Players old and young fill seats around the tables at Texas Card House on Harry Hines Boulevard. Wall-mounted TVs play sports channels in the background as sharks and fish chatter at the table. Poker chips ruffle and click as they move from players to pots, from winners to losers. The winners are usually in good spirits, the losers sometimes deflated. They’re all ready for their next hand.
The operation lacks the glitz of a Vegas casino. Texas Card House is BYOB only. You can drop off your bottle with one of the waitresses at a snack bar near the entrance and she’ll bring you drinks as you play. But there’s no buffet or endless din of slots, just 26 or so semicircular tables with four to six players each, focused on the cards. One of them is Shomari Williams, 38, a regular in Dallas’ poker scene.
He places bets, folding periodically, winning hands strategically, but he doesn’t consider it gambling. Like many players, he says poker is a game of skill and strategy, not chance. Play it right, and poker can be a lucrative side hustle. Play it like a pro, and poker can become a living.
Williams plays like a pro in poker rooms across Dallas-Fort Worth, but his days of placing bets at Texas Card House or any of the other legal poker rooms in the city may be numbered. Two years after the city granted Texas Card House a permit to operate, the City Council is trying to shut it and other above-ground poker rooms down by revoking their certificates of occupancy.
The city now says the rooms are illegal. Local players say if illegal activity is going on, it’s happening in the underground scene, where players will flock if legal establishments are closed.
The smart money says the question is heading to a showdown in court if the city rejects the card rooms’ efforts to appeal the revocation of their certificates of occupancy. Whatever the outcome, players like Williams say the games will go on, much as they did before the city issued its first permit for a card room.
Williams should know. He’s been playing poker for about 15 years, professionally for about three. “I’ve been involved in the Dallas and Fort Worth scene for quite a bit,” said the graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he played poker as a student in the 2000s.
“When I started getting into it, I met a player who was a professional, and he had told me if I just played poker and didn’t play any other games — slots, blackjack, craps — that I could have a side income eventually,” Williams recalled. “And as long …….