The poker fad that kicked into high gear when Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million at the 2003 World Series of Poker may have cooled a bit in terms of media attention, but the game remains as popular as ever. This year’s World Series drew 7,221 players from 83 countries, good for the third largest field in the event’s history.
While players can always find games online, playing live against other people provides an undeniable thrill — and the certainty that everything is on the up-and-up. Finding a legal game can be tricky without access to either a regular home game or driving to Louisiana (or flying to Vegas).
However, a newly-opened business in the heart of the Galleria area aims to change all that. The Post Oak Poker Club offers players a safe, legal, casino-style environment to enjoy their hobby. Three owners, Daniel Kebort, Bill Heuer, and Sergio Cabrera, have turned the space that once housed Mo’s...A Place for Steaks and the previous incarnation of Tony’s into central Houston’s first poker club.
“The laws are written to protect country club games and private home games,” Kebort tells CultureMap. “Essentially, we created a country club setting specifically around poker games.”
What that means is that the Post Oak Poker Club is a members-only establishment where all of the money bet during the game stays with the players. The club does not earn any sort of rake from the pot. The policy is so enforced do strictly that players aren’t even allowed to use their chips to tip dealers or servers — members can use $1 coins for that purpose.
To play, would-be members pay a membership fee, either $15 daily or $150 monthly, and a chair rental fee of $7.50 per half hour, which is slightly more expensive than mintpoker, a similar concept in the Clear Lake area. Paying the fees entitles a player to a seat at one of the tables. Typical games include 1-3 and 2-5 No Limit Hold ‘Em, 4-8 Limit Hold ‘Em, and 1-3 Pot-Limit Omaha, but the club wants to cater to as wide a poker playing audience as possible.
“We’ll run any game with interest. We want to get guys in here playing Stud, Crazy Pineapple, any variation we’ll offer,” Kebort says. “Wednesday nights we’re doing ‘Omaholics.’ We’re going to try to give Omaha addicts a place they can come at least once a week.”
Most of the Mo’s decor remains intact, but dining tables have been replaced with poker tables. The bar area now serves as a lounge where people can dine between games or watch sports on TV. The restaurant’s private dining room has been converted into a high limit room where local professionals can host games. Of course, the patio still welcomes cigar smokers — so much so that the club plans to put a couple of poker tables outside once the weather cools off so that people can smoke and play.
Kebort, who also owns a catering company, has created a menu he describes as “casino quality cafe food” that’s built primarily around sandwiches like a hamburger, pulled pork, BLT, and a Philly cheesesteak. Those looking for more of a snack may opt for either green chile queso or food truck-style fries with different toppings. Based on a couple of dishes Kebort provided to sample, the cuisine won’t compete with the area’s top restaurants, but it’s good enough to provide sustenance during a tournament.
Although it’s currently BYOB, the club does plan to offer a full range of wine, beer, and spirits. Currently, members can purchase setups for liquor or non-alcoholic beverages, along with cigarettes and cigars. Ultimately, the partners want to create a venue that appeals to more people than just hardcore poker players.
“We’re really trying to create an entertainment destination built around poker. We’ve got the lounge experience, the humidor for guys to smoke cigars,” Kebort says. “Eventually we want to add a few more components to make this a destination.”
The Post Oak property, which also contains an Oriental rug dealer and an Al’s Formal Wear, will be redeveloped, but the Poker Club has a lease on the space through May 2018. That should be enough time to determine if Houstonians have embraced the concept enough to justify finding a permanent home.
“There’s a lot of history in this building that we want to tap into,” Kebort says. “It’s the old Tony’s. This specific location used to be the hotspot for the upper crust. We want to try to tap into that and see if we can get one last party.”
Post Oak Poker Room, 1801 Post Oak; Hours: Monday through Friday 5 pm to 2 am; Saturday 11 am to 2 am; Sunday 11 am to midnight