When it comes to talk of casinos and poker, Las Vegas and Oklahoma typically come to mind.
It turns out, however, there’s a smaller-scale, members-only poker room in our backyard that hosts tournaments every day.
Shuffle 214 is a private game room/ social club that started in Austin as Shuffle 512 before expanding to Dallas last year in June. Located at the corner of Northwest Highway and Jupiter Road, it’s a spot where strangers become regulars.
Despite strict Texas gambling laws, there are casinos and social clubs, like this one, operating legally. Texas Penal Code 47.02 states that gambling is illegal unless it happens in a private place and no one makes money other than those playing.
Not long after the club opened, it was at risk of losing its occupancy permit. District 12 council member Cara Mendelsohn called for Shuffle 214 and Texas Card House (another poker club) to have their certificates of occupancy removed.
The matter has since been laid to rest. Shuffle 214 stayed open.
We spoke with shift manager Ross Carroll on how the room operates and who can play.
Interview has been edited for clarity.
How long have you been in poker?
I’m from Mobile, Alabama. I’ve been in poker for 21 years now, and I started just before Hurricane Katrina at a casino called the Grand Biloxi. And the storm surge just picked it up, dropped it onto the highway. After that, I spent three years traveling with the World Series of Poker. And I stayed with Caesars Entertainment, which is a big casino company, for 15 years, and I was a shift manager at Horseshoe. I brought three or four guys with casino experience with me [to Texas].
What challenges did you face setting up a game room in Texas?
I’ve got gaming badges because I’ve traveled for the World Series of Poker in eight states. So, when you decide to move here, the first thing you want to decide is, is this legal? Can we do this? I get one gaming offense and I’ll never work again anywhere, right? So you want to make sure this is OK. I read through the Penal Code, talked to a bunch of friends in the market and, based on the Texas Penal Code, there’s nothing that says this can’t happen. There have been a lot of growing pains, but I’m incredibly pleased with the direction it’s going now it takes a while to the started.
Who can play at Shuffle 214? How busy does it get?
You’ve got to be 18 and up, you have to have an ID. We wouldn’t let you on the carpet without a membership. Between 6 and 10 p.m., when everybody’s getting off from work, that’s when it’s busiest. If you stuck around for a couple of hours, you’d see it’s retirees, police officers, folks with jobs and people looking to have a good time in this room playing very recreational stakes.
Is it often that players lose their cool here?
We’ve got a handful of players who’ve already self banned themselves, right? “Don’t let me back in here.” That’s based on conversations that we have with them. And they’re doing good at it. Whether you’re playing basketball, or checkers, or poker—people are competitive. In these 15 months, it very rarely gets out of hand. I’ve had to ask six people, seven people to leave because of their behavior. But what you get at a place like this is a knowledgeable supervisor who asks upset or irritated players to step away from the table.
Shuffle 214 is located at 11411 NW Hwy.