Elite Poker Lounge 

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The Elite Poker Lounge in McAllen has distinct decor and amenities that give visitors the impression of being in a luxurious gambling hall like those found in Las Vegas or Reno. According to Ashwin George, the lounge’s owner, the intention was to provide customers with experience transporting them out of South Texas and into a mini-Las Vegas. The lounge has numerous wall-to-wall screens that display a wide range of sports competitions.

George attributed his inspiration for the club to his father, “Dad has been a big inspiration in most of my business,” he said. “He has always been an avid poker player and loved going out to bars and restaurants. There’s one other place in the Valley that has legal poker. We basically thought we could do it a little bit better.”

The main lounge floor has approximately 10 full-sized poker tables where regular people can be seen playing poker games with great enthusiasm. The games offered include the traditional lower-stakes Texas Hold ’em and more advanced variants like Omaha HiLo and Pot Limit Omaha, played for even higher stakes. Cash games are available daily, where players can buy in for as little as $50-$100 or as much as they prefer. In addition to cash games, the lounge hosts tournaments with guaranteed prize pools of $50,000 or even $100,000, where top players can win big. George is also considering a tournament that will send a local player to compete in the World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas over the summer, with an opportunity to win as much as $8 million.

People are attracted to the establishment for its legal poker games and the world-class restaurant and bar Nowhere, which is located on the premises. Visitors can enjoy a delicious restaurant meal or even bring their orders to them at the poker table.

At Elite, customers can enjoy high-end food and drinks and a fully stocked humidor and cigar room. A smell-proof glass separates the lounge to prevent the pungent cigar odor from seeping into the poker room. “The main thing,” George said, “is to make sure customers have a high-end experience here.”

Guests interested in having a nice dinner with high-end cocktails can visit the Nowhere restaurant and bar. It is open to the public and is an excellent place for an elegant dinner or night out. One recommended dish is the Hickory Bacon-Wrapped Sea Scallops with Chorizo Salsa. Another popular dish is Steak Au Poivre with Roasted Garlic Potato Puree. The signature High Card Old Fashion cocktail, which uses a mixture of rye whiskey, brown sugar, and (smoked) bitters, is highly recommended and pairs nicely with the food.

The atmosphere inside the poker room is filled with a sense of camaraderie familiar to poker players. Although the game aims to win money from the other players, unique sportsmanship is observed at poker tables, with few exceptions. It is common for players to congratulate others on big pots, even if they happen to be on the losing end. This is one of the benefits of having a welcoming community of poker players who understand what it’s like to be on both sides of the table and appreciate a good play.

Elite Poker Lounge has an exceptional feature that guarantees a good gaming experience — almost all its staff members are enthusiastic poker players. If you’ve been to any of the legal poker rooms in the Valley, you’ll most likely recognize a few of the renowned dealers who eagerly rush in as soon as the poker room opens.

“It’s been a learning process,” George said. “I’ve been lucky that the poker community really responded to our opening and we’ve had immense success in the first month — definitely better than expected.”

Elite Poker Lounge offers a specialized and unique service the community has received positively. The lounge tends to be fully booked most nights, and tables are in high demand on weekends, with a waitlist for seating. However, the establishment is open to everyone, regardless of whether they win or lose.

Thom Denton