened to have a $20 tournament on the evening of our arrival.
The Texas Card House Houston sits in a strip mall along a busy road. It has a simple, clean storefront, and is surrounded by a variety of stores and restaurants. Two doors down lies a Melting Pot fondue restaurant, and across the way an excellent “New American Fusion” restaurant named Mezza Grille. We ate at Mezza after knocking out of the TCH tournament and can recommend it highly. Beyond the strip mall, this stretch of Houston is an urban sprawl techno dream/nightmare. But you will find everything you need in the area, from the PoleKatz Gentleman’s Club to CVS to “real hair” wigs.
We would be remiss to mention the level of security that we have encountered at each of the three Texas poker rooms we have visited so far. Each has had armed guards. They often ask us to pass through a metal detector. And the TCH wanded Paul for a possible hidden armory in his jeans (he was clean!). It is all a bit off-putting, but we are getting used to it.
As we have mentioned in previous articles on the subject, poker rooms in Texas are just that. Gaming is generally illegal in the state. So you will not find slot machines, table games, or sports books along with your poker in this state, except at the rare Native American casino like Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino (which is pretty limited in its poker and has slots but no other table games).
Frankly, we kind of like poker-only venues. The way that Texas poker rooms navigate the state law is by selling “memberships” to their clubs. You are simply a “member” paying a visit, and playing some cards while you are there. The Texas Card House Houston, took our information and told us that the first visit is free. For future visits, we could either buy a $10 day pass or pay $30 for the month. The passes are transferable across the five Texas Card House rooms, except for Austin (don’t know why).
Texas Card House Houston does not offer food beyond a few bags of chips. They do offer drinks and even stock a nice IPA. Waitress service was available, but there was one waitress for the entire facility (and she was also the bartender). Faster to just get up and meet her over at the bar.
If you work up a hunger playing cards, there are always those restaurants just outside the door.
Texas Card House Poker Room Comfort
The 24-table poker room feels expansive. The room is brightly lit, minimally decorated, offers generous space around each table, and features high ceilings. The temperature was comfortable and the light was bright enough to see the board across the table. After several hours in the room, however, the fluorescent lighting wore a bit hard on the eyes.
The chairs are extremely comfortable. They have wheels and are adjustable and comfortable. The tables are attractive, clean, and branded. The tables also feature a nice padded rail, auto-shufflers, and drink cups, but lack USB ports.
The chips, cards, and felts are all clean. Play is nine-handed, but the tables were large enough that everyone had plenty of elbow room.
Poker Room Staff
The Texas Card House Houston staff are highly skilled and efficient. The dealers are accurate, fast, and friendly. Dealers kept the play smooth. The floor kept tables balanced. The one anomaly that I experienced was that the tournament we played was supposed to max out at three buy-ins. A guy on my table re-bought at least five times, possibly more. This was apparently not tracked and the dealer didn’t blink. There was only one waitress in the room and she was also the bartender. Although she was continually busy, she was not able to keep up with player orders. It was easier to just head over to the bar and buy what you wanted yourself.
Players at Texas Card House Houston Poker Room
There was a range of players, both in age and ethnicity. The room skewed young compared with others (such as Beau Rivage). There was even a 20-year-old at my table. Apparently, TCH is the only card room in the area that allows players 18 and older. All of the rest start at 21. There was only one other female player in the room (playing in the tournament). Most players at my table were very friendly and chatty, with a clear mix of regulars and out-of-towners. The playing style leaned toward aggressive, but the players had a casual attitude toward this $20 tournament. No one was terribly upset to bust, either laying down another $20 or wandering over to the cash tables across the room. There were a couple of obvious new players at my table, but most knew what they were doing with their chips.
As of this writing, the TCH Houston offers tournaments every day. They range from the cheap $20 entry on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening and Thursday/Sunday afternoon to a $240 buy in with $10k guaranteed on Thursday nights. On Monday evening the entry fee is $20, with 15-minute blinds and a 20,000 chip starting stack. Rebuys are 10,000 chips for another $20. At break, you can add on $20 for 10,000 up to two times. The structure is quite aggressive, as befits the price. The $240 tournament offers 30,000 chips for your money and 20-minute blind levels. Additionally, the structure is a bit shallower, offering more play for your game.
In our tracking of tournament activity, the Texas Card House tournaments vary by day of the week. Evenings, they get about 30-40 players. On the Monday of our visit, there were 33 players by the end of registration.
Cash Game Activity
On this Monday evening, the Texas Card House Houston poker room was running two active cash tables of $1/$2 and one of $1/$3. From our recent tracking of cash games (see our cash game activity update), Texas Card House Houston generally sees no more than a single table of $1/$2 at any given time. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, a single table of $1/$2 is what they have. We will continue to track this activity.
Overall Assessment of the Texas Card House Houston Poker Room
TCH Houston is a clean, comfortable poker room with regular affordable tournaments. They have low cash activity, but their daily tournaments are at least modestly well attended. The poker room staff is professional and friendly. The chairs are comfortable and the lighting is bright. If you’re looking for a fun cheap tournament and a personable evening, you won’t go wrong with the Texas Card House Houston.
TCH Houston is a clean, comfortable poker room with regular affordable tournaments. They have low cash activity, but their daily tournaments are at least modestly well attended. The poker room staff is professional and friendly. The chairs are comfortable and the lighting is bright.