About robertturnerpoker

Creator of Omaha Poker

Reflections on the 50th WSOP


Poker is alive and well if the numbers for this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) is any indication. The WSOP kicked off with a bang opening weekend with the Big 50 shattering records for the largest live tournament in history with 28,371 entries.

This momentum carried through the entire series culminating with the Main Event drawing the second-largest number of entries in its 50-year history. 8,569 players vied for the title of poker’s world champion. In the early morning hours of July 17, Hossein Ensan beat Dario Sammartino and claimed the gold bracelet and $10 million.

ESPN did an outstanding job broadcasting live poker which can be a challenge to keep both entertaining and educational. You could learn so much from watching poker live and not just an edited version showing the most exciting hands and situations to hold the audience’s attention.

Nick Schulman, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner and well-respected poker commentator, made a comment about this year’s Main Event, which drew some major criticism. When he said don’t watch the Main Event  to learn how to play poker, a Twitter war erupted which may have resulted in Nick being removed from being a guest commentator for the rest of the event. 

Schulman, an excellent game analyst, gave some expert insight into the game, which he plays at the highest levels. He was spot on about the level of play, and I agree with him. Nick did not back down and went on Twitter to defend his opinion: “The tourney is soft with some incredible players battling.”

Nine New Millionaires

The final nine were playing so much small-ball poker it made the game play very slow. 

One young amateur player named Kevin Maahs from Chicago decided to slow the game to a crawl, which really hurt the live broadcast. I am sure the final nine, except the winner, wish they could go back to that table and replay their hands again.

Most said in their exit interviews it was the most exciting time of their lives and thanked their family and friends for the support. I salute every single player who had to navigate through 8,560 players to get the final nine and a guaranteed payout of $1 million.

I think the money, which for most young poker players, was life changing did effect the decisions being made at the final table. Italian poker pro Dario Sammartino, who finished second, was impressively dressed in a tuxedo and had the most experience of any players at the final table. the crowd favorite. All-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, along with my wife, thought he would win it all.

Sammartino made some great reads of other opponents’  hands but also made some big mistakes that will haunt him when he watches the replay of hands after the event. He had friends fly from Italy to root for him as part of a singing cheerleading group of fans that kept us entertained.

New Poker Champion Crowned

At one point Ensan, who also had a loud group of fans on the rail, had to raise his hand to ask Sammartino’s fans to cool it. The final table players seemed to bond as friends and not as rivals which was a pleasure to watch. They were all living the dream.

In what turned out to be the final hand of the Main Event, Ensan had pocket kings, and his opponent had a flush draw and a straight draw, Pocket kings held up, and Sammartino had to “settle” for $6 million.

It was a great end to a historic WSOP. One thing is for sure–for those of us who love poker, we are ready for the 2020 WSOP.

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Road to the WSOP: A Long Way from Alabama

I have been playing in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) almost since it began in 1970, and this year there was an excitement in the air I haven’t felt in years.

In 1973, I made my first trip to the WSOP. My good friend Ray Hall told me to call Jack Binion and tell him I was a poker player, and everything will be taken care of. 

Ray was right. Four of us drove out to Las Vegas from Alabama, and I have never missed a series since.

One of the more unusual things I remember was the year there was not enough room for the players to play at The Horseshoe. Eric Drache, the tournament director at the time, went around to the casinos downtown and asked if they would allow players to play the WSOP tournament in their poker rooms.

We were walking back and forth from the Four Queens, Fremont and Golden Nugget  with our tournament chips in hand. What a sight that was.

Chance to Be Champ

For the WSOP’s silver anniversary in 1994, the winner of the Main Event received $1 million and his weight in silver. Jack Binion was a poker marketing genius.

That year the Main Event drew 268 players, which is about how many people were in line in front of me to use the bathroom this year at the Rio 25 years later during the Big 50 tournament.

Back to 1994.

I made the final table of the Main Event that year and could not sleep the night before; I kept thinking, “Could I really win the big one and be part of poker history as a world champion?” I just had to find a way to take my low chip stack and bust the other five.

It was not meant to be. I finished in 6th place and won $50,000. But I was proud of my performance on poker’s biggest stage.

Not in Alabama Anymore

I had come a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama where we played in a tractor shed, and bologna sandwiches or crackers tasted so good. Now I was eating the free steak and shrimp Benny and Jack Binion had waiting for the poker players every night on our dinner break.

What a privilege it is to still be playing in the WSOP. I played in the Big 50, the largest live poker tournament in history. This $500 buy-in event had 28,371 entries creating a prize pool of $13,509,435.

The Saturday morning of the Big 50 there was a traffic jam on the freeway not for a sporting event or concert but for a poker tournament. I have never experienced anything like it.

The buzz on social media promoting the event and all the table talk in the poker rooms contributed to the record-shattering turn out. The city of Las Vegas is the big winner, and they owe a great deal of gratitude to Caesars for bringing this poker convention to town. 

The only suggestion I have concerns relaying information in real time. For example, during the Big 50 they opened up windows for quicker sign ups, but communicating this to players was not easy. My wife was escorted to a registration line 10 deep while hundreds waited in the main line. Some employees were saying sold out, and players were texting friends not to come while other employees were saying everyone will get in.

But none of that takes away from the phenomenal job WSOP Vice President Jack Effel and WSOP Operations Manager Tyler Pipal did putting on the biggest live poker tournament in the world. I predict this summer’s WSOP continues smashing records.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982.

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 is currently working as a casino consultant.

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

Big O Omaha: Poker’s Action Game

5cards

I’m often asked what is the difference between four-card Omaha and the five-card version (Big O). First let me say that having that extra card really creates a great deal of action. I’ve even heard it been called Omaha on steroids.

Recreational players love Big O. After playing with five cards, they say they cannot go back to four cards, and Hold’em players say they cannot go back to two cards.

Big O is played with 8 players, so imagine sitting in a poker game getting  4-1, 5-1 or sometimes even 7-1 on your money with every bet. The number of players seeing a flop and chasing hands, creates action you rarely see in limit Hold’em games. Remember I’m only talking about limit Hi-Lo here, not high only.

Like in any other poker game, the best poker players usually win the money.  In all limit Omaha games, you can play very tight with a correct range of starting hands and beat the game consistently. Having patience keeps you and your bankroll under control.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you are ready to step out of your comfort zone and play a game that gives you an adrenaline rush and a chance to win a lot of money, then learn how to play Big O. Naturally you want to start with an ace deuce in your hand and preferably another small card for backup. The back up card is the key. What that means is you need a card below five for insurance to keep you from getting counterfeited.

Do not play middle cards meaning hands with with 7s ,8s or 9s; it will only cause you to lose more chips. The players that are playing super low cards win half the pot, and if you play middle cards that will ultimately cause you to lose a lot of money over the long term.

I want to be clear. Do not play like I do. As my wife says, she learned how to play from me. She watches what I do–then does the opposite. I’ve been told more than a few times I’m too aggressive and like to gamble too much. I am like Will Rogers. I’ve never met a hand I did not like.

But if  you really want to win money, do not raise pre-flop with an ace deuce and one other baby card under a 6. Preferably the ace is suited. The reason you want to call in this spot is to maximize your potential profit by getting more players in a hand where you are a favorite to win. This is the opposite strategy in most poker games where you want to raise to shorten the field to improve your chances of winning.

10 Tips

Below are ten tips that will give you the knowledge and confidence to play in any Big O game:

  1. Always play super low card hands or all paint. Avoid middle cards.
  2. I like one or two pictures in my hand in case the flop comes with a mix of low and high cards. This gives you a chance to pivot your hand.

  3. Because hands play to showdown more often, you have a better opportunity to analyze your opponents’ plays.

  4. Raising the pots does little to help you win. The nuts on the turn is not the winning hand many times. The hand is won on the river.

  5. In the first three positions, check raising is important to build your pots.

  6. Back up cards are the most powerful weapon in your arsenal.

  7. Your swings are greater than most poker games, so when your rush happens manage your money.

  8. When you’re running bad, change seats or games if possible. Maybe take a break.

  9. Keep your opponents in, so the pots are bigger when you are drawing at the absolute nuts.

  10. Regarding game selection, choose tables with lots of action. Avoid dead games which means the players are too tight, folding too much which means smaller pots and higher rake.

Play with me

Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, Ca, led the change over to Big O. All the other card rooms in Los Angeles followed. The only Big O tournament spread in the Los Angeles-area is held every Saturday at Hollywood Park Casino at 3 p.m. It’s only a $60 buy-in with a $2,000 guarantee and a $5 food voucher.  I’m there every Saturday. Stop by and say hi, then stay and bust me at the table.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

More Tales from the Felt: Miami John, Part 2

Thank you to everyone for making Part 1 of “Miami” John’s story such a great success. You can read the article that originally appeared in Gaming Today here: https://www.gamingtoday.com/casino_games/poker/article/81865-Miami_John_viable_candidate_for_Poker_HOF#.XKTIUEmsD54.facebook.

When I think of the Poker Hall of Fame, I notice that several names are missing. These players have made a positive impact on poker the last 40 years. One of these names is “Miami” John Cernuto. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He has the most tournament cashes of all time.

I’m reminded of one tournament in particular at the Bicycle Casino. Cernuto says, “Only a handful of players have ever won three events in one venue, but no one had ever won four. At the 1999 Legends of Poker, I did it. Four ring events in one venue.

He discussed how the price we pay to play the game we love has increased, “I don’t know why or how, but from 2008 till present, the industry has been sucker punching the players in order to extract more money to play their tournaments. I’m sure if you had an industry spokesperson he would be able to tell you the whys and the hows, but the bottom line is they are choking poker to death.”

He continues, “The problem is there cannot be a meeting of the minds when only one mind is in charge and the other doesn’t have a voice. The WSOP is the Holy Grail, but their numbers have gone down in many events over the last few years. They’ve made some changes this year that will enhance the WSOP experience by improving its structures and starting stacks. I hope this will encourage more participants. I’d like to see some lowering of fees or add some benefits in the form of hotel/food comps. But until players have an actual voice, I’m not holding my breath for the industry to change its position.”

Cernuto has played against hundreds of players, but some names stand out. In No-Limit, the masters of the game include Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and anyone under 30 who played a million hands online. Other formidable opponents in his favorite games include:

  • 7 Stud. Danny Robison/Barb Enright
  • 7 Stud Hi Lo. Men “The Master” Nguyen/Susan Genard
  • Limit Hold’em David Chiu/Cissy Bottoms
  • Razz Ted Forrest/Don Zewin
  • 2 to 7 3 Draws Lenny Martin
  • Mixed games Jimmy the Mix aka Woods/Allen Levinson
  • PLO8 Mike Wattel/Frankie O’Dell
  • PLO Most Europeans

    What keeps Cernuto at the top of his game is the way he acknowledges both the past and looks to the future. He is quick to praises the new generation of players:

    “Nowadays the kids enter the poker world with tons of experience. It has taken me a lifetime to play a million hands and they achieve this in a year or so. Their prime mean age is probably 40. They are amazing and deserve the praise and accolades that they have received. What I would like to do is be thankful that our game has flourished, but also reflect on those that pioneered this and made this all possible. Without Benny and Jack Binion, Doyle, Moss, Reese, Straus and their buddies, this wouldn’t have been here for me.”

    In my 50 years of playing poker, I have seen many players come and go. Very few players could survive the swings and the pitfalls. Not only has Miami John stood the test of time and maintained his integrity, but he is still at the top of his game. He is a great ambassador of the game and deserves to be in the Poker Hall of Fame. To paraphrase the legendary actor James Woods, if not now, when?”

    Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

    Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

    Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

PLO: Hold’em on Steroids

plo-300

I introduced four-card poker to the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas in the spring of 1982 with my friend Gwen from Seattle. The game we spread at the Nugget started out as limit, but after two hours of boring, short-handed poker, we decided to change it to pot-limit.

Then something strange happened.

The game filled up as players started to arrive for the WSOP. They loved this new four-card version of Hold’em. The game was later called “Nugget Hold’em” by Bill Boyd, the card room manager and a legend in the poker world.

Nugget Hold’em became a regular game after the WSOP concluded. When Steve Wynn closed the poker room, the game moved across the street to Binion’s and became $4/$8 limit Omaha, and the rest is history.

When I moved to California in 1985, I spread the PLO mix at the Horseshoe Casino in Gardena, where I was the casino general manager. I could never imagine then that Omaha would become the second most popular poker game in the world.

But after fifty years of playing the game, I realized some things never change; the best poker players still win the money.

PLO Starting Hands

Here are a few strategy tips that will help you become a winning player at Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO).

If you look at hand charts, AAKK double suited is listed as the top starting hand. The next best hand would be any AAJ10 double suited while some charts list AAQQ suited as the second best hand.

I spoke with a few professional PLO players who win consistently. Eric Garcia, Peter Cutler, Dimitri Gazetovici and Warren Oberman come from a wide range of backgrounds from a PhD to engineers and a VP of a software company.

When it comes to starting hands, they generally agree on the top starting hands, which include AAKK, AA10J, KKQQ down and all paint double suited. The bigger the pairs and connectors, the better pre-flop your hands are.

Nick Savadian, the Hollywood Park Casino host for PLO games, gave me his top hands: “AAJ10 double suited and 2nd probably AAJQ double suited and third 10J 78 double suited. For PLO mix my favorite starting hands are AA23 and AA2J double suited or A234.”

Strategy for Beginners

Stop Light

Tip 1: Group your top hands together into three groups: Group A, Group B and Group C with about ten starting hands in each group.

As you gain experience and expand your game, you can expand your hands. It’s best to start out playing tight to avoid the temptation to gamble. It’s important that all your hands be suited (ideally double suited) and connected with as few gaps as possible.

Now picture a traffic signal with red, yellow and green lights. A red light is the first three spots to open where you will fold most of your hands. A yellow light is next three spots to open, so proceed with caution. The green light is the last three spots on the button and blinds, so feel free to go if the conditions are right since you have all the information on the action before you act.

In the red light zone, you can open or raise with the hands in your Group A or Group B. In the yellow position if someone has opened the pot with a raise, then proceed with caution and only use hands in Group A. You can play any group in green depending on what’s happened because you have all the information from the previous six spots.

Tip 2: Know your players. Watch for a few minutes before playing. Look at their chip stacks and analyze their behavior.

Tip 3: Chip stacks and pot size determine how you will proceed with the hand. Remember when you bet, it opens the pot for a much larger bet. Bet sizing in PLO separates great players from weak ones. You can often tell a new player because they only have one move–”Pot.”

Beginner Mistakes

Don’t shut yourself out of a pot because you want to be to aggressive. Let me give you an example. In the Main Event at the WSOP, I picked up KQ of spades. I flopped an open-ended straight flush draw. Two players checked, and I bet $300. Both players called. The next card paired the board on the turn. Both players checked again, so I decided to steal the pot and bet $1400. Both players moved all-in.

It was obvious they had full houses, and I had to throw my hand away. They had given me a free card, but I didn’t take it, and that hand has haunted me ever since because the river was an Ace of spades making me the royal flush.

I shut myself out of my pot. The principle is the same in PLO. No shame in checking.

Another beginner mistake I often see is a player betting second or third best hand. For example, it is checked to them when they are drawing to the third or fourth flush draw. They bet the pot and another player comes over the top for all their chips.

Now what? Our player should have taken the free card.

Ready to Play

HPC_Exterior

Hollywood Park Casino, located in Inglewood, California, offers a variety of Omaha games, including $4/$8 Big O (five-card Omaha), $40/$80 limit Omaha high-low and $20/$40 OE mix of Stud and Omaha.

They also spread several PLO games such as PLO mix and PLO high only. The best way to get practice is to get on the table and play. If you like No-Limit Hold’em, you will love PLO.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

San Manuel Casino’s $550 Million Expansion

I was honored to attend the groundbreaking ceremony last week for the expansion of the San Manuel Casino in Highland, California, located about 60 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

With 12 million guests enjoying more than 4,800 slots, Vegas-style blackjack and poker, San Manuel Casino is a major entertainment destination in Southern California.

From its humble beginnings over 30 years ago as a bingo hall to its position today as a powerhouse in Southern California’s gaming industry, San Manuel is poised to cross a new threshold of success with its planned expansion. The new plans include:

  • A new luxury hotel and spa

  • 3,000-seat state-of-the-art entertainment venue

  • A new 2,000-space parking garage

  • Premium restaurants and shops

The parade of speakers including the General Manager Loren Gill and Lynn Valbuena, Chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, spoke proudly of “Yaamava,” the Serrano word for “spring” representing the new chapter the casino and its talented team is embarking on.

“Yaamava,” New Beginnings

The festivities kicked off with the San Manuel Bird Singers singing Serrano blessing songs to mark the momentous occasion and ended with the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony complete with shiny gold hard hats and sparkling shovels amidst more confetti than I have ever seen in my life!

With 5,000 employees, San Manuel is one of the top 10 private employers in San Bernardino County and the expansion will only increase the positive economic development for the tribe and the area beyond. As an engaged philanthropic partner in the community, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will continue to do even more for the community.

The ceremony was beautiful but even more impressive was how busy the casino was at 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday in the middle of the month. That was in stark contrast to my trips to Las Vegas this summer for the World Series of Poker.

But the thing that struck me most was that the parking was free and that no less than five employees said hi to me as I walked through the casino. The only people who say hi to me at the Rio were trying to sell me a timeshare or anti-aging cream.

After the ceremony, I was anxious to meet Loren Gill, the casino general manager, to ask about their sports betting plans. He said he is following it very closely, but in California it’s very complicated with many questions yet to be answered, which is exactly what I wrote about in a previous column.

San Manuel’s ambitious expansion is a dream 32 years in the making. It will take about two years to complete; I can’t wait to experience it.

“Yaamava” indeed.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Longevity in Poker

I still can’t believe I have cashed in poker tournaments every year for fifty years. When you make poker your life for over half a century, you make it into a very exclusive club.

I have to admit, playing poker for a living has taken a toll on my personal relationships; just ask my five wives.

But back to poker.

I often think about poker players who are poker pros one day and gone the next. I have watched hundreds, if not thousands, come and go. I wonder “Where did they go?” “Will they return?”–the same questions posed in that scientific show “Ancient Aliens.”

A perfect example of this phenomenon is a duo named Mark and Steve who played in a $10/$20 Hold’em limit poker game in Las Vegas around 1976-1978.

I would guess they had a bankroll of $200,000 each and were considered up-and-coming poker gods. They were super- aggressive, young players who seemed to have a different approach to the game. Where most players were happy to win $300 in a game, these two would win $2,000 on some plays.

But as fast as it came, it went. A few years later they were both back dealing poker in Las Vegas.
I have seen players win $1 million over a year or two–life-changing money–and go broke.

One player I know did it multiple times, but he was the best limit player for thirty years. The players that can bounce back are true professionals, and those that can maintain big bankrolls over many years are superstars. They are very few.

I am no steward of money management, but the poker life has been good to me. I often wonder if I had a patent in Omaha poker, would I be writing this article?

Probably not.

Poker life usually forces you do other things to offset the swings. Sponsorship and working in the poker industry have helped me and many others weather the inevitable storms.

Some invested wisely. One player won two tournaments and bought a poker club in central California. Pretty smart of him I would say.

At the poker table, we used to joke about this player or that player who we have not seen in years. We would laugh and say he missed a flush and disappeared.

A Chance of a Lifetime


When you run good at poker, it is an amazing accomplishment, but how long you can stay in the game depends on many factors.
Players know when watching some of these poker streaks if they are real or just pure luck. They often can tell if a player has talent or is a one-hit wonder.

I hope I fit in the former category.

I had my best chance of winning the WSOP Main Event in 1991, the first year the winner was guaranteed $1 million. Even though I made the final table in 1994, in 1991 I led the entire event and dominated every table.

This hand came up that changed everything. I picked up kings against Perry Green. A player raised 40,000 and without hesitation I said, “Raise 400,000.” I could see everyone was trying to fold, so I was not worried. Then I heard the dealer say, “All in by Perry.”

He turned over his hand and showed Ace King. I could see the Ace in the door as he was spreading the flop. My heart sank, but I kept my poker face. Perry won the hand going on to win second place.

Perry said he did not see how much I raised or that it was a reraise. He told me he wasn’t thinking and would have never moved all-in with that situation.

My mistake was I moved too fast. What I should have done was taken my time, counted my chips and gave the other players time to think. I know Perry would not have called that late in the tournament and so close to the final table. He apologizes every time I see him.

That decision probably changed my career forever. I finished in 10th place. I would go on to cash four consecutive years in the Main Event in the 90s (which was a record for a time) with a final table appearance in 1994, the year Russ Hamilton won.

If you want to survive in poker over a long time, my suggestions are simple: don’t quit your day job, dedicate yourself to studying the game, put in the hours it takes to suffer the beats and manage the wins.

I dedicate this article to my wife Patty, who has endured the ups and downs of poker life with me. As she says, I saved the best for last.

As a betting man, I would say she is right.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

Sports Betting Could Transform California Gaming Industry

It takes zero experience to bets sports. I should know; I’ve been betting sports for over 50 years.
Sports betting is one of the most entertaining forms of gambling because it offers both an adrenaline rush and a chance to win while watching your favorite sport.

Now with the possibility of sports betting sweeping across America, the gambling industry will be transformed. It is akin to when poker moved out of back rooms to being front and center on our televisions.
Thanks goes to Governor Chris Christie for taking the case for states’ rights to the Supreme Court resulting in a 6 to 3 Supreme court decision reversing a long-stranding federal law banning sports betting. States now can decide if they want legal sports betting.
I have spent millions personally on becoming an expert on sports betting and the social behaviors that surround it.
My dream used to be to retire to Las Vegas and spend my retirement in the sports book (my dream is my wife’s nightmare.) But now that dream can come true in California if sports betting is legalized in the Golden State. This could be the next gold rush.

The San Diego area would be a perfect place for sports betting as it would stem the flow of local players from going across the border to bet in Tijuana, Mexico.

Sports bettors will also increase the horse racing industry handle by the millions, if not billions, nationwide because sports betting and horse racing go hand-in-hand.

Impact on College and Professional Sports


Sports franchises from major leagues to minor leagues, from soccer to billiards, could also be big winners.
I have always said if you could not bet on the NBA, it would fade away, and it looks like Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, understands that. The NBA was the first major sports league to change its long anti-gambling stance.

The same applies to college sports. Nick Saban was quoted as saying he knows that people have been betting illegally on football games for a long time, and now if they bet legally, he has no problem with it as long as it doesn’t affect the integrity of the game.
The biggest winner of all will be the sports bettors. They can finally step out of the shadows and gray areas of the law where they have lurked for the past hundred years. A safe and regulated industry for sports betting fans, including strong consumer protections, will transform the gaming landscape in this country.
Imagine going to a Los Angeles Dodger game and betting on them at the stadium. Talk about fan engagement. Or how about betting on play-by-play on your phone watching the game live with in-game betting.
The West, the East Coast and the South could all be potential winners. Gamblers will go to other casino games when the ball games are over to try and get even or play with their winnings.
I see sports betting becoming a powerful marketing tool to promote a casino property. From a purely marketing standpoint, it’s tremendous for any casino.
And if and when sports betting goes online, the sky’s the limit for revenue. I personally feel that online betting will hurt brick-and-mortar casinos. That is a whole other debate, but to me it’s simple math.

Casinos need traffic for jobs and expansion, and if customers are playing online, it’s debatable they will go into a casino unless a marketing genius finds a way to cross-promote both online and in the casino.

Let’s take the example of a California casino that opens a large sports book in a Palm Springs. It would need to hire at least 400 more staff to accommodate its guests in providing food and beverage. In addition, that increase in visitors creates a domino effect that could lead to a surge in hiring from valet to security and so on.

But if internet sports betting is legalized, then those 400 new jobs would drop to only 50 employees.

In the end, the biggest loser could be the state of Nevada, which stands to lose millions of customers, especially from California. Casinos in Nevada may have to reconsider those resort and parking fees Californians so detest (a subject for another article but timely with the WSOP beginning today).
Bookmakers and illegal sports betting sites may still exist because they offer credit, and you can bet on the phone or from the comfort of your home. But they could also take a hit if casinos offer sports betting on the mobile phones and online.
Sports betting can be a dream come true for millions and is long overdue in the gaming industry. But there is a dark side to it. Problem gambling will increase tenfold, so that needs to be addressed when states pass new sports betting laws.

California Can Lead the Way


The big challenge in California will be determining who will take your bets and where you can bet. The horse racing industry, casinos and card clubs in California need to unite on this issue to make it legal as soon as possible. There is enough action for everybody.
If all the entities with an interest in introducing sports betting to the state of California can come to an agreement, I expect to be able to place my first sports bet in my home state in 2020.

Where sports betting is legalized will determine where I will live out my golden years (I’m looking at you, Palm Springs).

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

Time to Change the Game

Mike Sexton

I have been defending poker my whole career. When I was an executive host for MGM, I booked a well-known poker player, who got drunk and knocked a female security guard across a gaming table. I was called because he was escorted off the property, and they asked me what to do about him.

He had a high-end sports car in valet, his things still in the room, and they wanted to know how to move forward. I have always been an advocate for my players. In a board meeting, I was able to convince them to give him a second chance.

Now that I reflect back on that, I think it was the wrong decision.

This customer was an elite poker player, and instead of being an ambassador for the game, he was the exact opposite. Rather than promote the game that he made millions playing, he gave it a black eye.

But I wasn’t blameless either. Because he was also a table games player, it was in my best interest to keep him as a customer. At the time, I earned my living off players that I would bring into the MGM.

Knowing what I know now, I probably should have allowed the lifetime ban to stand. The message I was sending was that money was more important than doing the right thing.

Speaking of bad ambassadors of poker, this next player takes the cake. I was playing at a card room in Los Angeles in a major tournament when a young player with a Team PokerStars patch walked in late with a small entourage. I didn’t know who he was, but the floor staff was shaking his hand.

He sat down at my table and immediately started criticizing people’s play. He knocked the tournament and the structure and was just a complete jerk. I went over to the tournament director, and said, “Surely, this guy can’t represent PokerStars.” He said yes he does.

This was the exact opposite of what an ambassador for poker should be. Instead of shaking hands with the players, he berated them. He acted like this tournament was below him.
Watching that was a disgrace. It’s time for the pros to be the protectors of the game.

We Need More Poker Ambassadors

TDA

Of course there are many icons of the game who are outstanding individuals. Mike Sexton is a perfect example of a poker ambassador. He is someone who has helped grow and protect the game. He is also a gentleman; when he sits at the table, you know you’re dealing with a class act.

Linda Johnson is another poker personality who has spent her career protecting the game. Matt Savage, along with Jan Fisher and David Lamb, co-founded the Tournament Directors Association.

The TEA has done great job of standardizing poker tournament rules worldwide. It’s now time for that same body to come up with a code of conduct and set of disciplinary standards to stop abuse at the poker table.

Some tournaments have done such things as penalizing players for using bad language. But we need to take it further.

It won’t be easy, but it is necessary to grow the poker industry by bringing in more recreational players. It may not be obvious to most, but I believe that a contributing factor to closing some poker rooms is the problems at the tables.

Too many professional players have taken a lot from the game without giving anything back. If you are going to call yourself a professional poker player, you also need to be a protector of the game.

Poker is out of the back room now and on the world stage on television and digital platforms. People watch poker all over the world. What they see, they emulate.

The world is watching. It’s time to change the game now.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.

Time to Protect Everyone at the Poker Table

I want to thank everyone for the great response to my last article about abuse in poker directed at women and dealers. You can read the first part here: Women in Poker, Part 1 This article will focus on solutions.

Bullying at the Table Has to Stop

Last week I played the H.O.R.S.E. event at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino. When we were down to two tables in the qualifier, I witnessed a serious incident of abuse at the table.

My friend Walter, a player in his 80’s, was verbally attacked by a younger player. He kept berating Walter to the point where he said something to the effect of, “When I finish with you, old man, you will walk out of here a cripple.”

Walter, a military veteran who I have played with for over forty years, would have definitely fired back in his younger days. Instead, Walter was very quiet and threw off his chips and was knocked out soon after.

Walter was being bullied because the player knew he could do it without consequences.

The abusive player stood up and began spewing f-bombs across the table and the room so loud it could not be missed. There were three women at the table–my wife, another female player and the dealer. This easily was some of the most atrocious behavior I have seen at the poker table, and believe me, I have seen fights break out, guns pulled and cards thrown in the face of dealers and floor staff.

I got up and asked the floor person, who was only four feet away, “How can you allow this to continue?” He said he did not hear it. I was totally let down. I decided to address it with Mo Faithipour, the Bike’s tournament director, the next day. Mo was very disturbed by the story and said it would never be tolerated.

Tournament Directors Can Lead the Change

Mo, Matt Savage, Commerce Casino’s tournament director, and Corey Silver, the tournament director at Hollywood Park Casino, are all working diligently on making Los Angeles a better place to play poker for all players.

I feel the best thing a player can do when they see something is to say something. Leave the table, find the tournament directors or supervisor, and alert them of the problem, so if they are called over to the table, they have a heads up. This will go along way to police our industry.

The tournament staff will appreciate it, and I hope this will provide anonymity for those who are trying to help. It’s time for the WSOP to set examples for other tournaments to follow. I remember two years ago a player at a WSOP event was so abusive, he stopped play at several tables next to his. He was yelling at the dealer, the other players and dropping f-bombs. He was out of control.

It took a minute to get not one but several floor staff over to address his behavior. I thought for sure he would be disqualified from the tournament, but he just got a warning. I thought, “Who is this guy that has so much clout that he just got a warning?”

It’s time for this behavior to stop. Let 2018 be the year that the WSOP sets the example for all other tournaments.

My son Jaden suggested using social media or texting to alert tournament staff of situations that are spiraling out of control. Jaden said that’s how millennials communicate, and it can be used to stamp out bad behavior and really elevate the game. I agree that would be a game changer. What about a tournament text line that’s monitored by management or even security?

It’s time for the TDA to address and establish guidelines not just on how to best play the game, which they have done a great job in doing, but it’s time to address conduct at the table.

Let’s get signage and conduct rules posted on casino and tournament websites along with the schedule of events.

There has always been talk of recognizing poker as a sport. Creating a uniform code of conduct for all tournaments will be the first major step. I don’t see how we can move forward without one.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner.