Opening a Card Room in Houston (1 Viewer)

warma

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Do you have data supporting your hypothesis that pilots on layover would want to play poker after the end of a long day?
 

JesterTX

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Only poker? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a clear legalization of poker morphed into an overall expansion in legal gaming. Most states tend to be more accepting of slots and video gaming, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they expanded all gaming options
The TX horse tracks and in bed with the border casino in OK and LA and have a strong lobby. If they brought slots in, it would only be at the horse tracks, and that would be it if it even got to that point. Texas exports way too much money to Shreveport, Lake Charles (not far from Houston) in LA and to the north of Dallas, Winstar and Choctaw on the TX/OK border and would put a lot of the border casinos in jeopardy if Texas would open up casinos in state.
 

JesterTX

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Do you have data supporting your hypothesis that pilots on layover would want to play poker after the end of a long day?
And lots of business travelers like myself that stay at airport hotels, yes, plenty of them as well, esp if in walking distance.
 

CraigT78

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Anything I'd add here is duplicative - but it would surprise me if more than only a few rooms in town were making significant money, and even then the returns are likely pretty thin. I did some business model development on this several years back (before Post Oak/Prime etc.) on a similar membership based business model and although cool, couldn't make it make sense as a solid investment. It's like the restaurant business - high up front investment, low margin, and the 'cool, popular place' is going to shift every couple of years so it's going to cost money to both acquire a player base (that's likely already entrenched elsewhere) and retain your player base.

As others have mentioned you've got the dealers, the floor, the cage, security, and all the general administration costs of running a business. All being paid for by tables, if full, generating in the range of $70-$100 an hour in revenue x number of tables x busy hours per week. It can sound like alot until you are realistic about the costs that are going to go into generating that revenue - it's high.

On the staff side, you'd have a hard time classifying these people as contractors in a defensible way if any of them ever filed an unemployment claim or an EEOC complaint.

I'd be hesitant to build a business around this. The only way I've thought you could really make this work is make it exclusive and charge a serious annual or monthly membership fee, but then you'd have to invest in all the amenities that crowd would expect too.

Happy to chat further over PM if you have interest.
You state every reason I've decided not to attempt opening one, very little potential upside with the huge downside of the possibility Texas decides to shut them all down. Not a 0% chance as the OP mentioned earlier.
 

wolfpack

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That was back in 2019 and those charges were dropped.

https://www.click2houston.com/news/...uston-poker-room-raids-cases-referred-to-fbi/

They can't take rake, but instead the players pay a membership fee and basically rent a chair. That's the main income for the poker clubs.
That's how it's done legally in Ohio outside of casinos. Daily entrance fee to get into the club no rake at the tables.

Also get a food and beverage license, don't allow outside food or drink and charge high prices for said items.
 

10centguitar

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So after contributing to @TwoHomie 's post about opening a card room in Texas... it got me going back to the drawing board on my idea of opening one on my own... and the more I talk with my co-workers about it, the more of a real possibility it becomes.

Here are the initial thoughts:

Relatively small space, probably no more than 2,000-3,000 sq ft

Located within walking distance of the IAH airport hotels that are frequently occupied by airline crew members.

5 regular tables and a "feature table" for high-stakes games, tournament FTs and maybe a weekly/monthly live-stream

Lounge area with couches, food/beverages, maybe one of those coin-operated pool tables and some arcade games.

Catered to attract transient airline crewmembers and travelers, who will in turn attract regs looking to make money off of them.


If I end up going ahead with the idea of getting this off the ground, I will share the journey here on the forum and elicit suggestions/ideas from the members here. This would be a unique chance for the forum to help with the formation of a poker room... making sure it's built and run the way poker players would want it to be run.


Let me get the obvious comments/questions out of the way...

NO, I am not getting Paulsons... the reasons for that are many and obvious... most likely they will be ceramics...

YES, I will offer to sell our $1s and $5s at face value + shipping to the membership if there is interest for it.... and I will order enough chips to handle a massive harvesting operation if need be... I might even add in a Grand Opening run for this purpose...

I will be contacting PokerAtlas for a quote for their TableCaptain system to allow for live waitlists, player-tracking, etc... it seems like good system and a lot of card rooms around here use them.



I am curious to see what some of you have to say about the idea. While the Houston poker scene does seem to be a little crowded, the only one reasonably close to the airport is The Hangar, and they aren't going after the same player type and they aren't as conveniently located for those without cars as I plan to be. Any and all constructive feedback is welcome.

If you live in the Houston area and are interested in partnering up to get this off the ground, let me know and maybe we can work something out. Also, anyone who would like to help out in the design of the chip labels, custom cards / cut cards / dealer buttons / etc. let me know and I'll get in touch with you if this does actually launch.
Table captain is expensive (like 100k i heard, i will ask at work tomorrow), but worth it.
The software feels a little janky and some things arent very intuitive. And plenty of redundencies!
They flew out a specialist to our cardroom to get us setup (we pay his flight and hotel). Knew what he was doing but was lazy...dude played poker on his phone pratically the whole time...
but it works fine. Learning curve for more complex operations i think.
It can create all kinds of reports which can help you track your room's productivity.
With your plan to attract out of towners, pokeratlas will be a must.

Food for thought:

Dealers? TD? Cage? This is where i think you will have your work cut out the most. (Not sure how connected you are in your area) it'll be hard to secure a good staff if you don't already have juicy games running.
Best of luck!
 

Legend5555

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I work in the security space. Security for this type of thing is certainly a contractor on an hourly rate. You have a ton of security guard suppliers to choose from as well. And they all offer armed and unarmed officers. I would not want to run a room without a security guard.

You will need some minimal ID card access to the cage I'd think. As well as a camera system. Most security systems suppliers will handle both. Again, you have a lot of suppliers to choose from both large and small.
 

Legend5555

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My wife tried to convince me a few weeks back to start a poker room here in GA similar to Little Kings and Queens over in Buford, GA. I'm still not convinced how they run is legal. They basically use the TX model + are a charity. I told her the overhead of all that is more than I'd want to deal with, not to mention the very questionable legality.
 

JWC

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1) There is a basically 0% chance of them shutting the poker social club thing down... there is far too much money that has gone into this over the past few years, and the municipalities desperately need the tax revenue these places generate. They've learned their lesson from trying to challenge these places in the past... it didn't go well, and they aren't about to try again.

2) Yes, the space is pretty dense, but as I said I'm using the location to target airline crews. IAH is a major hub for United and a bunch of regional carriers as well as a major overnight place for the other airlines as well. To make it a crew-friendly location (50% off daily fee and 10% off seat rental with airline ID or something like that) it has the potential to generate tons of transient traffic... pilots and flight attendants there to have fun and play for the night. That will attract some regs and pro players with all the extra dead money coming in each week. I will be floating the idea to the boards of the airline crews in the area to see if there is enough interest in the idea for it to "take flight"... and with crews always looking for something to do during their overnights (especially within walking distance) I think there's a good chance of success.

3&4) I am looking to start dealers a little above the current market rates in order to entice them to come over. $10/hr + tips for dealers, $15-20/hr + tips for the floormen and one salaried General Manager to handle the day-to-day operations so I can still work my airline job.

Also @casinochipper22 I have a feeling that as this goes on from theory to planning to execution I'll be having quite a few conversations with you :)

I too am a contrarian.

1) The keystone XL pipeline is calling to contradict your first point. There is never too much money invested to not be shut down.
2) … or something like that… have you ever worked in a card room? Have you dealt a game? Do you have the funds to guarantee a lease? Have you considered why others aren’t marketing to this valuable crowd? Also, I don’t know anything about the airport hotels in Houston, but that is a difference between being in walking distance and being a safe walk, is that a consideration? Since the airline industry has a low tolerance on alcohol consumption, is that a consideration?
3+4) I thought that they were contractors? I am not sure what the Houston market has going for wages, but fast food pus more than $10/hour in lots of the country. If you are treating them as contractors, you have to offset half of social security, health insurance, etc.

I wish you the best and hope that in five years you come back and say that you are retired and have more money than three people could spend. However, I think that you need a lot of thought on the business end before you invest your first dollar.
 

Anthony Martino

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Have you considered targeting outside the airline crews as a primary? Another avenue might be truck drivers. I know I've seen a number of them at the Tampa Hard Rock gambling it away. Those OTR guys make 6 figures/year and love to splash around in pots when they're in town.

I'm assuming your area is going to have plenty of that sort of traffic as well, could be lucrative if you're within close proximity to shipping hubs or wherever those guys are parking.

Poker pro Dewey Tomko was at TGT pre-Covid and played super tight, but someone told me he's involved in a few rooms out in the Texas area. You are going to have established competition to deal with. I'm closer to Silks Poker room but I travel further to the Tampa Hard Rock because they get the traffic that plays the games I want.

Good luck with the venture!
 

JWC

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Accounting would be the responsibility of myself and the GM with the help of software and tax professionals to make sure it's done right.

Logistics isn't that hard to handle as the operation isn't going to be all that complex... food would be delivered from nearby restaurants (I could even negotiate some sort of kick-back deal for having their menus in our room) and snacks and drinks can be ordered in bulk (BYOB BYOL so no need for a liquor license)

Marketing is actually the easy part. With my connections, I essentially have access to all the airline message boards and crew rooms. I can shower the crew rooms with cheap free stuff advertising our room (we love anything that's free or discounted) and word-of-mouth advertising in the airline industry travels fast... all we need to do is create an environment that they would want to visit and come back to.
Do you risk losing your current job by advertising for your other job at work? In the past I have seen advertisements at horn for the simple home party stuff, but I can’t imagine that telling people about separate professional ventures would be well received.
 

Frogzilla

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Have you considered targeting outside the airline crews as a primary? Another avenue might be truck drivers. I know I've seen a number of them at the Tampa Hard Rock gambling it away. Those OTR guys make 6 figures/year and love to splash around in pots when they're in town.

I'm assuming your area is going to have plenty of that sort of traffic as well, could be lucrative if you're within close proximity to shipping hubs or wherever those guys are parking.

Poker pro Dewey Tomko was at TGT pre-Covid and played super tight, but someone told me he's involved in a few rooms out in the Texas area. You are going to have established competition to deal with. I'm closer to Silks Poker room but I travel further to the Tampa Hard Rock because they get the traffic that plays the games I want.

Good luck with the venture!
Sat next to Dewey at a tourney, he was running Champions (now shut down despite their turnout for tourney series) and is having a lot of trouble opening a Dallas location, they had been advertising a 2M guarantee for September but now that’s scrapped and unsure if they’ll ever open. Mostly NIMBY complaints from the residents, not the DA

It’s not an easy business
 

PAZ

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You should definitely do this and call it "The Hanger"! Maybe use blue LEDs in the floor marking a pathway to the tables like taxiway lights. How about TV screens but instead of arrivals and departures its the table #, game type, blinds and wait list! How about a rewards program modeled after a frequent flyer program? A small bar in the corner called the Captain's Club?
 

PAZ

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@Av8tion please disregard my above post. I just discovered that the name I picked already exists, I spelt it wrong and that you recently played there!

Excited about you doing something, let us know when you settle on a theme and I’m sure the ideas will pour in.
 

Av8tion

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Considering the clientele I was going to bring in, I was figuring I would name it the Aviation Club Houston... opening up the possibility of expanding out to other areas like Aviation Club Dallas near DFW, etc. And yes, the proper spelling for SEO... as hard as it is to not name it the Av8tion Club...
@Av8tion please disregard my above post. I just discovered that the name I picked already exists, I spelt it wrong and that you recently played there!

Excited about you doing something, let us know when you settle on a theme and I’m sure the ideas will pour in.
 

Goldfish

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Obviously this would be awesome if successfully pulled off, but I'll revert to my true form and be a contrarian lawyer:

  1. Poker rooms in Texas are currently operating in a legal grey area. While they are starting to pick up some steam and gaining a greater amount of "legitimacy," you'll likely find yourself in the unenviable position of waiting for the other shoe to drop. You could tie up a lot of $$$$$ into this endeavor only for the state/local governments to take some action to close the legal loophole. Also, some enterprising local prosecutor could decide to litigate a case and win, or at the very least get a ruling from a judge that makes it clear these clubs could be closed and their owners prosecuted. Finally, the raids that happened back before COVID didn't result in prosecution, but the card rooms weren't operating for nearly 3 months while the legal process played out...Harris County could try it again, and even if you don't get closed or convicted, you could be out of action for months.
  2. The market is already pretty loaded, what are you going to do to set yourself apart? You'll likely operate at a loss for a reasonable amount of time while you try to establish yourself.
  3. Where are you going to get your dealers, floor personnel, etc....? You're not in Vegas where you have an ample number of those people in close proximity. Are you going to spend time and money training your own? Or are you going to throw money at people to leave their current gigs to come to you?
  4. Are you going to quit your day job to run this full time? Any small business requires a lot of time and effort to get started, especially in a market like this where you will be playing catch up with more established rooms and will be dealing with other new rooms popping up. If you are going to pay someone to run it for you, who is it? Are they capable? How much will you pay them? How will their pay eat into your razor thin margins when first starting?
My biggest concern is that the legal loophole will be closed sooner rather than later. COVID and the election drew a lot of attention away from this issue. There is absolutely no way the current status quo will be allowed to persist. There is too much money at stake and the existence of these loophole card clubs is a dent in the egos of the politicians and prosecutors who want them gone. Either the rooms will be shut down, or the current gaming commission will be expanded to regulate the rooms which will add significant costs and red tape to your operation. There's also no guarantee that you would be granted a license or have the resources to meet what ever requirements they might set.
AB42C065-6376-43D8-8C32-3BACD6C3DBC6.gif
 

Frogzilla

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Considering the clientele I was going to bring in, I was figuring I would name it the Aviation Club Houston... opening up the possibility of expanding out to other areas like Aviation Club Dallas near DFW, etc. And yes, the proper spelling for SEO... as hard as it is to not name it the Av8tion Club...
It should be Avi8ion not Av8tion right? Always wondered about that t.
 

Frogzilla

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Also…8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture and Houston has a large Chinese diaspora. Throwing 8 in there may not be a bad idea
 

DrBill

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Marketing man. Do this thing right on YouTube and you’ll be set! ESPECIALLY, if you’re located close to IAH. You partner with as many of the top vloggers as you can on a regular basis for hosting their meet up games and having them on a the stream. Which brings me to a must have…a stream. This will help with creating a regular crowd following and also for bringing in new players from out of town. Launching a stream alone will cost at least 15k (rfid table and cards, software is typically included, cameras, a switcher, streaming software and a few mics.) I don’t live in Houston but have family there. My wife and I visit about twice a year so I’d love to help how I can if you need it. Both of my brothers are in professional production and have produced live streams in the past so I’m pretty well versed as well. I can volunteer their help as well if you’d like. I also have experience hosting live streamed events if you needed a host every now and then haha

Obviously, I myself am not a professional but I have done much research and have some second hand knowledge. Let me know if you’re ever interested. Good luck with the venture! :tup:
 

FDLmold

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Unless you are a corporate casino, I imagine the chances of GPI selling you chips are 0% or less. If this was 1985, they'd hook you up no problem.
 

LeLe

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I think the OP mentioned it somewhere he want to use Ceramic Card mold chips as his main source of chip and there is always CPC option for Clay chip, but i will make the $1 as UGLY as possible as there will be a lot of harvesting if there are $1 cpc clay chip to harvest
 

Av8tion

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No need to spend the upfront cost, just buy an existing poker room, more than half of the poker rooms in Houston are up for sale. A ten table poker room was recently sold for $15K with all the build out and equipment which included Poker Atlas.

the issue is the location... (the issue is always the location, isn't it?)
 
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