The parking lot in All-In Poker Club is flush on a Saturday night. After paying membership dues to enter the private club at 2100 E. Elms Road in Killeen, one might be surprised by the empty pool table and dartboard or the empty lounge seating area and food bar.
But the main attraction can’t be missed: the poker tables in the middle of the well-lit room were nearly all filled on a recent Saturday night with skillful players making the most of the hands they were dealt and hoping for a little luck, too.
But at the $50 minimum buy in for Texas Hold ‘Em, All-In Poker Club is not a place for beginners to get their feet wet; members play for keeps.
In addition to the open tables and tournaments, All-In Poker Club can facilitate private games between friends — eliminating outside competition.
“We pride ourselves on creating a great environment for anyone interested in putting their skills to the test,” their website boasts. “Whether you are hoping to set up a memorable party and have a bit of fun with your friends or you simply want to exercise your skills, All-In Poker is the club to play.”
It’s not the only poker club to pop up Killeen in the last year or more.
All-In Poker Club and High Society Poker Club at 1102 W. Jasper Drive are two local establishments that offer poker games to their members seven days a week.
“Our clientele consists of normal everyday people that enjoy testing their skills at the poker tables,” said All-In Poker Club General Manager Kerry Walker Sr. “We have more males than females that participate in this sport; however, both are of equal talents.”
While members share an interest in poker, Walker said the primary mission of the business is to be a social club.
“We pride ourselves on providing a friendly atmosphere for a very diverse crowd to come together and socialize,” Walker said. “There are very few opportunities that adults have to sit down with 10 other adults and have intellectual, comical and even sometimes arbitrary conversations.”
Electric staccatos rise above a hush as the game intensifies, then simmer back down to an intense murmur for the rest of the round.
Members of the poker club vary in age from 18 to 75 years old, Walker said.
The legal question
When the Herald asked the Killeen Police Department about the clubs, KPD responded with a straightforward response.
All gambling is illegal in Killeen, according Ofelia Miramontez spokeswoman for KPD.
“All businesses are required to have a permit,” said Miramontez, “however, gambling is illegal.”
Miramontez did not comment as to whether any of the local establishments are currently under investigation for gambling.
However, the method the poker clubs get around Texas gambling laws is not so straightforward.
The issue of the legality of local establishments that allow poker games is complicated, according to Tammy Bracewell, assistant professor of criminal justice at Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.
“Currently, the poker rooms are operating in a type of legal gray zone,” Bracewell said.
Although the Texas Penal Code section 47.02, prohibits betting based solely or partially on chance, there are exceptions. The “rooms” are able to operate because the legality as stated in Section 47.02b of the Texas Penal Code hinges on three factors, she said.
First, it must be a private establishment — which is addressed by requiring all people who enter the club to pay membership dues, Bracewell said.
Second, the house cannot get a “cut” of the winnings, she said.
“Third, the only winnings must be because of luck or chance — basically nothing is rigged,” Bracewell said.
These same exceptions are what allow private citizens to be able to hold a legal game of Texas Hold’em in their homes, she said.
Both law enforcement and club owners around the state are waiting for the attorney general to make an official statement on the matter, Bracewell said.
“The Texas AG was asked for an opinion last year and declined to issue one,” Bracewell said.
Once the Texas attorney general does issue an opinion, things will most likely change. “For now, things are in a stalemate with the businesses able to continue to operate,” Bracewell said.
All-In Poker Club has taken measures to ensure they meet the exceptions articulated in the penal code, Walker said.
“We have gone through extraordinary lengths with all the proper authorities to ensure our business model operates within the confines of all local municipality, state and federal; statues, laws and regulations,” Walker said. “There are a wide range of checks and balances from state and local government that must be adhered to.”
Playing in the club
In order to enter All-In Poker Club, individuals must pay membership dues to join the private club, Walker said. They can pay $10 for one day’s admittance, or $60 for a month, Walker said. They are additionally working on a model for an annual due amount, he said.
In addition to membership dues, poker players pay $7 per hour to play, and they can sit at any open table, he said.
All-In Poker Club has been operating under the current management since Dec. 7, 2017.
The club regularly offers a variety of at least eight different types of games ranging from Texas Hold’em to Omaha and tournaments such as Free-roll, buy-in and Crazy Pineapple.
Players buy chips to play, and when they cash out at the end of the night they keep all of their profits, Walker said. There is no fee for the chips, he said.
“We are a ‘Member’s Interest’ club meaning any member can walk in and request a certain game be played,” Walker said. “If we have five members in our facility willing to play that game, we will open a table for that request.”
The club is open daily from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., with early opening times of 1 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
“Thursday through Saturday tends to be our highest foot traffic nights,” Walker said. “However, each day varies.”
On average, the club fills three of their four tables a night, with an average of 30 to 70 members, Walker said.
But poker is not the only game available at All-In Poker Club. The facility also has a pool table, dart board and Tiki Toss. WiFi is available, and a sitting lounge with reclining sofas offer a comfortable place to view all major sport events on one of six 70-inch television screens — including UFC Fights.
A full kitchen offers a variety of fresh foods all made to order, Walker said.
“From fresh cut French fries to our famous steak dinner, we have our members covered,” Walker said. “Our brand new revamped menu was introduced to our members on Feb. 3, 2019.”
Members also have access to mini-fridges to store their own food and drinks in at the bring-your-own-beer club.
Looking ahead, All-In Poker Club plans to employ a licensed massage therapist — so members can purchase a chair massage while playing poker, Walker said.
All-In Poker Club is a veteran-owned and operated business backed by the Better Business Bureau and the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce since early 2018, Walker said.
But All-In Poker Club isn’t just about entertainment and fellowship — they give back to the community of Killeen.
“We pride ourselves on supporting the community that supports us,” Walker said. “We are always looking for an opportunity to get involved in local charities.”
In December 2018, All-In Poker Club participated in the AWARE Central Texas and Child Abuse Prevention Center, raising over $2,000 for families in need during the holiday season.
“The Killeen Police Department came to our facility to speak on behalf of the Aware Program and to collect all donations,” Walker said.
All-In Poker Club sponsored a table at Rock the Foundation Casino Night hosted by the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce
“This table helped raise money for scholarships benefiting students that are attending Central Texas College and Texas A&M University,” Walker said.
The 21 employees at All-In Poker Club come from all walks of life, Walker said.
“The owners of All-In Poker Club pride ourselves in giving opportunities and responsibilities to hardworking, honest men and women that others may argue are not ‘qualified’ for,” he said.
For more information, call 254-542-5525 or visit https://www.allinpokerclubs.com.