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SML Plays Poker

By: Richard Millar

Poker at Smith Mountain Lake isn’t just about the cards, and it is definitely not about playing for money; it’s a journey that transcends traditional gaming. Imagine stepping into a nearby vibrant tavern atmosphere, surrounded by your neighbors and soon to be friends, all united by their love for poker. Whether you’re a novice eager to learn or a seasoned player seeking new challenges, poker at Smith Mountain Lake welcomes you with open arms.


World Tavern Poker (WTP) is a poker league that brings the excitement of Texas Hold'em poker tournaments to various Smith Mountain Lake area venues and across the United States. Founded in 2004, WTP has gained popularity due to its unique approach to offering free-to-play poker tournaments in a social and relaxed setting. Smith Mountain Lake has several locations which host World Tavern Poker: SML Moose Lodge, AltaVista Moose Lodge, Living Proof Beer Company, and Hot Shots. Each tournament is identically run, so a player will feel at home anywhere playing WTP.


Since 2012, Hot Shots, located in the West Lake area, has served as the hub for local poker aficionados and visitors alike, fostering a vibrant social scene. Engaging in Texas Hold'em at Hot Shots offers opportunities to connect with fellow players, share experiences, and build friendships within the welcoming SML community. The convivial atmosphere under the Hot Shots pavilion adds an extra dimension to the gaming experience. Every Thursday night 40-60 of your neighbors gather for the thrill of free Texas Hold’em. There’s great food, a dedicated bar and space to spread out and have a fun poker experience.


 The structured gameplay allows players to focus on learning the game, developing strategy, skill enhancement, and enjoying the game to its fullest. Although there may be 50+ players at Hot Shots for Texas Hold’em, new “never played before” and more seasoned novice players enjoy the game. Asked how beginners are encouraged, Tournament Director Jeff Carter reminds us, “we were all inexperienced beginners at some point, but our more seasoned players will guide the inexperienced players, so the intimidation factor is greatly reduced.  The purpose of our game at Hot Shots is to have fun!”


World Tavern Poker is free, meaning the players do not play for cash or money – gambling is NOT allowed in WTP games. They are playing for a chance to win one of 60 “Major Event Packages” awarded by WTP. Every year WTP hosts two National Championship Tournaments – one in Las Vegas (usually in November) and one at a casino east of the Mississippi in early summer. 


Hot Shots doesn’t want you to wait till a National WTP tournament to feel rewarded. As with many lake WTP venues, Hot Shots awards the 1st and 2nd place winners of each tournament gift cards. So, every night you could go home a winner. In addition to 1st and 2nd place prizes often the venues present gifts for winning a Special Hand which are random and change weekly, adding a little more fun and energy to the tournaments.


Each year at SML, two large Texas Hold’em Tournaments are held to benefit local charities: The Dave Lortscher Memorial Texas Hold’em Tournament and the Rotary Club of SML Scholarship Charity Texas Hold’em Tournament.


Texas Hold’em at Hot Shots or any other venue around Smith Mountain Lake is not just about the game—it is a social experience.  The events offer an opportunity to build connections with fellow players, develop your gameplay through exciting tournaments and enjoying the camaraderie of the poker community which can lead to lasting friendships.


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