Texas has had poker for years. Whether it’s legal or not is open to interpretation.

Texas online pokerIt’s a complex situation. Under state law, most forms of gambling are illegal. There are a few exceptions — including the state lottery, three tribal casinos, horse and greyhound racing, bingo, and various raffles.

The state’s gambling laws are also vague — just a few words of the Texas Penal Code have allowed dozens of private poker clubs to operate as legitimate businesses.

But the ambiguity of the law has also created a problem — since the wording isn’t clear, prosecutors in some localities have pursued charges against the owners and operators of private poker clubs and tried to force their closure. Charges were dismissed in some cases, but club owners and operators across Texas have complained of harassment by city and county officials.

Recently, competing legislation has been filed in the Texas Legislature to either clarify state law and make the private poker clubs unambiguously legal, or to tweak the wordage of the Texas Penal Code to make them illegal once and for all. Bills calling for either of these outcomes fell short in 2023 and won’t be reintroduced until 2025 at the earliest.

Supporters of legalized sports betting also failed to get a bill across the finish line before the legislature adjourned in May. It’s likely that legal real money online poker is still several years away in the Lone Star State and would likely be preceded by the legalization of sports betting.

Is Online Poker Legal in Texas?

No, real money online poker is not currently available in Texas. It could be several years before it is, considering most forms of gambling are illegal. Texas doesn’t even have sports betting.

But poker is a very popular game in Texas — Texas Hold’em was invented here! — and the state’s private poker clubs help keep the enthusiasm going. So, while online poker is likely years away, it’s still a safe bet that it will launch one day in the Lone Star State.

Poker in Texas: Key Facts
📢 StatusTexas has about 60 private poker clubs that operate in a legally gray area. Online poker is likely years away.
📅 Date LegalizedN/A
👥 State Population30.5 Million (ranks 2nd)
⚖️ Regulated ByThere is no state gaming regulator, but the state lottery is run by the Texas Lottery Commission.
🔞 Legal Age to Gamble21+

Texas Gambling Laws and Poker

Texas Gambling Law: What’s Legal

Most forms of gambling in Texas are illegal, but there are some exceptions. Chapter 47.02c of the Texas Penal Code provides several carve-outs:

  1. The Texas Lottery
  2. Gambling at three Class II (aka mostly bingo) tribal casinos — Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, Naskila Casino in Livingston, and Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso
  3. Sanctioned horse and greyhound racing
  4. Bingo halls
  5. Charitable raffles
  6. Professional sports team charitable foundation raffles
  7. Drawings for the opportunity to participate in a hunting, fishing, or other recreational event conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, and the Tigua Indians of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo own and operate the aforementioned tribal casinos, respectively. Each is recognized by the federal government and are therefore exempt from Texas’ prohibitions on gaming.

How Private Poker Clubs Have Operated

The lifeline afforded to the dozens of private poker clubs across Texas is enshrined in the preceding section of the Texas Penal Code — specifically, Chapter 47.02b.

The clause provides a defense to prosecution for gambling offenses. It states that a person shall not be considered to have run afoul of Texas’ gambling laws if:

  1. The actor engaged in gambling in a private place
  2. No person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings
  3. Except for the advantage of skill or luck, the chances of winning and losing were the same for all participants

The words “private place” and “economic benefit” are at the heart of what some perceive to be a loophole in Texas law. That’s because they offer private poker clubs the opportunity to qualify as legitimate businesses.

Since the clubs don’t take a rake (or percentage) for hosting a poker event, there is no economic benefit. Instead, the clubs make money by levying membership fees and other charges, such as for the amount of time a player is at the tables — typically at half-hour or hourly rates. Some clubs also serve food and alcohol.

In a nutshell: Private poker clubs in Texas operate in a legally gray area.

It should be noted that Texas isn’t the only state with private poker clubs. According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), so-called card houses also operate in five other states — California, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, and Washington state.

Status Quo Under Attack

Until recently, law enforcement typically did not interfere with the private poker clubs. The most consequential case involving a crackdown was in 1994 with the case Gaudio v. State. The Texas Court of Appeals ruled that an individual (Gaudio) could not legally run a private poker game from his apartment and use rake proceeds to pay for the apartment’s expenses.

Gaudio established a legal precedent, and private poker clubs came away with the understanding that they could not touch the pot. Rather, they would adopt a new business model of levying membership and seat rental fees.

But the outward success of some of the larger private poker clubs attracted the attention of local authorities. In May 2019, Harris County — which is home to the state’s biggest city, Houston — pursued money laundering, gambling promotion, and organized crime charges against two large clubs in Houston. Players were not targeted for prosecution.

Shortly after the raid, Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) asked Republican AG Ken Paxton to issue a formal opinion on whether he thought the membership and seating fees constituted a rake. Paxton declined, citing pending litigation at the time between clubs in Austin and San Antonio.

That decision annoyed prosecutors and law enforcement in Harris County and Houston. But prosecutors dropped the charges and returned more than $200,000 in seized gambling proceeds three months later — after it was revealed that several members of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office were frequent club patrons and one served as a political consultant for a club.

Authorities also raided private poker clubs in Flint in March 2022, in Watauga in October 2022, and in Dallas in May 2023.

The Players (and Poker Clubs) Strike Back

The increasingly hostile atmosphere has spooked private poker clubs and their members, but many are fighting back. Players in Texas have organized to resist efforts to close the poker halls. They have also backed legislation to clarify the state’s gaming laws so that there is no question they qualify as legitimate businesses.

One group, Texans for Texas Hold’em (TFTH), was founded by professional poker player Doug Polk. The group frets that there are three ways that private poker clubs in Texas could be forced to close:

  • The state AG issues an opinion that alters the interpretation of “private place” and “economic benefit” that renders the current business model of the private poker clubs illegal
  • The Texas Supreme Court rules that the city of Dallas had the authority to order the closure of a private poker club because it didn’t have a business license
  • Legislation is introduced giving local governments the authority to close private poker clubs

Polk co-owns The Lodge Card Club in Round Rock, one of four clubs to form TFTH. The other members of the group are Texas Card House (which has multiple locations), SA Card House in San Antonio, and Champions Poker Club in Dallas.

TFTH supported a bill introduced by Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) in the last legislative session. HB 2345 called for codifying that “economic benefit” means direct winnings from a game of skill or luck, and that “private place” means a place where the public needs a valid membership.

The bill passed the House in May but died before a Senate committee later that month. The Texas Legislature only meets in odd-numbered years, so the earliest that a new bill to protect the private poker clubs could be introduced is January 14, 2025.

Conversely, HB 732 represented an existential threat to the clubs. The bill, introduced by Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), would have changed “private place” to “private residence” — thereby rendering all private poker clubs in non-residential areas illegal.

Besides being introduced in November 2022, Wu’s bill saw no action.

Poker in Texas Today

Where Texas’ Private Poker Clubs are Located

Texas is a large state — it’s the second-largest in the US in terms of area and population — but most poker players in Texas are within driving distance of a private poker club.

Most of the state’s private poker clubs are located in the cities and metropolitan areas across Texas. The website PokerAtlas listed 60 private poker clubs as of January 2024. According to the website, Houston has the most clubs with 19, followed by Austin and Dallas with nine. San Antonio is fourth with eight clubs.

Amarillo, Edinburg, El Paso, Laredo, Lubbock, Midland, Texarkana and Wichita Falls also have private poker clubs.

How Much Membership Fees Typically Cost

State law prohibits private poker clubs from taking a rake (or percentage) of the pot for hosting a poker event. To make money and be in compliance with the law, clubs charge a membership fee.

Daily, monthly, annual, and even lifetime memberships are available, depending on the club. Daily memberships are usually in the $10-$15 range, while monthly memberships can cost anywhere from $30 to $150, depending on the clientele. Annual memberships can cost about $300.

Players also pay an hourly fee for their seats during a poker event. Prices vary, but are usually around $10 to $15 per hour for cash games — tournament prices are higher, usually around $20 to $30 per hour. Some clubs charge as little as $7.50 per hour for cash games. There are even clubs that charge just $5 for a half-hour of cash game play.

Some clubs don’t have an hourly charge on weekday mornings. Some offer free play every morning, including weekends.

Games Available at Private Poker Clubs

Texas’ private poker clubs offer a variety of games. No Limit Hold’em (NLH) is by far the most popular poker game you will find, but other variants that are commonly found include Pot Limit Omaha (PLO), PLO Bomb Pots, Round of Each (ROE), PLO Hi-Lo, Double Board Bomb Pot PLO, and NLH en español.

Most tournaments are NLH. Freerolls, freezeouts, and matinees are also commonly found.

Major Tournament Series Run in Texas

The private poker clubs in Texas routinely host tournaments. Some have tournaments every day, all day long. Among the largest clubs, the following events are scheduled through the first few months of 2024:

  • January 31 — February 4: Rounders Card Club: The Roundup ($200 buy-in)
  • February 14 — 18: Shuffle 214: Winter 100k ($130 buy-in)
  • April 6: Elite Social Club: Tournament Champions
  • May 8 — May 14: The Lodge Poker Club: The $2 Million GTD Lodge Championship Series Main Event ($3,000 buy-in)

The Biggest Private Poker Clubs in Texas

According to PokerAtlas, these are the top five private poker clubs in terms of the number of tables available:

City Private Poker Club Tables
Austin The Lodge Poker Club 68
Dallas Shuffle 214 31
Houston Elite Social Club 63
Texas Card House Spring 32
San Antonio Rounders Card Club 30

A List of Private Poker Clubs in Texas

According to the website PokerAtlas, there were 60 active private poker clubs in Texas as of January 2024. The Houston metro area (including Cypress, Katy, Spring, and Webster) has the most with 19 while Dallas and the state capital Austin each have nine. The Houston area also boasts the most tables with 351, followed by Dallas with 170 and Austin with 157.

City (No. of Clubs) Private Poker Club (No. of Tables) Total Tables
Amarillo (1) Amarillo Social Club (6) 6
Austin (9) Bullets Card Club (5), Georgetown Poker Club (7), Lone Star Social (6), Poker House Austin (25), Red Star Social (8), Shuffle 512 (12), Texas Card House Austin (13), The Lodge Poker Club (68), The Royal Card Club (13) 157
Dallas (9) 5220 Social (10), Lucky’s Social Club (20), Peaks Dallas (11), Poker House Fort Worth (12), Shuffle 214 (31), TCH Social Las Colinas (26), Texas Card House Dallas (26), Texas Double Deuce Social Club (18), The Fort Card Room (16) 170
Edinburg (2) Elite Poker Lounge (12), Texas Card House Rio Grande Valley (9) 21
El Paso (2) House of Kings Card Club (8), Sun City Card Club (8) 16
Houston* (19) 101 Poker Club (12), 4 Suits Social (7), Capri Poker Room (20), Champions Club (20), Clifton Card House (8), Cypress Poker Club (20), Doghouse Poker Club (13), Elite Social Club (63), Empire Poker Club (8), Empire Poker Club Katy (8), Legends Poker Room (23), Paramount Social Club (13), Prime Social Poker Club (23), Spades Poker House (18), Spades Poker House Baytown (15), Star’s Poker Club (15), Texas Card House Houston (28), Texas Card House Spring (32), The Hangar Poker House (5) 351
Laredo (1) Four Kings Card Club (10) 10
Lubbock (3) Gin Mill Card Club Lubbock (4), Stacks Social Club (7), West Texas Card House (4) 15
Midland (4) Basin Poker Club (5), Celebrity Card Club Odessa (6), Kojack’s Poker Club (8), The River League (6) 25
San Antonio (8) Alamo Card House 2 (6), Brooklyn Square Card Parlor (15), Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino (12), Rounders Card Club (30), SA Card House (24), The Big Blind (23), The Office Card House (5), The Royal Card House of San Antonio (10) 125
Texarkana (1) Texline Card House (6) 6
Wichita Falls (1) Alpha Social Card Club (4) 4

* Includes clubs in Cypress, Katy, Spring, and Webster.

Online Poker in Texas

The Main Obstacles for Online Poker in Texas

Texas online poker faces some Texas-sized opposition. It’s a large state geographically and in terms of population — with about 30.5 million residents, it is the second-most populous state.

But Texas is also a socially conservative state. And like most ideologically conservative states, is run by Republicans. The GOP has a trifecta in the state — meaning it has control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature.

Republicans also tend to be more opposed to gaming in general since their constituents are socially conservative. Texas is no exception, and almost all forms of gaming are illegal — save for the state lottery, bingo (including at tribal casinos), horse and greyhound racing, and raffles.

Considering that Texas doesn’t even have sports betting yet, and that sports betting usually (but not always) precedes online poker and casino gaming, it seems that online poker is still likely to be several years away in the Lone Star State.

Latest Developments in iGaming

A bill to legalize mobile sports betting, HB 1942, was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives in February 2023 and won passage three months later. But the bill was dead on arrival in the Senate due to opposition from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and other Republicans in the Senate.

“My experience and my knowledge is that we aren’t even anywhere close to having 15 or 16 votes for casinos,” Patrick told KTVT-TV in Fort Worth on December 1. “When the session was over, there was not a hue and cry from voters calling their senators or their House members.”

Patrick hinted that supporters of mobile sports betting were naïve in thinking it would be legalized anytime soon. “Big things don’t happen overnight,” he said. “You don’t just wave a magic wand, you have to get in the trenches and grind it out.”

Multi-State Poker in Texas

Fast forward to the day when Texas does have legal real money online poker, it’s very likely that the Lone Star State would join a multi-state compact to support online poker. That compact would likely be the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which currently comprises five states — Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

In order for online poker to succeed in a new market, membership in a gaming compact like MSIGA is considered essential. The compact allows operators to combine their player pools across multiple states, thereby creating shared liquidity which can support larger tournaments and bigger prizes.

For that matter, MSIGA would be huge if Texas joined. The total population of the aforementioned five states is just 25.3 million, but with Texas added the compact would more than double in size and would have 55.8 million residents. Under that fantasy expansion scenario, about 17% of the US population would have access to multi-state poker through MSIGA.

Poker Sites Likely to Launch in Texas

Which poker sites would launch in Texas? All of them. Seriously, none of the four major poker operators in the US — BetMGM, PokerStars, WSOP, and Run It Once Poker (which is currently in the works) — are going to want to miss this. Launching in the Lone Star State is a no-brainer.

How online poker operations would be set up in Texas is less clear. Since there are no land-based commercial casinos in the state, there’s no one for online poker (and casino) operators to tether to. Instead, what would likely emerge are one of two scenarios:

  • The state issues standalone licenses to operators (i.e., like New York and Tennessee did for sports betting)
  • Operators are required to partner with certain entities like pro sports teams, stadiums, and racetracks (i.e., like North Carolina and Ohio did for sports betting)

Texas’ membership in MSIGA would give each operator the opportunity to expand their networks immensely. Assuming no other states were to legalize online poker until then (that’s a terrible thought!), BetMGM and WSOP could each create four-state networks, while Run It Once could possibly run across five. PokerStars would appear likely to run a three-state network.

Operator Network Plans
PokerStars US Look for a three-state network that includes MI-NJ-TX.
BetMGM Poker US The operator is still expected to launch in Nevada at some point, making a four-state network of MI-NJ-NV-TX. BetMGM still has to combine its MI and NJ player pools — whether it does so before or after launching in Nevada remains to be seen.
WSOP US Another four-state network of MI-NJ-NV-TX. WSOP currently has an advantage of being the only operator in Nevada, but it lost access to Delaware at the end of 2023.
Run It Once Poker US A poker platform in development by Rush Street Interactive (RSI). RSI will likely be drawn to a three-state network of MI-NJ-TX first, but could add Delaware and West Virginia, too.

Poker in Texas FAQ

Is poker legal in Texas?

Yes, but it operates in a legally gray area. Private poker clubs are able to operate because they charge membership fees from players instead of taking a portion (or rake) from the pot.

Is online poker legal in Texas?

No, real money online poker is not available in Texas. Considering the popularity of the state’s private poker clubs, we think online poker will become available at some point — but it’s likely several years away.

How many private poker clubs are there?

Estimates vary, but the website PokerAtlas listed 60 active private poker clubs as of January 2024. Nineteen clubs are in the Houston area.

Where are the private poker clubs located?

There are clubs all over Texas, but most are clustered in four major metropolitan areas — Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. There are also clubs in Amarillo, Edinburg, El Paso, Laredo, Lubbock, Midland, Texarkana, and Wichita Falls.

How much are membership fees?

Texas’ private poker clubs usually offer daily, monthly, and annual memberships. Some offer lifetime memberships. Daily memberships typically run about $10-$15, while monthly memberships can range from $30-$150, depending on how exclusive the club is. Annual memberships are typically around $300.

Players also play an hourly fee just for a seat at the table. Hourly fees vary, but are usually around $10-$15 per hour for cash games. Fees are higher for tournaments, $20-$30 per hour is not unusual. Some clubs don’t charge hourly fees for morning play, including on weekends.

How do membership fees work?

In order to comply with state law, Texas’ private poker clubs are not allowed to charge a fee (or rake) as compensation for hosting a poker event. In a word: the house is not allowed any of the pot. To get around this, clubs don’t charge a rake — instead, they charge membership and hourly fees. Many also serve food and alcohol.

Are there cash games or tournaments?

Many private poker clubs in Texas run daily cash games and tournaments. No Limit Hold’em (NLH) is the most popular poker by far, but other commonly found variants include Pot Limit Omaha (PLO), PLO Bomb Pots, Round of Each (ROE), PLO Hi-Lo, Double Board Bomb Pot PLO, and NLH en español.

Tournaments are also usually NLH, but look for freerolls, freezeouts, and matinee action, too.

What are the biggest private poker clubs in Texas?

The biggest private poker club in Texas, by the number of tables available, is The Lodge Poker Club in Austin with 68 seats. Elite Social Club in Houston is a close second with 63 seats. Texas Card House Spring in Houston has 32 seats, while Shuffle 214 in Dallas has 31 and Rounders Card Club in San Antonio has 30.

What are the main obstacles to online poker in Texas?

In a word: politics. The state government is controlled by Republicans, whose base is traditionally averse to gaming. But with the proliferation of sports betting, attitudes may be softening. Still, it could take years for sports betting to become legal — with the expectation that online poker and casino would come sometime after that, so long as sports betting was well received by Texans.

What are the latest developments for igaming in Texas?

There’s nothing new to report for online poker, but lawmakers did introduce a bill to legalize sports betting in 2023. But while the GOP-controlled House passed the bill, the GOP-controlled Senate and its president, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (also a Republican), were opposed and the bill died.

Is multi-state poker available in Texas?

No, multi-state poker is not currently available in Texas. But if the Lone Star State were to ever legalize online poker, membership in a multi-state compact like the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) will likely not be far behind. That’s because MSIGA allows poker operators to combine their player pools across multiple states, leading to bigger tournaments and prizes.

Can I play PokerStars in Texas?

PokerStars is not currently available in Texas because online poker is not legal in the state. But the operator would absolutely want to launch there, should it become legal. That’s because Texas is a huge state (30.5 million residents) and would be a huge market for PokerStars and all online poker operators.

Can I play BetMGM Poker in Texas?

BetMGM Poker is also not available in Texas because online poker is not yet legal. If online poker were made legal, we expect that BetMGM — a 50/50 joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International — would be extremely interested to launch in the state.

Can I play WSOP in Texas?

No, WSOP is also not available in Texas. But like PokerStars and BetMGM Poker, we firmly believe that WSOP will launch in the Lone Star State if online poker becomes legal there. Remember, Texas is the second-largest state in terms of population — it would be pretty remarkable if WSOP (or any other operator) didn’t want to launch there.

Can I bet on offshore sites instead?

Offshore poker sites do not offer the same consumer protection level as legal, regulated sites. Since that’s the case, they are not recommended. When players disclose their financial and personal information on offshore sites, they are at risk of identity theft. Federal officials warn US citizens not to use offshore sites because they have no legal recourse to collect winnings owed to them.

Information on the dangers of US citizens gambling on illegal offshore sites and how to tell if a poker site is legal is available in this guide on Poker Shield.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500