It’s been said that a friend is just someone you haven’t played cards with, but the amiable staff and regulars at The Club House beg to differ.
Story by Mark Adams Photos by Robin Loznak
In Spring 2003, a Tennessee accountant and amateur online poker player with the unlikely name of Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, taking home $2.5 million and the coveted WSOP winner’s bracelet.
Eli Hanna was a Roseburg High student at the time. A pole vaulter on the track team who played online poker as a hobby, Hanna was one of millions worldwide who watched the final hand of the 2003 WSOP on television.
For Hanna, and many others who watched that winning hand, it was like getting hit with a club — or a spade. Moneymaker’s performance turned the poker world on its head. Amateur players across the globe figured if a kid from Tennessee playing in his very first live tournament could vault to the top of the poker world, maybe they could, too.
“It was very cool to see, and it brought a lot of new people to the game,” says Hanna, who would qualify as a dealer at the 2011 WSOP, and again in 2012 and 2016.
In 2006, as the action was picking up in cardrooms everywhere, Hanna graduated from RHS and started studying business at Umpqua Community College. For a class assignment, he developed a business plan for a cardroom, which he used in 2007 to open his first poker parlor in Sutherlin.
He moved his business to Roseburg about a year ago after the city council approved a social gaming ordinance allowing such ventures.
The Club House — which Hanna and his wife, Elisha, operate — hosts Texas Hold’em tournaments and other social games several times a week at a strip mall on Northeast Stephens Street.
Hanna says social gaming is defined as “any game in a public, commercial or private club setting where players play each other with no house odds or house player. So, a game like blackjack is illegal because as soon as a player sits down they are at a disadvantage to the house.”
Hanna prides himself on creating a friendly space for card players, devoid of the tenser atmosphere found at many cardrooms.
At the Club House, it’s player vs. player. Hanna and staff serve as dealers and ensure rules and regulations are upheld. They’re also there to foster and promote the “social” aspect of social gaming.
“It’s a very friendly room, and it’s something the area has never had before,” Hanna says.
On a recent tournament night, about 30 players gathered around three tables for a Hold’em tournament. The buy-in was $30 for the equivalent of $7,500 in chips, along with a $5 gratuity for the dealers and $1 to enter a royal flush jackpot that continues building until a player hits it.
The senior player was 88-year-old Korean War veteran Jim Davis, a retired trucker and landscaper who says he’s been playing poker most of his life. He played at Hanna’s first poker club in Sutherlin and says it’s the people he plays with that keep him coming back.
“They’re all good people, and they treat you right here,” he says.
Hanna prides himself on creating a friendly space for card players, devoid of the tenser atmosphere that is found at many cardrooms.
“It can be intimidating at first for players who are less confident,” Hanna says. “But you’re only a first-timer once, and everyone goes out of their way here to be friendly.”
The youngest player at the tournament was Alex Johnson, 21. He agreed with Hanna’s characterization of the club’s clientele.
“It’s a really fun room; everyone is very welcoming and nice,” he says.
Hanna said his experience as a pole vaulter and coach has come into play often as he grows his business.
“You just keep setting the bar higher,” he says.
To find out more about The Club House and a schedule of events, visit TCHpoker.com.