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