When professional poker player Doug Polk set his sights on Austin eight months ago, he joked that he moved from Las Vegas "to get away from poker."
But he didn't get his wish. Since then, Polk and other prominent poker stars teamed up to buy majority rights of The Lodge, the Austin area's biggest poker house, as more and more poker players look to hit the jackpot in Austin.
Lone Star residents no longer have to trek to Vegas for their fix of Texas Hold 'Em thanks to a loophole in Texas' gambling ban that allows poker games to be played in private residences. Instead of taking a cut from the pot, private poker houses don't make money from the results of a game; instead, they get their revenue from membership and hourly fees.
The result has been a poker boom that saw as many as a hundred poker houses operating in the state in 2021. Polk, who made a name for himself as a world leader in live streaming poker on YouTube and started Upswing Poker, one of the world's most popular poker training sites, shifted out of semi-retirement to check out the craze in Austin after he happened upon a poker house near a local coffee shop.
"It wasn't like some grand master plan that was coming to fruition," Polk told Austonia. "It was more just like stumbling my way into it and then realizing that I kind of wanted to be involved in it."
Since then, Polk's been seen at live streams for the highest-stakes tables in the city at popular venues Texas Card House and The Lodge. He's usually found placing big bets across from fellow stars like Brad Owen and Andrew Neeme, who joined Polk in buying majority ownership of The Lodge in January.
The co-owners were originally looking to build a card house of their own but quickly set their sites on The Lodge. Easily the biggest poker hub in Austin, the 24/7, 60-table Round Rock venue already had the perfect foundation to build their brand on.
"We took all of our marketing, audiences and online skillset and paired that with the brick and mortar business they had already built," Polk said. "It's the biggest room before we even funnel everything that we can to promote and market and build, (so) you can only imagine how big that we can take it once we have everything in full swing."
OUT NOW! :clapper:Brad Owen @TheBradOwen Andrew Neeme @andrewneeme and Doug Polk @DougPolkVids team up to buy The Lodge Poker Club @lodgepokerclub
appearances by @rampagepoker@SrslySirius and many more! #pokernews#pokerfilms
HERE IS THE STORY!
link to video: https://t.co/b8WzWVljV5pic.twitter.com/YNKXQofJnr
— forloveormoneypoker (@forlove_ormoney) February 7, 2022
Pairing the trio's celebrity savvy with Texas' more laid-back style of play has already been a success. For their first monthly tournament from Jan. 24-30, The Lodge saw its guaranteed $500,000 prize pool break $1 million. The tournament, dubbed the Monthly Monster, is the largest live streamed monthly tournament in the world.
Distant clouds have recently emerged in Texas' poker scene, however. In late January, the city of Dallas revoked the city's Texas Card House location permit after a change in the city gambling policy, and a Houston poker house has recently switched ownership and rebranded after allegations of financial mismanagement.
But Polk said The Lodge hasn't yet caught wind of legal battles in Austin and said the team is focused on building a reputable brand that could eventually expand to new locations nationwide.
"Our vision is a brand that you can trust around the country as a good place to play poker," Polk said. "I feel like poker players a lot of times don't get treated well by establishments, so we want to be player-focused to be a great place to play and develop to grow the brand nationally."
Until The Lodge becomes a household name, catch Polk calling bluffs at the venue twice a week or watch the crew plan more of the highest-stakes hands in Texas history at Monthly Monster sessions or even bigger Mayhem series each spring and fall.
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May's second election is here, in which voters will decide on the candidates to represent their party in the November general election after the winner in some March primary races was unclear.
Just like the March primaries, voters will choose which party they choose to vote in. Then based on location, each ballot will show which races are in a runoff.
In Texas, candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to be elected. In the races where the top candidate only received a plurality of votes, a runoff is being held.
Here's everything you need to know before heading to the polls.
Know before you go
Early voting for the Texas primary runoff election begins Monday and will last through May 20; Election Day is May 24.
The registration period for this election has passed; check if you're registered to vote here.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. As long as you're in line by 7 p.m., you can vote.
You'll need a valid photo ID to present once you're at a polling location.
Here are the early voting locations in Travis County.
View wait times at polling locations here.
Races to watch in Travis County:
- Republican: Incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Mike Collier and Michelle Beckley are vying to be the Democrat candidate on the ballot.
- Republican: Incumbent AG Ken Paxton is fighting for his seat against George P. Bush.
- Democratic: Rochelle Garza and Joe Jaworski will face off to be the Democratic candidate in this race.
View all the statewide races on the ballot here.
U.S. House of Representatives
View the district you live in here.
- Republican: Incumbent Chip Roy won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Claudia Andreana Zapata and Ricardo Villarreal are hoping to secure this vote.
- Republican: Dan McQueen and Michael Rodriguez are going head to head to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Former Austin council member Greg Casar won this race in March.
- Republican: Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry are vying to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Pam Baggett won her primary in March.
Texas has been home to some of the country’s biggest celebrities of all time—think Amarillo resident Georgia O'Keeffe, Lubbock’s Buddy Holly and Corpus Christi’s famous singer Selena.
The Pudding’s People Map of the U.S., which shows each city’s “most Wikipedia’ed” resident, placed celebrities from all walks of life on the Texas map. As for Central Texas celebrities, there are some interesting (and not so surprising) names on deck.
Proving that Austin is “alright, alright, alright,” Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey is both Austin’s and Uvalde’s top Wikipedia’ed resident. McConaughey, who was born in San Antonio adjacent Uvalde, has deeply ingrained himself in Austin by studying Radio-Television-Film at UT Austin, starring in the Austin-filmed movie “Dazed and Confused” and investing in Austin FC.
Heading down just a few miles south, San Marcos claimed former president Lyndon Baines Johnson as Texas State University’s most famous alumni, who graduated in 1930, and was also named in Fredericksburg. LBJ wasn’t the only ex-president on the map—George W. Bush was listed as the top resident in Dallas, Midland, Houston and Crawford.
You’ll see some other names with ties to Austin strewn around the state: Janis Joplin in Beaumont and Port Arthur; Stone Cold Steve Austin in Victoria and Edna; Dan Rather in his hometown of Wharton; and Waylon Jennings in Littlefield.
Venturing outside of the central areas, there are big celebrities who call Texas Home. Actress and artist Selena Gomez dominated search traffic in her hometown of Grand Prairie, musical artist Post Malone was most “Wikipedia’ed” in Grapevine, and Shaquille O’Neal was named in the city where he went to high school, San Antonio.
Plus, Thomas Haden Church, Angela Kinsey, Jessica Simpson, Chuck Norris, Roy Orbison, Ron White, Jessica Alba, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Dean and Johnny Manziel all had at least one city covered on the list.
Where’s Texas’ newest resident, Elon Musk? You’ll find him still in Los Angeles, as his foray into Texas living has just begun.Click here to view the full map.