Texas hold’em, blackjack and horseracing are extremely popular among the gambling crowd, but it’s not always easy or convenient to drive through the desert and into Vegas for some action. Luckily, Hollywood Park brings Vegas-style gaming closer to home.

The Hollywood Turf Club was formed in 1938 by Jack L. Warner of the Warner Bros. film corporation. Along with Warner, industry names such as Walt Disney, Bing Crosby and Sam Goldwyn were part of the 600 shareholders that started the club. Horseracing was, and still is, a main attraction at the grounds.

In 1972, an expansion project nearly doubled the size of the Turf Club, adding stables and a dining room, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the $20 million casino opened its doors.

The casino offers blackjack, Caribbean stud poker and Pai Gow poker, but the main attraction for card players is the huge poker room at Hollywood Park Casino. Games of Texas hold’em, 7-card stud and Omaha are played on the fly or in tournament situations. The casino even offers special "Ladies-only" poker classes starting on the first Thursday of each month and taught by Cat Hulbert.

"I go to Hollywood Park mainly for the poker room. It’s the largest poker room that I’ve seen in Southern California," says Matt Ahlberg, an Orange Coast College student and frequent visitor to the casino. "They offer a variety of tournaments, many with small buy-ins and potential big time winnings. For instance, on Friday nights you can buy in for $15 plus a small fee, and they guarantee $3,000 in the pot."

Hollywood Park has the facilities to make any fan come down to the track to watch the races. The one-mile racetrack is housed on 237-acre racing grounds. Aside from the aesthetic value of the track though, it’s really the gambling that keeps people coming to Hollywood Park.

"On every race we offer the basic win, place, show [bets] as well as Exactas, Trifectas and Superfectas," says Sandy Baze of the park’s publicity department. "It’s a minimum wager of $2 except for Exactas, Trifectas and Superfectas, but there is no limit to how much a person can bet."

Baze says the park offers special events for race watchers to enjoy.

"On Friday nights we offer concerts following the live races," she says. "Chaka Khan will be there for the opening on [April] 22."

Gaming and entertainment at the racetrack and casino have been boosted by the popularity of poker and the upcoming horseracing season, and the park plans to uphold and expand the vision held by the original founders. From entertaining college students to retired people, Hollywood Park has something for everybody, Ahlberg says.

"Starting with watching horse races all day to playing cards late into the night, it’s just a great place to make an entire day of gambling happen."

Hollywood Park is located at 1050 S. Prairie Ave., Inglewood, (310) 419-1500. The 2005 Spring/Summer Meet will run from April 22-July 17, with racing Wed.-Sun. General admission is $7 and includes entry fee, parking and program. Hollywood Park Casino is located at 3883 W. Century Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 330-2800. The casino is open 24 hours daily. For more information, visit www.hollywoodpark.com or www.playhpc.com.