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New beginnings for Turlock Poker Room
The Turlock Poker Room will move from their current location to their new digs at the Turlock Cinema Center, 2321 W. Main St., on Monday.
An era will come to an end at 7 a.m. Monday when the Turlock Poker Room will forever shutter the doors of its West Main and Locust streets card house, where it has continuously operated since opening on June 1, 2004.
And then, just a second later, a new era will seamlessly begin as the Turlock Poker Room will welcome its first guests to a new, spacious, 2321 W. Main St. location in the Turlock Cinema Center.
While the move will take the Poker Room just a few miles down the road, the new site has been a long time coming for Turlock Poker Room co-owners Joe Fernandez and Phil Rheinschild.
Planning for a Cinema Center Poker Room began in May 2008 with an opening date scheduled no later than November of that year. As 2008 and a later, mid-May opening date slipped by due to delays in permits and planning applications, Fernandez said he began to grow anxious about the change in location.
Would the busiest poker room between Sacramento and Fresno lose its cozy feel in the new, posh digs? Would Poker Room patrons be put off by the commercial character of the Cinema Center, compared to the somewhat residential setting of the current location?
“They (the customers) want to move more than I do,” Fernandez said. “They are excited to move. I’m no longer worried about that possibly being a problem.”
Fernandez sees the new location as a top-notch poker facility, the kind that players will find indistinguishable from the best casinos in Lake Tahoe. Employees at the Poker Room who have seen the new site echo Fernandez’s claims.
“We’re going from mediocre accommodations to outstanding accommodations,” said Craig Dooley, floor supervisor at the Turlock Poker Room. “… It’s just night and day. Customers are going to be surprised when they walk into the new place.”
Players around the current Turlock Poker Room on Tuesday afternoon seemed more than ready to make the short drive down West Main Street for the sort of gaming experience that was once more than three hours away.
While the community has always been great at the Turlock Poker Room according to Carlos Gonzalez, a patron of the current location for more than two and a half years, the lack of space can be an issue on busy nights.
“Coming here sometimes, it gets a little crowded,” Gonzalez said. “The new place is a lot bigger.”
The new location will allow the Poker Room to comfortably set up the full 10 tables the business is licensed for, one more than is possible in the currently cramped quarters. Additionally, the setting of the Cinema Center is expected to reduce issues with noise and parking that have sometimes arisen with residential neighbors at the present site, while offering patrons dining alternatives at nearby fast food and pizza restaurants.
The Turlock Poker Room will continue to offer the standard games of Texas Hold ‘Em, Blackjack, and Pai Gow Poker at the new card room, but will also expand its roster of games as it expands its floor space. Starting Monday, the Poker Room will offer Three Card Poker and, a few months down the line, Let it Ride will be played as well.
“Three card poker?” said Gonzales upon hearing his favorite game would soon be offered at the Turlock Poker Room. “I’m there.”
The preparations for the Cinema Center Poker Room are in the finishing stages, with brand new card tables arriving today and crews hard at work installing the security camera system, curtains, and decorative flourishes.
“We’re just setting up all the pretty stuff right now,” Fernandez said. “All the main construction is done.”
The City of Turlock will conduct its final inspection of the business on Thursday, paving the way for poker players from around the Valley to descend on the new Turlock Poker Room on Monday.
The Turlock Poker Room expects to let the lease expire on its Main and Locust location shortly after opening the doors of the new Poker Room. However, the Turlock Poker Room will retain ownership of its downtown Broadway and Main Street building, with eyes on moving to the 14,000 square foot site in three or four years.
The Poker Room has already spent two years attempting to move downtown, only to have their efforts stymied by difficulties with the Turlock planning process and the current economic downturn.
According to Fernandez, a downtown Turlock Poker Room could generate as much as $200,000 per year in tax revenue for the City of Turlock. He expects such a site would draw 1,000 card players per day, and would employ about 180 people.
“Downtown is the future for us the way we see it,” Fernandez said. “… If the city wants our business downtown then it’s up to them at this point.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.