Many during the COVID lockdown, when it comes to their poker viewing and streaming options, have reached that signpost on the internet that says, “Don’t you have something better to do?” Poker options have been especially sparse as the usual outlets have been bereft of programming. That, in this case, is a good thing because I otherwise would not have stumbled across Poker Night at The Lodge, a welcome and surprisingly quality addition to the poker television and streaming landscape.
Poker Night at The Lodge Provides Quality Poker Entertainment
While searching through YouTube for something to watch on Wednesday night, I came across Poker Night at The Lodge, completely by chance. The program is the offering from The Lodge Poker Club and Card House in Round Rock, TX, featuring cash game play at their facilities that has been going on, from appearances, for the last six months. This excellent “hidden secret” of the poker community covers stakes that seem to range from $1/$3 cash games up to a larger, $5/$5 game that, if it is anything like the game I saw on Wednesday, should be bonkers.
“Wait,” you say. “It’s not legal to play poker in Texas.” Well, you would be partially right. According to the state’s Constitution, it IS illegal to gamble in the Lone Star State. In fact, recent actions in Austin are attempting to change this situation so that there can be legalized casino gaming in the state, but they are not anticipated to be able to effect much change. But there is a gray area that some entrepreneurial souls have tapped into.
Texas has seen an influx of “membership clubs” have sprung up that provide an outlet to play poker. These clubs do not take a rake from the play on the tables but charge a “membership fee” to allow people to come in the doors. While some areas have tried to shut these clubs down (the most notable failed effort was in Houston), they have been able to thrive because 1) people want to play poker, and 2) law enforcement cannot find a way that these clubs are breaking the law.
This is the arena that The Lodge operates in Round Rock. From all appearances, The Lodge and its poker room would rival anything that you would find in Las Vegas or even Los Angeles. Their 20-table room is replete with everything you would expect in a poker room – high quality HDTVs for sports viewing, a bar and food service, and waiting areas if you are waiting for your game to be called. But it is Poker Night at The Lodge that sets this Texas poker club apart from the pack.
Excellent Work Across the Board, Strong Play Equals Great Show
Wednesdays and Saturdays are the normal days that Poker Night at The Lodge streams their program (there is also supposed to be a “Ladies’ Night” game on April 11), and it appears that the program starts around 9PM Eastern time. Across the board, there is excellent work by the staff at The Lodge for putting the show on. Additionally, the players themselves are of high quality and they provide a great show for the viewers.
The announcers for the show are Rick Epstein and Mike Reisman and both do an exceptionally good job of explaining the action on the felt. It is not your traditional “play-by-play/color man” setup as both have some poker skills to their credit and they easily slip between providing insight into the players’ minds while keeping the action on the table in the forefront. They also have the unenviable task of keeping engaged with the YouTube chat that runs with the program; as someone who has played in and broadcast online poker tournaments and had to keep up with a chat room, this is incredibly difficult. But Epstein and Reisman do this outstandingly with the banter they provide during the program.
Production-wise, Poker Night at The Lodge also hits all the right marks. They run what looks like a three-camera system that allows the table to be covered thoroughly and their RFID to identify the cards and chips did not have one flaw in the evening. In fact, the only mistake that occurred when I watched was the dealer accidentally pulling four cards for the flop, which was quickly rectified by the floor (and, I must add, this was the ONLY mistake the dealer made while I watched). They provided all the statistical information that you might have wanted, something for the poker stat geeks in the audience. The show was also not marred by any streaming issues, something that is critical to putting on a great product.
The players on the table also deserve their kudos. Some of them got into the spirit of the show, using colorful nicknames (“Chi-Town Cat,” “The Spaniard”), but they all showed a high level of skill on the tables. Surprisingly, one of the best moves of the night went to a player called “The Fish,” who pushed all in with only a 6♥ 5♥, a gut shot straight draw and a dream against a player with Big Slick who was leading overall. That player CORRECTLY laid down their Ace-high hand, something that is extraordinarily difficult even in the upper echelons of poker.
Poker Night at The Lodge also conducted their chatroom on YouTube in a highly excellent manner. One of the things that I despise about YouTube chat rooms is that they usually become a cesspool of spam, off-color language and boisterous macho measurements from keyboard warriors. There was NONE of this in the chat on the Poker Night YouTube chat room – everyone was quite pleasant, discussing the action, interacting with the hosts and generally acting like adults. Don’t know if it is The Lodge that deserves credit for monitoring this or the people who were taking part in the chat room acting in an adult manner, but it was very encouraging and enjoyable.
If there were one EXTREMELY nitpicky point to downgrade Poker Night at The Lodge, it would be that you could not hear any interaction between the players. With the lack of microphones, you could not tell if the conversation on the felt was cordial or whether there were some actual rivalries building on the felt. This is, as stated at the start, a very nitpicky point, as it seemed that Epstein and Reisman were able to keep a pulse on the table through informational relays from the floor.
With the lack of streaming poker content right now (sorry, PokerGO…we can only watch so many reruns), Poker Night at The Lodge carries on in the tradition of the old Live at the Bike by providing excellent cash game action between players that people can identify with, the average “Poker Joe” and not the “professionals” that make up other games. If you’re looking for something new in your poker streaming schedule, Poker Night at The Lodge hits all the high points and is well worth your time to check out.