Houston FreeRolls Poker Club's New Model Introduces Table Commercials
Poker in Texas is hot right now. Over the past year, poker clubs have sprung up across the state, and despite operating in a bit of a grey area, the Lone Star State industry continues to grow.
That includes a WPT DeepStacks stop coming to Houston’s FreeRolls Poker Club, which opened last month and has already established itself as a leader in the Texas poker market. The $1,000 buy-in, $100K GTD WPT DeepStack Houston Main Event will run from September 26 – October 2.
"One day I totally flipped the current poker model from making money from members to making money because of the members."
FreeRolls is unique in that they don’t charge any fees beyond membership. That means no rake, no seat rentals and no illegal tipping. As long as clubs don’t make money directly from poker, it is legal in Texas, or so club owners believe.
Despite others, like Houston City Councilman Greg Travis who said on a radio show that he believed Texas poker clubs are “illegal under Texas law,” the clubs continue to operate. Not only that, they’re making moves.
For instance, FreeRolls Poker Club has introduced a new advertising model in which they will air commercials at the poker table and are also seeking investors after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) passed the JOBS Act, which allows for small companies to raise capital from the public via crowdfunding portals like growthfountain.com.
PokerNews recently spoke with Trent Daniel, business development director of FreeRolls, to delve a little deeper into poker in Texas.
PokerNews: What inspired Freerolls Poker Club to seek investors?
Daniel: Generally speaking, prior to the JOBS Act, small companies with great ideas like FreeRolls struggled to raise capital because of limitations on how an investment opportunity could be marketed to potential investors. Now, it is a whole different day because public solicitation and online crowdfunding are legal as long as certain rules are followed.
While the number of investors and momentum is still growing, many of our investments coming in are as little as $100 … [Our] business model is easily expandable and becomes more valuable as we open new locations across the State and into other states with laws similar to Texas. We did not create FreeRolls to be a single club - we created it as an expandable concept through franchising and licensing.
Does the current legal landscape in Texas concern you at all?
FreeRolls is an investable business because our model follows the laws of Texas without trying to squeak through loopholes and murky waters. To us and our legal counsel, the laws are very clear about what can and cannot be done with a poker club.
Until the Texas AG issues an opinion on poker clubs in the State, there will always be a debate as to whether many of the clubs operating are legal … While we support and hope for the success of every poker club, we do agree with the District Attorney of Harris County that many of the poker clubs operating in the city are operating "on the razor's edge of the law." At FreeRolls, we don't believe in "razor's edge" or "narrow paths" when it comes to running a business because a growth model is hard to follow if you are not sure if your doors will be open the next day.
Running ads/commercials at a poker table is a relatively new concept. How did this idea come about?
The advertising idea was one of my "in the shower" epiphanies that I get from time to time. My partners and I had already been discussing how to build a poker club without operating within a "loophole" in the law but we struggled to find a way. Then one day I totally flipped the current poker model from making money from members to making money because of the members.
"We did not create FreeRolls to be a single club - we created it as an expandable concept through franchising and licensing."
My marketing and PR background enabled us to conclude that the real value in having a bunch of people sitting around our club for hours at a time was that they are a totally captive audience and that is how the idea of integrating ads into the tables came to be.
How will the ads work at the table?
While I cannot divulge the inner workings of exactly how we are able to deliver ads to the tables, I can say that our partnership with Amazon Cloud services has made the process cost-effective, streamlined and easily expandable.
One thing that I can tell you is that we are currently in development of a new software system that will allow us to deliver interactive ads to our players based on the member profiles. We expect to launch this program by the time we host the WPTDeepstacks event in September. From an investor standpoint, this is very exciting because our ads rates will go up substantially as we will be enabled to deliver dynamic, demographic focused ads to on our system.
Have you sold any ads? What sort of businesses are taking advantage?
We have booked over 35 advertisers who are currently onboard and we expect to have over 100 by the end of September. Our focus from now until WPTDeepstacks™ Houston is local advertisers but once we have a solid six months of provable traffic through the clubs, we will focus on regional and national ad contracts.
Earlier this month Houston City Councilman Greg Travis said poker clubs are “illegal under Texas law.” Does Freerolls Poker Club have a response?
We do agree with him on several key components as to why he believes Texas poker clubs are illegal. We believe that charging players money to sit at the poker table is illegal and we know that dealers making tips from it is illegal.
"We have booked over 35 advertisers who are currently onboard and we expect to have over 100 by the end of September."
Our best response is to invite Councilman Travis and any of his colleagues to our club so we can sit down with them and show clearly how FreeRolls has succeeded not only in building the better mousetrap, but also one that complies with Texas law.
We have nothing to hide and that is why we are doing a public fundraiser, are partners with the World Poker Tour and are now official fundraising partners for Wounded Warrior Project that services our military brothers and sisters injured in the line of duty.
We also are an official fundraising partner with Texas Brotherhood ride that supports families of fallen first responders. Each week we donate to these organizations and will continue to use the FreeRolls model as something that can enhance the experience of life in the city of Houston and the great State of Texas.
Images courtesy of Freerolls Poker Club.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.