place your bets
Hot Heights-area patio bar rolls out cool casino nights with Bellagio-caliber tables and Vegas vibes
Quick: name the most authentic, Vegas-worthy casino setup in Houston. Is it an ultra-private room at Tilman Fertitta's Post Oak palace? Maybe a new speakeasy from red-hot restaurateur Ben Berg?
Actually, arguably Houston's most authentic, Vegas-styled casino action (public, anyway) is at popular patio bar Patterson Park. This Heights-area hot spot with White Oak Bayou views isn't known for being posh or for a James Bond vibe. No, this new high-end casino floor is nestled in a party spot favorited by a young, bike-friendly, dog-friendly crowd who dig cornhole and other bar games and catching sports on the big screen.
“Well, we had to come up with something new, something to set us apart,” Lonnie Schiller, a partner in Patterson Park, tells CultureMap as we check out casino night there. “You know there are a lot of patio bars in Houston.”
A realtor friend linked up Schiller — who founded CultureMap in 2009 and is behind Cafe Express, Cafe Annie, and The Grove — with Daniel Kebort, a businessman with a big-time, globalcasino background. Kebort founded Ridotto, a firm that sets up casino floors that rivals anything in Vegas all around Texas.
A Wynn-worthy casino floor
Faster than a roulette spin, Patterson Park was home to an expertly designed craps table and two blackjack tables worthy of The Wynn or anything on the Vegas Strip. (These tables are made by the same manufacturer that services big casinos all over the globe.)
Blowing on dice for good luck: highly recommended.Photo by Marco Torres/ @marcofromhouston
The high-energy crowd keeps the games fun. Photo by Marco Torres/ @marcofromhouston
On our trip, crowds packed the long craps table and rocked their best casino moves, even blowing on dice for good luck. The blackjack tables are also a blast, with players dropping bets and dealers working the table and building the hype with fist-pumping cheers on big wins.
Wheel cool gaming
Watching the wheel spin and ball bounce as the exquisite roulette table hand-made in England. Photo by Marco Torres/ @marcofromhouston
The real kicker — as we discovered — is Kebort's roulette wheel, crafted by the iconic Cammegh company. Hand-made in England and considered the finest custom wheels in the world, the Cammegh outfit in Patterson Park comes complete with a laser eye and digital display board.
Ridotto's Cammegh roulette wheel in Patterson Park is so authentic and legit, it's required to be registered with the Department of Justice. “This is most likely the only DOJ-registered wheel in the state of Texas, Kebort tells CultureMap. “You won't find equipment of this quality in Louisiana or Oklahoma, nor will you find it in most Las Vegas resorts.”
We packed the table and held our breath as the roulette ball to bounced on the wheel. The chic cocktails, dramatic bets and spins, and high-end table made the room feel totally Bellagio.
How is this even legal?
Okay, so: Patterson Park may have the best high-end public casino experience in Houston — and potentially, Texas. But last we checked, gambling is illegal here. Right?
“Yes, gambling for money is illegal,” Kebort acknowledges. “Playing games for pure entertainment and fun is different. Our games will have no cash anywhere. Customers do use a credit card to buy 500 chips for $20 for their time at the tables. If they win, there are small inexpensive prizes. But mostly it’s for the fun and bragging rights. Plus, the tables are Las Vegas quality and the dealers are very friendly — even happy to teach the intricacies of each game.” (Anyone who's been to Vegas recently knows that's not always the case there.)
Even then, Schiller — who has made a living giving people what they want — wasn't sure about setting up a grand, expensive casino floor with no big cash payouts. Would anyone actually come?
“I was skeptical,” recalls Schiller. “I had just gotten ChatGPT, and so I asked i if people would play blackjack, roulette, dice, and games like that for only very small inexpensive prizes. To my surprise it said 'yes' — for many reasons: the thrill and excitement, competition, novelty, trying to beat the odds irrespective of the monetary rewards.
Ridotto's table are world-class and even the chips are patented. Photo by Marco Torres/ @marcofromhouston
For authenticity, Kebort uses casino chips that are actually patented. His patent, he says, protects the idea of using a casino style chip to represent the tickets in a traditional arcade like Dave and Busters. These tickets also function as the chips on the tables to mimic a true casino experience.
Each ticket value matches traditional dollar values in a casino (red chips are 5 tickets instead of $5, green chips are 25 tickets, black chips 100 tickets, and purple chips 500 tickets instead of $500.) “This gives the players an authentic experience and thrill of winning without the inherent risk found when gambling in a traditional casino environment,” says Kebort.
Schiller says the crowds showed up just one week after Kebort and Ridotto set up shop. “People come to play and get quite animated, even yelling and celebrating when they win.” Prizes also include one-of-a-kind fashion and travel books from Schiller and his wife's collection.
A cool spin on Vegas vibes
You'll swear you're on the Strip. Photo by Marco Torres/ @marcofromhouston
The big Strip-styled sign, patented casino chips, and top-quality tables make for such a Vegas vibe that Schiller and his team are already shaking up their cocktail menu with drinks like the 007 Martini — shaken, not stirred, natch — and more to come. Patterson Park is a casual scene, but Schiller may throw a dressy, Casino Royale-themed party where players can show up in their best James Bond and Vesper Lynd fits. Whatever it takes to keep partiers spinning the roulette wheel and rolling the dice.
“Of course we just want them to buy drinks,” Schiller says. “But so far it’s working!”
Casino nights at Patterson Park are expected to run through July 31. Get more information at Patterson Park online.