George Hardie: The Visionary of Poker

GeorgeHardie

In my last few articles I’ve been writing about the people who changed the face of poker before poker was cool. After writing about the contributions Jack Binion, Steve Wynn and Lyle Berman made to modern poker, I now come to George Hardie who elevated poker to an even higher level. Not only was he the founder of the Bicycle Casino, the world’s largest poker club at that time, but most importantly, he was a tireless advocate for the players.

I remember the first time I met George Hardie. When I was a regular in the $20/$40 hold ‘em game at the Bicycle Casino, I was running bad, so I went to John Sutton, the Vice President of Poker Operations.  A lot of the players had credit lines at the time.  He said, “Let’s go up and see George.” He took me to meet George in his office. I said, “George I need a credit line to play poker.” He asked how much I wanted, I gave him a number, and then he told John to go to the cage and give Robert whatever he wants.

George understood the game and the business of poker.  He knew what a player was worth to the card room each day, so advancing them a credit line was part of the normal business of operating a poker room. He knew the value of a player better than anyone, whether it was a high roller or someone playing a $1/$2 stud game.  George treated everyone with respect and wanted everyone to have the best experience playing poker.

George not only had a dream to build the largest poker club in the world, but he faced the burden of cleaning up the poker industry in California.  He did more than anyone and should be credited not only for making poker safe to play in California but making California the center of the poker world.

The next time I was in George Hardie’s office was around five years later in 1991 when I was hired as an executive poker host. My job was to make sure the players were taken care of. He said take the limousine and about six players every night to entertain them in Los Angeles and spend whatever you want on the players. Could a poker player have a better job in the world? How did I get so lucky?

George knew I was working up the street from the Bicycle Casino at a place called the Regency, and I was attracting some of his business. He came to the casino and sat down in the middle of a table to watch. I walked across the casino floor, shook his hand, and said, “George, what brings you here?” I knew why he was there.  He was looking for his players and wanted them back like a sheepherder looking for his strays. That was classic George; he attended to every detail himself—he was very hands-on as I would learn when I started working for him as his casino marketing director.

I have been in many event-planning meetings, but none have ever been like the ones George ran. George created the Diamond Jim Brady tournament around 1985, and it became the second biggest tournament in the world only behind the WSOP. He would start the planning for the annual tournament with the notes from the previous year. He would talk about what was spent on the players in gifts last year, then say, “Let’s do more for the players this year.” He would then ask how can we make them more excited about playing at the Bicycle Casino.

He never once talked about raising fees.  If anything, he thought the fees were too high. Everything he did was with the players’ best interest in mind. I think part of this was because he was a player himself; he truly loved the game.

George would dress up in costumes from the 1800’s with beautiful models and parade around the casino for a month asking the players if there was anything he could do for them. When players won a tournament, there was a trophy presentation with the models that would surround the winners for their moment of glory. There was also an award given away for the best all-around player. He would give away between $50,000-$100,000 and luxury cars to the all-around players for over 10 years.  You don’t see anyone doing that today.

Jack Binion and Lyle Berman are in the Poker Hall of Fame, and rightfully so, but how could George not be there also? It simply cannot be complete without George Hardie. The contributions he made to the game of poker and his innovations to protect its image have helped make the game what it is today.  In my opinion, no one has contributed more to the overall growth and success of the game of poker than George Hardie.

George has advocated for poker at the highest levels of government from city councils to governors and senators. He was poker before poker was cool. To this day, you can still find him at the tables playing the game he loves.  I ran into him at the WSOP this year as he was preparing to play the Main Event. As a life-long player and advocate of the game, George has made poker better for the millions of poker players in California and around the world.  His legacy is evident every time you sit at the table.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino marketing expert. Robert is most well- known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.  He can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.

 

 

WSOP 2014: HISTORY IN THE MAKING

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The 2014 World Series of Poker is on track to becoming one of the most successful events in poker history with increasing numbers in nearly every event. The WSOP kicked off with Vanessa Selbst winning her third bracelet and $871,148 in the $25,000 buy-in Mixed-Max No-Limit Hold’em event cementing her title as the highest-earning female poker player of all time with over $10.5 million in total winnings. She is the first and only woman to win three bracelets in open WSOP events. She is currently ranked the number one poker player in the world, the first woman to ever hold that distinction.

The $1,500 Seven-Card Razz event drew massive interest when Ted Forrest went head-to-head with Phil Hellmuth.  It was an epic battle between two great players with 18 bracelets between them. Phil seemed well on his way to capturing his 14th bracelet, but after several hours of heads-up action Ted came from behind to win $121,196 and his 6th bracelet, his first since winning two bracelets at the 2004 WSOP. This was Phil’s 101st cash and 50th final table at the WSOP, both records.

Another record was set in the Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship as Dan Heimiller outlasted the field of 4,425 players to capture his second WSOP bracelet; last year’s Seniors Event attracted 4,407 players.  Dan walked away with $627,462 in first-place money, and with 53 career WSOP cashes to his name, he has surpassed poker icon Johnny Chan (45) and is now chasing Phil Ivey (55) and T.J. Cloutier (60). Dan will award two percent of the Main Event to a random Twitter follower that retweets the giveaway. If Dan wins, it could be worth $200,000. Follow Dan @danheimiller.

The Millionaire Maker shattered last year’s record 6,343 entries with a massive field of 7,977, making it the second-largest tournament in poker history, trailing only the 2006 WSOP Main Event which drew 8,773 players.  31-year-old aspiring novelist Jonathan Dimmig walked away with his first bracelet and the $1.3 million first-place money.

The third largest live tournament in poker history was the so-called Monster Stack which drew 7,862 entrants. With a total prize pool of $10,613,700, for a buy-in of $1,500 Hugo Pingray walked away with $1.3 million and his first WSOP bracelet. The success of this event proves what I have been saying for years—players like lots of chips, no re-buys and as much time as you can give them in the structure.

Another big story at this year’s WSOP was Humberto Brenes, known as the Shark from Costa Rica, cashing in four out of four events in the first six days of the series.  To date, he has eight cashes. Humberto and Phil Hellmuth set the record for the highest number of money finishes (eight) at the 2006 WSOP. The record now stands at 11 set in 2012 by Konstantin Puchkov. Humberto, a future Poker Hall of Famer, told me he is going to concentrate more on poker next year. That’s good news for the poker world as he is a class act and a great ambassador for the game.

This year I played in three events and was able to place 20th in the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud, which featured some of the toughest tables I have ever played. At one point my table had Mel Judah, David Chiu, Tom McEvoy, Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand Grospellier. It was hard to calculate how many bracelets were in that group. At my age, I feel lucky to be cashing after playing in the WSOP for over 30 years, especially against such world-class competition.

The $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship was won by John Hennigan, a world-class poker player who I know from the pool world as a great 9-ball player.  When I met John he was called Cornflakes. Now he is known as Johnny World, a feared opponent at any poker table. This win marked Hennigan’s third straight cash in this event.  After coming close the past two years, he won his third WSOP bracelet, the $ 1,517,767 first prize money and his name etched on the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy. History was also made in this event when Melissa Burr became the first woman to both cash and final table the Poker Players’ Championship.  She finished seventh; she has made two other final tables this year.

This year’s charity event called the Big One for One Drop is a $1-million buy-in poker tournament started by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte to raise awareness of water-related issues amongst the poker community and beyond. Dan Colman beat out 41 other players for the massive first prize of $15,306,668.  Known as a great heads-up player in the online world, he seemed media shy.  However, he took to the Two Plus Two forum to state his position.  He made one of the most perceptive statements I have ever heard a poker player make. Coming from a 23-year-old makes it all the more profound. He acknowledges poker has a dark side, and he doesn’t want to promote a game that gives players false hope.  I think there is more to this story.  Only time will tell.

Overall, I thought the WSOP was very well-managed especially considering the record-setting numbers the staff had to deal with.  Of course, there is always room for improvement, and hopefully the WSOP will listen to the players’ concerns.  I was glad to be part of such a historic event.

But more importantly, poker lost a great ambassador for the game this week. Chad Brown lost his battle against cancer and was awarded an honorary WSOP bracelet, which was on his wrist when he passed on to the big game in the sky. It makes us all realize poker is just a game, and there are more important things in life.  

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino marketing expert. Robert is most well- known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.  He can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.