TEMECULA, Calif. – (August 1, 2017) – With the summer horse racing season in full swing, track enthusiasts now have a brand new, clean and free facility to place their bets. Poker & Ponies at Pechanga opened in mid-July, and to facilitate operations and an increased staff, casino management promoted Richie Lopez, former Poker Manager, to Assistant Director of Poker and OTB. Lopez now oversees 120 Team Members in poker and the off track betting facility, an addition to the popular poker room he sees as already having positive synergy with guests.

A member of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe south of Palm Desert, Calif., Lopez has worked at Pechanga for 21 years. Along the way, he has earned his merits through hard work, determination and giving back. Before starting as a poker dealer in 1995, he battled wildland fires as a seasonal firefighter. During downtime from battling brush fires, he worked as a security guard at a small Southern California Native bingo hall where he eventually trained as a poker dealer. He found himself faced with having to choose between firefighting or a casino career path. The 24-hour excitement of the casino industry won him over and charted his course. He moved from the Soboba casino to Pechanga in 1996, just one year after the Temecula Tribe began gaming operations. He quickly worked his way up to a Casino Shift Manager position. His love of poker allowed him to move into the Poker Manager position when that availed itself in 2005.

As poker’s popularity in the mainstream ebbed and flowed, Richie and his team maintained continuity and excitement within Pechanga’s poker room, which translated into establishing a loyal guest following. Pechanga Poker players have earned entries (and won) to the World Series of Poker, brought home million-dollar poker jackpots and more. With OTB now in the poker room mix, Lopez sees even more exciting events, tournaments and guest activities on the horizon.

Lopez aims to give back to the Pechanga community and his Tribe wherever possible. He takes pride in helping his tribe through his work on their Tribal Development Corporation’s philanthropic efforts. He’s coached league-winning teams of underserved area’s middle and high school girls’ softball for years, and now acts as a pro bono consultant to any coach who calls. Lopez has established food drives in the Pechanga Poker Room every January to replenish local food bank supplies after the holidays.

An especially exciting time for Lopez, he says his family, and his team in the Poker Room are very proud of him and all his accomplishments. “I know I’m in a place of a lot of added responsibility,” said Lopez. “Every day I look forward to sharing everything I learn at Pechanga and from the industry with my team because it speaks to their success, too.”

Poker & Ponies at Pechanga is located inside the Pechanga Poker Room. The poker room is open 24 hours a day. Off Track Betting is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and shows races from across the United States and Australia.