Bill Won't Hold 'Em: Texans Playing Poker For Cash In Bars & Charity Events

You may soon be able to play poker for real money in Texas bars and even at charity events. Currently Texas law allows gambling on a card game if it's done in a private place, but one state representative wants to change all that. We spoke with local bar owners and non-profit organizations to get their take on House Bill 3186, also known as the Poker bill.

From nation-wide tournaments to web sites with thousands of hits a day, Texas Hold 'Em Poker is stacking up in popularity. And a bill that went through committee Tuesday could make it legal to play in a lot more places. The bill allows for bars and racetracks to set up poker tournaments with as many as four tables. Charity Poker tournaments would also be legal.

"What this bill means is that the place poker was invented will finally be able to have poker games, we're going to see a lot of people that are currently playing underground coming out into the light and being able to play poker in an open environment and a safe environment more importantly and the state will finally benefit from all of the poker dollars," says Mike Lavigne with the Texas Poker Political Action Committee.

It's estimated the tournaments could bring in more than a billion dollars for the state over the next two years.

Back Street Bar and Grill in Longview already has poker tournaments for fun, but with this bill, they could be bringing in the big bucks.

"It'd make money for me and it'd be revenue for the state also," says Charline Herriage, the bar's owner.

The Gregg County Memorial VFW sees the bill as a way to get their members out of their homes for poker tournaments and at their tables instead, raising money for their organization.

"I don't see any reason why we wouldn't do it, seems like a good cause to'd be fun for everybody and make money in the meantime," says Diana Motley, a charity head for the Gregg County Memorial VFW.

But others don't agree.

"I just think that once get that passed, that they'll come back in wanting to open casinos in Texas and I'm against gambling," says Kathy Marrs, who's against the proposed bill.

But most people with spoke with say they'd rather hold on to the money from Texas Hold 'Em, rather than lose it to states like Louisiana.

House Bill 3186 was authored by San Antonio Representative Jose Menendez.

Tracy Watler/Reporting: