Members only: Texas prohibits most forms of gambling, but that isn’t stopping a growing number of private poker clubs from trying their hands at doing business in the state, including one soon to open in downtown Galveston.

Owners Barry Hailey, Donnie Childress and Cory Ondo, who is also the operations manager, plan to open Vault Poker Club, 2002 Strand St., in The Hendley Building. And it’s all perfectly legal, Hailey said.

By keeping the establishment private and membership-based and by not taking the rake, which is the commission fee taken by a card room operating a poker game, Vault Poker Club is able to avoid running afoul of state gaming rules, Hailey said. No one except the players can receive personal winnings.

Vault Poker Room will make its money by charging daily, monthly and yearly membership fees and by a $6 chair rate, which covers 30 minutes.

Several private poker clubs have opened in Austin, San Antonio and in the Houston area, including Mint Poker in Webster and the upscale Post Oak Poker Club in Houston. Those establishments have fared well, but police pressure prompted some private poker clubs to fold in North Texas, according to reports.

Vault won’t sell alcohol, but will have wine lockers. And, as evidenced in North Texas, it’s important to not take law enforcement by surprise. Hailey and business partners have met with some city council members and with the Galveston Police Department to educate officials about what they plan to do and to avoid any issues. The club also will hire security for the establishment, Hailey said.

The private clubs allow people who enjoy a good game of poker to do so without sneaking around, Hailey said. And this won’t be some smoky, dark venue, he said. Anyone walking by Vault Poker Club will be able to look into the windows and see people playing the game.

“At any given time, there are games that are happening that are illegal and in back alleys,” Hailey said. “This is out in the open with security and where people can feel safe. Everything is above board.”

Vault Poker Club plans a Jan. 26 grand opening with a tournament.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248;

Managing Editor

(1) comment

Judy Patane

legal poker room, next a casino. hope its successful

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