The Road to Glory: Preparing for the World Series of Poker by Patricia Chavira


It is that time of the year again when poker players all around the world are preparing to play on the biggest stage in the poker world—the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The 46th Annual WSOP officially starts on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, but players have been preparing for months, if not years, for their shot at poker glory.

One such player is Harrison Ashdown, a 23-year-old professional poker player and personal trainer from England. He started playing home games when he was 17. He moved to the U.S. four years ago to become a personal trainer, but destiny had different plans for him.

Poker Player Harrison Ashdown

Poker Player Harrison Ashdown

He studied nutrition at Santa Monica College. He would bring his books to the poker table to study anatomy, but soon school wasn’t his main focus, and Ashdown made the decision to play poker professionally about ten months ago.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but his wife has been supportive of his choice. Ashdown has been honing his game at Hollywood Park Casino where he plays everything from large No-Limit games to mixed games and PLO.

His mentor and friend Bruce Levitt has been encouraging Ashdown in his poker career. Levitt suggests books to read, and they discuss hands. They met at the table about six months ago when Ashdown kept trying to bluff Levitt.

Ashdown is going to Las Vegas for the first time this summer to play in the WSOP. In addition to playing cash games, he intends to play No-Limit Hold’em tournaments, such as the $565 Colossus No-Limit Hold’em event and the $777 Lucky 7’s No-Limit Hold’em event.

Regarding his preparation, Ashdown says a month before the WSOP he will be eating a stricter diet since he feels much more energetic when consuming lower calories.

He will keep hitting the gym early in the morning, knowing he has to accomplish something before he has to play for long hours.

Ashdown says the WSOP is going to be “a great learning experience for me and hopefully I can adapt using what I will have learned for the following years’ WSOP.”

Another player who is preparing for the WSOP is Cyndy Violette. A native of Queens, New York, Violette’s family moved to Las Vegas when she was 12 years old. She was a blackjack and poker dealer at the Horseshoe.

Poker Player and Restaurant Owner Cyndy Violette

Poker Player and Restaurant Owner Cyndy Violette

She began playing poker on her pregnancy leave from her job, and she hasn’t looked back since.

With lifetime earnings of over $1 million and 35 cashes at the WSOP, Violette is one of the most respected poker players in the world. She was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2009.

If you see Violette on her iPod in a tournament, she isn’t playing Candy Crush; she is listening to positive words and meditations. Her preparation begins in the mind.

Violette says when she was doing the best at the WSOP, preparation was the key to her success. She would get up every morning and exercise, mediate and eat healthy vegan food.

She also stresses the importance of sunshine to recharge your energy field. Because players are sitting in a casino all day, it is imperative to get sun and some fresh air.

Violette has recently focused much of her energy running her restaurant Violette’s Vegan Organic Eatery and Juice Bar, which she describes as “healthy, hip and inspiring,” which can just as easily describe Violette herself.

Located at 8560 W. Desert Inn Road in Las Vegas, Violette’s Vegan features a variety of fresh organic vegan food, perfect for poker players looking to perform their best.

From Sunshine Sausage Melts for breakfast to BBQ “beef” sandwiches for lunch and daily Chef Mark’s specials for dinner, there is something for every palate on the menu.

The menu has recently been redone with Pamela Brunson’s favorite wild buffalo sticks renamed Brunson’s Choice. With All-In Quesadillas called Ante-Up Bandito and Texas Hold’em, Violette’s restaurant honors her poker roots.

In fact, Violette’s Vegan will have a special menu for the WSOP. Players will be able to text in their orders. Check the website for a special number and menu coming soon.

In Las Vegas where illusion often rules, Violette and her restaurant stand out as true originals.

Whether a novice like Ashdown or a veteran like Violette, any player who buys into the WSOP has a chance at poker immortality. That’s the beauty of it.

The Best Poker Rewards in the West

Player Rewards

Playing poker in California and Nevada differs in many ways with pluses for both poker markets.

Two major benefits of playing in Nevada is the cost of living is much cheaper and collections are half that of California.

However, California has all the action you could ever want and making money is easier in California. California seems to be the favorite among pros.

A new policy instituted in Southern California will see card rooms put reward money on player cards based on play. Look for players to receive up to $6 an hour to play.

Commerce Casino, the largest card room in the world located just minutes from downtown Los Angeles, features more than 200 tables offering non-stop poker action for all skill levels.

Jeff Harris, VP Casino Manager, outlines the benefits of the new poker rewards program: “While we made changes to our Top Section comp program, we now offer our customers $2 an hour in rewards points. We also offer Double Points for 9 hours throughout the day. “

Jeff continues, “With the industry now offering programs that reward loyalty rather than open comps, we are constantly tweaking and adjusting our program to make it as attractive to the SoCal Poker player as possible.”

At the Bicycle Casino, Mo Fathipour, the Tournament Director, describes the new comp system. “In top section we are paying the first 25 scans $50 and after that $2.50 per scan.”

Hollywood Park Casino, located 10 minutes from LAX, has one of the most lucrative cashback programs paying $2 per hour in Omaha games and up to $6 an hour in select games.

Pechanga Resort & Casino, the largest casino in California located in Temecula’s wine country, has some offers worth driving out for.

Richie Lopez, Pechanga’s Poker Room Manager, explains some of the deals Pechanga offers poker players in its 43-table poker room, such as free meals after 3 hours of play on Wednesdays, pot sweeteners and freeroll tournaments.

Richie says, “Last year, we gave away more than $1.3 million in just promotional winnings including cars, trucks, Vespa scooters, cash and other value-added giveaways. Players also like us because at $4.00, we have the lowest rake in the entire region. This puts more money back in your pocket.”

Las Vegas offers a great weekend getaway for California players to take advantage of the discounted room rates for hours played and the great tourist action.

When I am looking for places to play, I look for casinos that spread Omaha. Three of my favorite poker rooms in Las Vegas offer some of the best Omaha action anywhere.

The Orleans Hotel and Casino poker room, home to some of the best Omaha games in the country, has been a favorite among locals and visitors for many years due to their outstanding Hold’em and Omaha action.

The Orleans hosts the Omaha “Play Your Way In” Tourney where the top 80 hour earners in April will qualify to play in an Omaha Hi-Lo tournament with over $20,000 being awarded.

According to Garrett Okahara, the Poker Room Manager at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, “Orleans poker players earn 750 TG points every hour. This equates to $1.25/hr. when used in all Orleans restaurants/food outlets.”

Boulder Station features one of the few limit high Omaha games around. According to Steve Deuel, Director of Poker Room Operations, this games features “pots so big that small dogs can’t jump over them.”

Boulder Station also offers $1.00 an hour in comps 24 hours a day and $500 Omaha High Hands Sunday, Monday and Thursday.

The largest poker room in Las Vegas, the Sands Poker Room at the Venetian, offers $2 per hour in comps for any game that can be used for food comps, table side massages or as entries into a poker tournament.

According to Tommy LaRosa, the Venetian’s Tournament Director, they offer some of the best discounted rates for their suites when you play 6 hours of cash game play per day or play in a $300 buy in or above tournament.

From the players’ point of view, it is getting very competitive out there, and it is up to the players to decide what comps are most valuable to them and how they contribute to their power to earn.

If you are an everyday poker player, some of these perks can be worth up to $1500 a month. As I said in Part 1, it’s all about earning.

I have traveled all over the world playing poker and there are great rewards everywhere, but what sets poker rooms apart from one another is customer service and the action in that room.

I would love to hear from you about what brings you back to a particular room. Email me at   I may use your suggestions in a future article.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards/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 also created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has over 30 years experience in casino marketing and player development. Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at for consulting and teaching.

A Buyer’s Market: The New Poker Rewards Programs

Poker Promotions

I remember something Bill Boyd, a Poker Hall of Fame member and the legendary poker room manager at the Golden Nugget, told me when I worked as a host for him around 1978. I asked Bill for a comp for two very loyal customers who wanted to have dinner in the restaurant.

Bill said to me it’s better to comp after they eat and do it as a surprise. He said if you comp players up front, they will eat you out of house and home.  Bill would walk into the restaurant and pick the check up after they finished eating. He saved the Golden Nugget a fortune.

It is a lesson I have never forgotten.

I have been on both sides of giving and receiving comps. Most of my meals over the past 25 years have been comped, but I have also used them to great advantage when I have hosted games, so I understand there must be a balance between cost controls for casinos and their value as a marketing tool to retain players.

Comps in Las Vegas always had limits to manage the cost. I remember in the old days the Stardust only had a free buffet, but regardless of the form they take, food comps have been the main marketing hook for casinos for sixty years, especially in California.

The cost of free food for top-section poker players has cost the top card rooms in Los Angeles millions of dollars a year. It was not uncommon for players to order up to $50 at a time and eat a few bites only to discard the food and order again an hour later.

I remember the Bicycle Casino would offer free food to Omaha players in smaller limits during certain lunch hours to get the games started. I would sometimes see 9 steaks and just as many shrimp cocktails and desserts ordered at once.

This kind of abuse reached a tipping point where it just was not cost effective to continue this traditional practice. Starting in March, card rooms in Southern California instituted a new policy.

From now on players will earn a certain amount of money per hour based upon their play. Reward cards and tracking systems are becoming the norm, and they are just as valuable to the players as they are to the casinos.

Both recreational players and pros alike need to understand the system and maximize the value they can derive from it. If you want to survive as a professional player, understanding the reward system is vital for you to be a winner.

Whether the rewards are in the form of freeroll tournaments or other special promotions, such as discounted hotel rates, not taking advantage of them is like throwing money away. Utilizing the money returned as perks can be the difference between being a winning or losing player in poker.

Some casinos do an outstanding job with player rewards such as Hollywood Park Casino. Hollywood Park Casino pays up to $6 an hour in some games, and players can use their points for cash and free massages if they wish.

In some card rooms, players get increased points for certain slow periods and certain days. However, nothing beats cash back or rakeback for players trying to earn.

Because the rake makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the game to be profitable for the players, it is imperative that players research the best rakeback deals. The hourly rakeback added to a player’s reward card can be applied to a player’s bankroll and help offset the heavy cost of the rake on a player’s earnings.

Even as we see read about a number of poker rooms closing, we also have many poker room expansions, such as The Gardens building a mega casino in Hawaiian Gardens, California.

In Bell Gardens The Bicycle Casino is adding a brand-new Hotel Casino, and the most ambitious project of all is Hollywood Park Casino’s new billion-dollar entertainment complex and state-of-the-art poker room.

The power is in the players’ hands now as casino marketing departments scramble for players. The rewards will get even better, so learn to use them to your advantage and remember it’s all about the ability to earn.

In my next article, I will cover specific rewards programs and promotions in poker rooms from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards/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 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has over 30 years experience in casino marketing and player development. Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at for consulting and teaching.