The world of Texas poker clubs has been a tumultuous one. While there are some verifiable success stories, there are also those that haven’t done so well. In that latter category, it seems we can now add in the San Antonio Poker Palace, which shut down last week after allegedly reneging on a promotion that the poker club was holding.

Bad Beat Jackpot Went Unpaid

According to the San Antonio Express-News journalist Patrick Danner, the San Antonio Poker club was promoting a $100,000 “bad beat” jackpot. Under the rules of the jackpot, hands of at the minimum Aces full of Kings would qualify if they were beaten by four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush. The odds of this occurring, as stated by Danner, were roughly 1 in 71,000.

The poker club probably thought that they were safe from this happening in their club. But that is exactly what happened on April 6, when two players clashed in a hand. One of the two players held four of a kind, but his opponent was able to cobble together a straight flush. Under the rules of the hand, the loser in the hand would have received $50,000, the winner in the hand would receive $25,000, and the remainder of the players would divvy up the remaining $25,000.

Except that San Antonio Poker Palace didn’t pony up the cash.

The resulting uproar saw many players swear never to enter the establishment again and, after another month of operation, the club would close. Now the landlord for the property where the club was located has filed a lawsuit seeking a minimum payment of $250,000 for nonpayment of rent and other various expenditures. Attempts by Danner to contact the two men who were allegedly responsible for the club’s operations, Richard Florestan and Christopher Aarons, were unanswered and phone numbers listed for the two are no longer in service.

Additional research by this writer shows that Florestan is also listed as the operator of another poker club in Texas. At, Florestan is shown as the President of Austin Poker Palace and has several other LLCs that he or his family are operating. There is no further information on Aarons regarding the issue.

Difficult History of Texas Poker Clubs

All this controversy comes at a very difficult time in Texas poker club history. While the state is considered the home of the most popular form of poker, Texas Hold’em, the laws regarding gambling in the state are quite clear – you can’t do it. Any wagering is strictly forbidden in the Lone Star State, save for a few racetracks and Indian casinos.

Some adventurous entrepreneurs, however, decided that they had found a loophole in Texas gaming laws. By not taking a rake from the pots or any tournament buy-ins, which is the standard method for a poker operation to make money, these people decided to instead charge a “membership fee” which allowed the players to come in and take part in the activities of what would then be considered a “private club.”

Whether they didn’t want to take on the hassle of the legal system or whether they decided that it was an allowable operation, for the most part, the different legal representatives from several cities decided not to broach the issue. In the times that charges were brought against the clubs, the District Attorneys were unable to effectively mount a prosecution.

With the legal system’s ineffectiveness, it was up to the Texas Legislature to move. Because the state’s lawmakers only meet every other year, however, they were unable to come to any agreements on what to do with the issue of the poker clubs. In the past year, there were two competing bills – one to legalize the operation of the clubs and one to close the businesses – but neither was passed out of committee. The latest actions of San Antonio Poker Palace certainly aren’t going to shine a favorable light on the industry in either the legal or political arenas.

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