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Best Of 2006

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Place to Shoot Off

Maybe the first date is not the time to try to impress a woman with tales of your extensive gun collection (unless you're in East Texas, in which case it may win you a lot of points). Of course, you could just skip the small talk and take your date right to the Bullet Trap, where she'll whisper sweet nothings to you while you unload magazine after magazine from your Glock into a silhouette target. Or if you're not comfortable, uh, shooting on the first date, you can peruse their impressive selection of new and used firearms and accessories. (Tell her that if she's lucky, maybe she'll find a derringer in her stocking next Christmas.) If your lady's a safety girl, they offer classes for the novice and classes to qualify for a concealed-handgun permit. If you're packin', you want to make sure your woman knows how to handle your gun.

SCENES: Ante Up

There is a place in Dallas called Redmansor The Redmans or Redmans Lodge or a host of other monikersthat is legendary amongst poker players. It is not terribly hard to find, should you know its general location, which we would not presume to give away here lest Dallas police read this. No, once a years quite enough for poker players, about 80 of whom were arrested or cited in June when the cast of A&Es reality show Dallas SWAT wham-bammed down the door at Aces on Irving Boulevard. They showed up well prepared that night, with full diagrams of the jointdown to the number of tables and the seat positions at each, to better keep track of the players popped for playing Texas Hold Em. The raid even received mention from the Cato Institutes Web site, which referred to the bust and others like it across the country as examples of frightening militarism. All that force used on people playing cards. Bret Maverick would not have approved.

So we will leave Redmans alone, save to say its hallowed ground for would-be rounders and wanna-be pros whove heard tales of T.J. Cloutier, Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim Preston, David Williams and other players shoving big stacks across the famous felt. Redmans has been around forever and feels like itsmells like it, actually, its aroma that of a locker room used as an ashtray. Its as much an essential and vital piece of Dallas history as any of the citys few remaining landmarks, yet it cant be celebrated out in the open because what happens in therepeople playing cards for money, just like they do on TV seemingly 24 hours a dayremains illegal in the state.

As Kinky Friedman puts it, We invented Texas Hold Em, and we cant play it, which is true: In Texas, any game in which the house takes a cut of a winning pota rakeis considered to be breaking the law, which is why places such as Redmans exist beneath ground, its low rumble audible only to those tuned in to the frequency of the clinking of chips being stacked between flops and folds. Aces got popped because it was too out in the open, advertising its doings on the Internet. Says a friend who once sat at a table there, It was asking for it.

Yet not so long ago, many of Dallas underground poker rooms played the same loose-aggressive game. By some counts, there were about 200 card rooms in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with almost a quarter of those in the 214 or 972, and many of them posted their schedules on the Web, begging you to come buy into their low-stakes games. Now comes word that but a fraction of a fraction of them remainthree or four, says Dan Michalski, whose Pokerati blog has for several years detailed the rise and fall of poker rooms in the area. (Michalski also now runs PokerBlog.com, and for a long time he ran the Sunday-afternoon free-roll tournaments at The Lodge.)

Which means Dallas has lost some of its best roomsplaces such as the Murfield, the Platinum Room and Stagecoach, the latter of which was in northwest Dallas and boasted the big-screen sheen of any decent casino, served up a decent meal, allowed no booze, sent smokers to a private room and boasted stellar players keeping polite company (except for the son of a bitch who called my $10 raise holding nothing more than 9-2 off-suit and hit two pair on the flop). Thats not to say Dallas still doesnt have a scene; far from it. In fact, in his new book Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for Americas Worst Poker Players, Jay Greenspan writes, Dallas is said to have the best underground poker scene in the country, and he visited a few spots that did little to disabuse him of that notion.

But Michalski, who was Greenspans tour guide of Dallas poker joints and receives copious mentions in the book, says theyve been replaced by underground games that are well above-groundwhich is to say, in apartment complexes and office buildings and other far-outta-the-way places that hold only two or three tables and fewer players than the old-fashioned card rooms populated by rounders up to their asses in cards and other rounders.

The scene is clearly back, Michalski says. The games still exist, theyve just gone more underground, and theyve gone small. You have a lot of three-table rooms where someones rented out a loft. I just got an e-mail today that says the Platinum Room is back. It doesnt say where the location is, and thats because theres also a tougher screening process. Indeed, only a year ago all you needed was to know a places location to buy into a game; today, youre invited by e-mail, given a contact number and usually only if you know somebody connected to the game.

Theyre calling them home games now, Michalski says. The truth is, theyre still taking rakes and making money. But theyre treating them like home games, as opposed to these people who were actively promoting and throwing big tournaments. Trust me, the scene is fine and dandy.

So, somebody deal me in, already. Robert Wilonsky

Best Dance Club
Cowboys Red River

Kids these days. Always listening to that goldurned rap music. Drinking their mojitos and wearing them dee-signer jeans. Getting "crunk." Back in our day, there weren't no "crunk." There was two-steppin' and Wranglers and ice-cold Lone Star. That's why we like Cowboys Red River. You could call an over-decorated, under-air-conditioned room filled with 20-somethings rubbing together butt-to-crotch a dance club. But you'd be wrong, pardner. You'd do better to call a place where people go to dance a dance club. Cowboys Dance Hall is just such a place. There's just nothing like a giant warehouse with an expansive, round dance floor and a live honky-tonk band to get our boot heels a-tappin'. We'll go round and round with the "Cotton-Eyed Joe" or wow our lady friend with a mean schottische. Then, we'll do her right and buy her a beer and a shot o' whiskey from the bar. After that she'll be ready for a go on Cowboys' mechanical bull. And then, if we're lucky, a ride of a different kind. You know how the saying goes, right? Save a horse...

10310 Technology Blvd. W., Dallas, 75220
MAP
214-352-1796
Best Place to Hear Poorly Played Riffs

Though we generally prefer eBay or craigslist when it comes to purchasing our axes, we do venture to Guitar Center on Central from time to time for the little things--strings, tuners, cables, etc. Without fail we always see: A) at least one complete emo band loitering in the parking lot, B) at least one past or present member of [DARYL] or the Deathray Davies, and C) some dude playing a slightly off-kilter rendition of a riff from either a Stevie Ray Vaughan or a Red Hot Chili Peppers song--sometimes we can't even tell which one; we only know that it's most likely one of the two.

Best Place to Scoot Your Boots
The Round-Up Saloon

For more than a quarter-century The Round-Up Saloon has been one of Dallas' premier purveyors of country and western music, dancing and good times for good folks. Although classified as a gay bar, this popular watering hole welcomes those of all genders and persuasions, and any given night will give testimony that all types are present and all feel welcome. The Round-Up features all genres of country music, including old country, new/old remakes, young country and even crossover country. In short, the range of music offers styles, speeds and tastes to satisfy all. Nearly as rangy as the Ponderosa, this large club features six different bars and areas certain to provide the desired atmosphere to comfortably lip a long-neck (read that however you like). New shows and special events are scheduled frequently to ensure things keep hopping and hooting. Regular beer busts (50 cent draft!), karaoke, free dance lessons and Friday and Saturday Howdy Hour are popular mainstays here.

3912 Cedar Springs Rd., Dallas, 75219
MAP
214-522-9611
Best Place to Hear Mariachis
El Ranchito

Every night we dine at this Oak Cliff institution we're treated to the best atmosphere of any Mexican joint in Dallas, complete with a roster of the city's finest mariachis. The fervent strumming of guitars, voices raised in perfect harmony, the sound of twin trumpets ringing off the tile--it's the next best thing to San Antonio, only you don't have to drive five hours and fight the River Walk crowds. On our last visit we even caught a touring act, an amplified band complete with twin saxophones, keyboard bass and a guy who had the sole responsibility of playing the hi-hat on the offbeat--with his hand.

610 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas, 75208
MAP
214-946-4238
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Best Place to Shoot Off: Bullet Trap Inc.

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