Card sharp bets on new Deep Stack poker room near Hilliard

KEVIN CORVO
kcorvo@thisweeknews.com
Deep Stack Poker and Card Room staff members include (from left) Sara Fellner, Jason Ogden and co-owners Theresa Smith and Randy Clinger. The facility is expected to open Friday, Sept. 18, at 3814 Fishinger Blvd., just outside Hilliard.

Those who don't get enough adrenaline from watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN can up the ante at the Deep Stack Poker and Card Room, 3814 Fishinger Blvd., just outside Hilliard, beginning Friday, Sept. 18.

The "social club" requires a daily $25 "door fee" for cash matches, and variable entry fees are charged, based on purse amounts, to enter competitions, said David Dhillon, director of operations.

The club is open from noon to 2 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays and noon to 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The facility does not have a liquor license, and no alcohol is permitted inside.

The club does not take any portion of the wagers or the purses, Dhillon said.

Each day will feature a lineup of open matches, but the club primarily will offer pot-limit Omaha and Texas hold 'em tournaments.

The new club, which is in Columbus city limits on the doorstep of Hilliard, is co-owned by Randy Clinger, a professional card player who has qualified for and competed in the World Series of Poker Main Event.

He also owns UA Fitness, 2100 Tremont Center in Upper Arlington.

"We have talked about opening a club for a while, but it all came together this summer," Clinger said, when he and his girlfriend, Theresa Smith, seized the opportunity to secure a storefront at Mill Run.

The 51-year-old, who lives in the Hilliard City Schools district, is a lifelong card player.

"My mother was a card sharp," he said, adding his family grew up playing hearts, spades, euchre and other card games.

In college, Clinger used his skills to pay for books and meals.

"It was kind of like 'Rounders,' " he said, referring to the 1998 film that recounted the underground world of high-stakes poker. "I was coming home with $80 to $100 a night.

"It got to the point I wasn't invited to play anymore."

Cards took a back seat when Clinger got married and raised a family while working as a teacher in Columbus City Schools.

After a divorce, a friend suggested he start socializing by taking up cards again.

"It was like I had never stopped," said Clinger, who found success at another Columbus poker club and qualified for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, where he played four times at the annual event.

In 2015, he placed 33rd among more than 7,000 contestants in the Texas hold 'em tournament and walked away with $211,000.

"But the champion won $8 million," said Clinger, who still laments being knocked out.

Clinger said he plans to offer a variety of options and to operate in a manner that he believes will set him apart from similar clubs, while providing people with an option to play poker – especially at a time when casinos have not reopened poker rooms due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"I am offering an alternative site and something different that I think will stand out," he said.

Deep Stack Poker and Card Room will follow strict health protocols when it opens. Players will be required to wear masks and dealers will wear face shields, Clinger said.

The 1,400-square-foot room will have nine tables, with a maximum of eight players at each table.

Temperature checks will be conducted and players must sign waivers, Clinger said.

"I expect to be busy," he said.

While the club generally operates on a first-come, first-served basis, reserved seating is available by calling 614-710-1616.

Reserved seats will be given to other players if the reservations are not met, Clinger said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo