There’s no denying that there’s poker in it Texas it’s booming. Despite frequent legal issues and occasional raids, players still flock to card rooms across the Lone Star State. Unfortunately, these arcades occasionally make headlines for all the wrong reasons, including robberies, shootings, and the like.
For this reason, player safety has become an important issue in Texas card rooms Champions Club Texas takes it seriously, as the attitude shows former U.S. Marshal Trent Touchstone as her new Director of Security.
Touchstone, a native Texan who was born in San Antonio, played college football at Southwest Texas State and the University of North Texas (UNT).
“I still hold the single-season total tackles record, which has stood for over 33 years,” said Touchstone, who graduated from UNT with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in criminal justice. In 1991, he joined the United States Marshals Service, where he served for 28 years. In 2014, he was promoted to Chief Deputy and is responsible for all operational matters related to the Northern District of Texas. He held this position until his retirement.
“The United States Marshals Service is responsible for the custody of all federal prisoners, the apprehension of violent state and federal fugitives, the protection of the federal judiciary, the federal witness protection program and all assets seized by the federal government,” Touchstone said PokerNews. “Over the course of 28 years, I have worked in each of these areas, but most of my time was spent in refugee detention, which I always viewed as a game of hide-and-seek with weapons.”
He added, “I founded the Dallas/Fort Worth Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (DFW FAST) in 2001 and led the DFW FAST Task Force for more than a decade. The main task of DFW FAST was the arrest of fugitive violent criminals. During my time as task force commander, we arrested over 10,000 fugitives. After retirement, I oversaw personal protection and stadium security for high-profile country musicians, including George Strait, Chris Stapleton and Eric Church.”
Touchstone has been married for 25 years and has four children. He recently spoke to PokerNews about his new entry into the poker industry.
Learn more about poker in Texas here!
Q&A with Trent Touchstone
PokerNews: How did the opportunity to become Director of Security at Champions Club Texas come about and what attracted you to it?
Touchstone: After retiring in 2019, I worked for a company that provided off-duty police officers for security. I enjoyed the position, but something was missing. I started interviewing for other security-related positions in the private sector. I wanted to build something based on my years of experience.
As I was interviewing for a security director position in Arizona, I came across a job posting on Indeed for Champions Club Texas. I found it interesting and decided to put my name in it. After meeting with Roy Choi and Isaac Trumbo, the founders and owners, I was 100% committed to becoming a Champions employee. My position as Security Director allows me to use my professional experience to build a security plan and team from the ground up. This is important to me, as is being part of a team that is committed to building a brand.
Do you know about poker? Play it? Or will this be a new industry and venture for you?
I am familiar with the game but had never played before joining the Champions Club Texas team. During construction of our new Houston location, I sat down with several of our experienced poker dealers and learned to play Texas Hold’em. I was addicted. It’s a game of strategy and skill versus luck. So, yes – I play poker, but as I tell everyone, I’m still at the beginner’s table. But be careful, I had great teachers! I’m still trying to learn poker lingo and poker terms. While security is nothing new to me, the poker world is.
It’s no secret that there have been many – we call them incidents – at various poker rooms in Texas. What challenges do you anticipate?
That’s right – criminals look for opportunities. My job is to eliminate these possibilities. At Champions Club Texas, I deployed multiple layers of security. Although I am not at liberty to disclose all of our security procedures, I can explain some of our enhanced security measures regarding our rigorous screening process and our armed security guards.
Before each person enters our facility, they go through our weapons identification screening system. Instead of a standard metal detector that many poker clubs use, we use the Athena Weapons Detection System. This is cutting-edge technology that can detect hidden weapons up to 10 times faster than traditional walk-through metal detectors, while helping us automate compliance with real-time alerts. This system complies with the NILECJ-STD-0601.00 Level 1 and 2 safety standard.
Additionally, our armed guards are some of the best in the industry. Every security guard meets all Texas state licensing requirements, but I took it a step further. The courses each guard must complete include ongoing firearms training, which includes tactical countermeasures, rapid response, medical trauma and situational awareness training. We have had the luxury of selecting the best of the best to fill our frontline security team because we compensate them well above average rates. It reflects how much we value their experience and service.
“I want our entire workforce to develop the mindset of being part of our security team.”
At Champions, we take a holistic and thorough approach to security to ensure our team is prepared for a wide range of incidents, including medical emergencies, natural disasters, property theft and potential security threats. I provide situational awareness training to every employee. From bartenders to poker brushes, I want our entire staff to develop the mindset of being part of our security team. They are another set of eyes, and teaching our employees what to look for allows our security team to respond in a timely and appropriate manner.
Any tips on how poker players can better protect themselves when playing at a poker room in Texas?
First of all, I advise players to visit reputable casinos where there is a visible security presence. There are many social poker clubs in Texas. Therefore, make sure you choose locations that make safety a top priority. Situational awareness is also important. Know what’s going on around you and look for anomalies. Do you notice anything unusual? Also, be prepared to execute a plan.
We are currently developing a ‘Player Safety Map’ for our members which will provide some general recommendations that players should follow when arriving and when departing for the night. This includes taking advantage of the many security features we offer at Champions, such as our bank transfer system and lockers, so players do not need to carry cash. We have also introduced our Security Concierge Program to provide our members with convenient security at all times, including a personal security escort upon request when departing at night.
We recognize that not all poker establishments have the resources to ensure this level of security, but it is an investment we at Champions have made in the safety of our members. Our security team is available to our members 24/7. We encourage you to share any concerns with us and to take advantage of the enhanced security services we offer at Champions.
Can you share any wild/scary stories from your 28 years with the US Marshals Service?
It was an honor to serve in the United States Marshals Service, the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the country. Maybe I’ve conditioned myself over the years because there are so many examples today that seem wild and scary, but back then I was just doing my job. Looking back, I am very grateful that I survived 28 years without injuries. I’ve chased fugitives on foot through the streets of Dallas, been involved in high-speed car chases, and been shot at, which is funny now because at the time my partner and I didn’t know anyone was shooting at us.
Situations that stand out for me include accompanying Mafia boss John Gotti on protective transports in New York, supporting the 9/11 response, and protecting federal judges serving in Arkansas, Texas, New York, and some had received death threats in other states. I physically fought with refugees a few times, but I was lucky that my partner was 6 feet tall and weighed over 250 pounds, so not many tried to fight us.
I was on the front lines during the riots in Los Angeles, implementing curfews in the heart of the unrest. I was not aware of the extent of the danger at the time; I was simply a new deputy and had a lot of fun at work. I thoroughly enjoyed my years with the U.S. Marshals Service, which gave me an extensive security background and expertise that I transferred to my role with Champions Club Texas.
Editor-in-Chief USA, co-host of the PokerNews Podcast and 2013 WSOP bracelet winner.