Winning at Low-Limit Omaha

Peyton Omaha

I have been trying to get the world to play Omaha poker for the past 40 years. I have been playing the game for so long around the country and all over the world, and I have made a few observations I would like to share with new and beginning players of $4/$8 and $6/$12 Omaha Hi/Lo games.

I have spent the past year consulting with Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles to establish a $4/$8 Omaha Hi-Lo game and a $6/$12 Big O game. It has been successful so far, and the future looks even brighter especially now that the St. Louis Rams announced they are moving back to Los Angeles to the Hollywood Park property.

Can you imagine 20,000 fans tailgating a few yards from these Omaha poker games? When legendary golfer Lee Trevino became eligible for golf’s Senior Tour, he said something to the effect that, “They just gave me the keys to the golden city!” He also said I have been waiting over 30 years for this chance. I feel the same way.

Omaha: Game of the Future

Now let’s talk about a few strategy tips that might help you. First, I believe it’s time for hold’em players to add Omaha to their arsenal. For you hold’em players who look at Omaha as a foreign language, it’s just hold’em played with four cards in your hand. Simply pick two of your four cards to make your best hand, just like in hold’em. In Big O, the only difference is you are dealt five cards, but you still must play only two of your five cards.

What really seems to confuse hold’em players is the concept of Omaha being “a game of the nuts,” meaning you don’t call on the river with the second or third best hand. The nuts is the nuts, and there is no guesswork. In hold’em you are never sure if your hand is strong enough; in Omaha you know exactly where you are. If you don’t have the nuts, fold.

A challenge for players transitioning from hold’em to Omaha is learning how to deal with the added element of the low in a split game. In order for the game not to have so many split pots, the qualification for the low hand is five cards lower than an eight. What that means is three cards below eight must be on the board, otherwise there is no low, and the high-side winner gets all of the pot.

Another challenging aspect when first learning Omaha Hi/Lo is the situation that often arises called “counterfeiting your low.” It’s confusing even for the best players, and it is even harder to write about. Say you are trying to make the lowest possible hand using your two best low cards, an ace and a deuce. If the board reads 3, 4, 5, you have a five card-straight or a “wheel,” the best possible low.

On the other hand, say you have the same ace deuce in your hand, and the board reads 5, 6, 8 and a deuce comes on the river, your deuce got counterfeited, and now you have a bad low.

Because of all of these possibilities, Omaha gives bad players many opportunities to chase and make mistakes, and Big O gives them even more. As a winning player, it is your job to capitalize on other players’ weaknesses and tendencies. You can tell who’s chasing the low, who is on a draw, who is gambling and who doesn’t know what they’re doing. There are so many calling stations in Omaha, it’s almost like playing poker with your opponents’ hands face up.

There are two more tips I want to share for low-limit Omaha games. One is never raise pre flop unless you have a premium hand like double ace, two, three, and you’re in position. Instead, save these chips to see the turn, then step up your game aggression. By raising preflop, you think you are pot building, but Omaha is entirely different from hold’em. Save your chips for monster hands that you’re a lock to win either part or all of the pot.

My last tip is that although Omaha is called a game of the nuts, you can still bluff. If you can read tells, especially on people’s faces, you will see they give away so much information. You can bet and steal pots when you can tell players missed their lows or draws. They are trying to surrender, and all you have to do is bet and take it when their cards failed to materialize.

Super Bowl 50 and Omaha

Peyton Omaha Suit

With the Super Bowl 50 being played this weekend, it got me to thinking why does Peyton Manning yell Omaha at the line of scrimmage? He is trying to tell poker players, especially hold’em players, to learn a new game.

You can improve your Omaha game and make extra money using these tips. If you are new to Omaha, all you have to do is get in a game. Nothing replaces experience and practice. See you at the tables.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it 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. 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. Subscribe to Robert’s blog “Beyond the Numbers” to receive notifications of new posts by email.

2015 Year in Review: Trends and Forecasts in Gaming

The-Bicycle-Hotel--Casino

As I reflect back on this year and look forward to the next, I see great things for the gaming industry. This year saw a trend in poker that will change the way tournaments are run; tournament directors are moving away from multiple rebuys and re-entry events. For example, the Bicycle Hotel & Casino held a tournament with a $100,000 guarantee for a $150 buy-in last Friday, Dec. 4, that drew over 1,000 players and packed the casino. I introduced the re-buy concept years ago at the Normandie Casino and regret it to this day. In the old days, I was dealing with a limited amount of players in a small casino and had to get the numbers up. The concept served its purpose years ago, but it is not necessary today because the fields are so much bigger.

Another trend is the smaller buy-in tournament with a large guarantee, such as the so-called Colossus event held for the first time at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) this year. This tournament drew a record 22,374 players. Events like this are a great introduction for new tournament players. Though there was some controversy over first-place paying only $638,880 for the biggest live tournament in history, I am sure this year first place will be a million dollars if the WSOP holds this event again.

Speaking of the WSOP, Joe McKeehen, 24, this year’s winner of the WSOP Main Event, really put on a dominating performance. McKeehen had a great game plan, and it worked to perfection. Joe’s performance reminded me of Jerry Wang and his perfect play and decision making in the 2007 WSOP Main Event.

The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles opened a great hotel addition to their casino that rivals any property in Las Vegas and sets the stage for Los Angeles becoming the poker capital of the world. Several new casinos will open in 2016. The Garden in Hawaiian Gardens, California, will open its brand-new casino in late December or early January. According to David Moskowitz, CEO of the Gardens Casino, it will feature the largest event center for tournaments in Los Angeles. The new Hollywood Park casino is slated to open in September 2016 with an entertainment complex that will be a showplace for both poker and football. The NFL plans to build a new stadium at Hollywood Park that will host future Super Bowls. It’s a very exciting time for gaming in Los Angeles.

In 2015 we saw daily fantasy sports (DFS) explode on the gaming scene and will meet court challenges moving forward. DFS is gambling. It’s time to make sports betting legal like they have done in Europe and regulate and tax it. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver admitted it’s time to legalize it. Speaking of the NBA, fans are seeing a great show in MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who are currently undefeated and are on track for a record-breaking season. Curry is currently the best basketball player on the planet and is changing the game. He may be the best ever in NBA history if he can stay healthy.

The new millennials are the future of gaming and are changing the way casinos market themselves. The millennials grew up with social media and playing video games. Traditional gambling does not appeal to them as much as it did to their parents. They are used to a more fast-paced, finger-tipped technology, and e-sports fits them perfectly. The e-sports industry is moving at warp speed and could provide players for Las Vegas for the next twenty years.

It’s time for casinos to rethink their marketing budgets and allocate more dollars to e-sports and poker. My hope for the upcoming year is that Las Vegas takes another look at how valuable poker players are to their property and use poker as a marketing tool. It’s time they look beyond the numbers and not worry so much about the bottom line.

In closing, as someone who has been in gaming for almost fifty years, I have seen a lot of exciting things this year. Watching American Pharoah win the Triple Crown was the best adrenaline rush I have had in years. I am also fortunate to watch the game of Omaha continue to grow in popularity. I will continue to promote it as I have for 45 years.

2016 will be an exciting year with casinos being planned across America. The future of gaming has never looked brighter. I’m proud and fortunate to still be a part of it. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it 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. 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. Subscribe to Robert’s blog “Beyond the Numbers” to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Card Player Poker Tour Comes to Los Angeles Casinos by Patricia Chavira

Corey Silver, Tournament Director for Hollywood Park Casino, with the Heavyweight belt to be awarded to the winner of the Championship Event.

Corey Silver, Tournament Director for Hollywood Park Casino, with the Heavyweight belt to be awarded to the winner of the Championship Event.

The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, California, is currently hosting its annual fall tournament, the Big Poker Oktober in conjunction with the Card Player Poker Tour, which runs through October 14.

Beginning on Monday, October 5 and continuing through Thursday, October 8, a $200,000 guarantee No Limit Hold’em tournament will be held with two starting sessions each day at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. The buy-in is $180 the first two days for 15,000 starting chips with 15% of the players qualifying for Day 2. On Wednesday and Thursday the buy-in is $235 for 20,000 chips with 20% of the field advancing to Day 2. There is a direct buy-in to Day 2 on Friday, October 9 for $1,100.

The $500,000 guarantee No Limit Hold’em Main Event has three flights beginning on Saturday, October 10 at 12 p.m. for $1,100. Players eliminated any day may re-enter the next day. Players can buy-in directly into Day 2 of the Main Event on Tuesday, October 13 for $4,300. The final table will be streamed at liveatthebike.com on Wednesday, October 14 at 2 p.m.

The Card Player Poker Tour moves to Hollywood Park Casino on Friday, October 16, for the National Championship of Poker, created by Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner in 1995. Turner says, “I am very happy that the new management at Hollywood Park Casino is continuing the tradition of the National Championship of Poker.”

Corey Silver, tournament director for Hollywood Park Casino says, “For the first time in two years, the National Championship of Poker will be back at Hollywood Park Casino. This prestigious event which started back in 1995 will feature 10 day of action-packed poker October 16-25 culminating with the $500 buy-in $150,000 Championship Event October 22-25. The Championship Event offers three starting days with the final day being played out on Sunday, October 25, for the world to watch via Card Player’s Live Stream Final Table.”

Preliminary events include single-day tournaments with guarantees ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 and offer different variations, such as No Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo and Knockout Bounties. Winners in all preliminary event will earn entry into the $500 Championship Event. In addition, there will be last-chance Super Satellites Thursday, October 22 and Friday, October 23 at 7 p.m. for players to win their way into the Championship Event for as little as $60. Visit playhpc.com for more information.

 

The Hidden Value of the Poker Player

Maverick

When I was an executive host for MGM, I once got a call from a casino manager in Los Angeles who said a customer playing small limit poker wanted to go Las Vegas and could I get him a room. As a favor, I booked it at room comp only hoping to get more referrals later.

The customer lost over $100,000, and in the next month he lost a lot more.

I was totally shocked at the amount of money he lost. This was not a unique story. I met a woman playing poker who won about $1,000. I asked her if she would like to go to Vegas some time and gave her my card. That weekend I got a call, and she said she would take me up on the offer, and I booked her a room at room comp only.

When I checked her play, she had lost $60,000. Again, I could not believe the amount she ended up losing. This is just two stories about California poker players that go to Las Vegas and lose fortunes at other games. I have hundreds of these tales.

Recently I took a weekend trip to Las Vegas to play poker with my wife at the Bellagio. I got involved in a number of hands with a younger player who beat me out of several pots. A few hands later, he said he was taking his wife to play blackjack with the thousand he beat me out of. If Bellagio did not have poker and had not given me a poker rate, they would not have the money I spent staying, playing and dining there.

Now here is some basic math about a poker player’s worth. All Texas Hold’em games can produce 32 to 40 hands per hour, so let’s use 36 hands × $5 drop for $180 per hour as a base. Let’s say a game goes 10 hours for $1,800 per table in revenue a day.

Let’s say our hypothetical player plays every day. If a player contributes those ten hours, he pays $18 an hour for $180.00 dollars per day for the service of the casino providing a table and a dealer. Now if that player plays 360 days at $180 that equals $64,800 a year that the player is worth.

That being said, poker as a stand-alone entity represents a small amount of direct revenue to a casino. But here is the secret–the crossover business is a key marketing tool that California understands, but Las Vegas still has not been able to completely grasp. Visitors from California made up nearly 30% of the visitors to Las Vegas in 2014. Las Vegas’ casinos must cater to the California gambling market.

A Vegas casino can easily build up a database of poker players in California who visit Las Vegas for recreation. California players can play poker at the largest card rooms in the world at home; they go to Vegas to gamble at other games (I’m guilty of this myself), stay in a nice room and eat, shop, dine and watch shows, just like any other gambler. Do not be fooled about a player’s true worth by labelling him simply a “poker player” as if he has nothing to contribute to your bottom line.

Offering poker in a casino is just a just a means to the ultimate end–a profitable casino bottom line. You may not see the profits in your spreadsheet from the poker room, but if you do not look beyond that number, you will miss all the money these players are spending in the other areas of the casino. When players walks in the door, they are going to spend money from the moment they step on your property until they leave. Steve Wynn said it best when he said something to the effect that one thing is for certain: if people pass through your casino, some of their money is magically left behind.

In today’s competitive gambling market, it’s a mistake to shut out any demographic. Any casino that doesn’t have a poker room doesn’t understand gamblers and is doomed to fail.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it 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. 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.

Modern Poker Pioneers: Steve Wynn and Bobby Baldwin

Bobby Baldwin WSOP 

Steve Wynn and Bobby Baldwin deserve credit for the poker explosion in Las Vegas. Bobby Baldwin, under Steve Wynn, opened three rooms as President of the Mirage and controlled a third of the poker revenue in Nevada. Baldwin is one of those rare breed of people in the gambling world who has achieved great success both as a legendary poker player and as a successful casino executive.

Poker Hall of Famer Baldwin won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1978 at the age of 28 becoming the youngest winner in its history at the time. The record was broken in 1980 when Stu Ungar became the Main Event champion. Joe Cada currently holds the record for youngest WSOP Main Event winner ever when he won the event in 2009 at the age of 21. Baldwin went on to win 4 WSOP gold bracelets all between 1977-1979, an impressive record for any poker player.

In the 80s Baldwin transitioned to the casino business when he became a consultant for the Golden Nugget and was named its president in 1984. In 1987 he was selected to head the Mirage, which opened on November 22, 1989 on the site of the former Castaways, which was owned by Howard Hughes. All the way back in 1980, Steve Wynn envisioned building the first major resort in Las Vegas in 25 years at a time when tourism in Las Vegas was in decline.

He used the working nameGolden Nugget on the Strip” for this project. This ultimately became the Mirage, which was the most expensive hotel-casino at the time and set the stage for the implosion of the old casinos and the rise of the mega-resorts that dot the Las Vegas Strip today. Baldwin would help lead this march into the modern gaming era. In 2000, he was named Chief Financial Officer of Mirage Resorts under Steve Wynn and upon the merger of Mirage Resort and MGM Grand, Baldwin became CEO of the Mirage Resorts subsidiary of MGM Mirage.

A major part of this dream team on the poker side was Doug Dalton. Dalton got his start in poker operations in 1978 helping his friend Chip Reese run the poker room at the Dunes. Dalton was hired by Baldwin to work in the Golden Nugget Poker Room, where he worked until 1988. He was poker manager of the Mirage in its golden years from 1994-1998 until he became the Director of Poker Operations at the Bellagio until 2012.

When Steve Wynn opened the billion-dollar Bellagio in 1998 on the site of the legendary Dunes casino, it ushered in a new standard of luxury in Las Vegas. A poker room had to be built that would match Wynn’s high standards. Separated from the main floor by two glass doors, Bobby’s Room offers privacy for its high-stakes players, but always has one glass door open as Nevada law prohibits private games in casinos.

Dalton tells the story of how they originally were going to call Bobby’s Room Chip’s Room, but Reese personally nixed that idea by saying people would rather play with Bobby than him. It was decided to make the game in Bobby’s Room a $20,000 buy-in, and the idea really took off. Crowds would gather to catch a glimpse of their favorite poker stars playing in the “Big Game” and get their pictures taken with the legend of poker. Pots in this game have reportedly exceeded $1 million. Bobby’s Room added glamour to poker that it had never seen before.

Dalton says they decided to open the room the same day Steve Wynn was opening his new Wynn resort. He got a call from a Wynn executive who told him, “Doug, some day you will be retired on a beach somewhere and regret this day.”

With Wynn as the visionary, Baldwin was a poker icon who had the power to make sure poker stayed front and center in Las Vegas. These modern poker pioneers helped set the stage for the poker boom that was about to come. Poker was poised to become a global phenomenon in the new millennium, and the rest is history.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it 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. 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.

Great Poker Deals From Los Angeles to Las Vegas by Patricia Chavira

Green Valley Ranch Poker Room

Green Valley Ranch Poker Room

Whether you are a recreational player searching for the best value for your poker dollar or a semi-professional looking to build your bankroll, Los Angeles and Las Vegas offer many options. The Linq’s new poker room on the Las Vegas Strip, which re-opened on August 24, spreads a variety of budget-friendly games from $1-$1 No-Limit Hold’em to a $1-$1 PLO game, both with a $50 minimum and $300 max buy-in and a max $4 rake. The Linq also offers daily tournaments at 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. all with a $45 buy-in.

A Las Vegas property off the strip in Henderson that provides a friendly room with good action is Green Valley Ranch. They have a unique promotion where a progressive bad beat jackpot is linked to all Station card rooms. The jackpot currently stands at $97,000 with the qualifier being Aces full of Jacks beaten on the flop in all Hold’em games. When it passes $100,000, the qualifier changes to include the turn and river. Their daily tournaments might be one of the best bankroll building tournaments in Las Vegas. With a $45 buy-in, the No-Limit Hold’em tournament at 10 a.m. averages around 120-150 players.

In Los Angeles, two tournaments provide some of the best values in the city. Hollywood Park Casino’s Friday Night Tournament at 7 p.m. has a $60 buy-in with a $12,000 guarantee. This tournament draws up to 200 people and first place usually pays $5000. Also, on the first Sunday of the month, the guarantee is increased to $25,000 with a buy-in of $230 that pays out over $10,000 to first place.

Corey Silver, Tournament Director at Hollywood Park Casino, says, “Our daily tournaments give the most starting chips out of any Los Angeles card room allowing players to have a more enjoyable experience. We are getting more tournament players every day that say they love the structure and special customer service that we provide.” The Card Player Poker Tour National Championship of Poker will be coming back to Hollywood Park Casino October 16-October 25. It will feature a $150,000 guarantee Championship Event with a $500 buy-in.

The Bicycle Hotel & Casino features the popular Quantum Reload tournaments with various starting times and buy-ins to accommodate players’ bankrolls and schedules. On Saturdays the guarantee is $30,000. A player can enter 3 different sessions starting at 2 p.m. with a buy-in of $40. With nearly 150-200 players, first place averages $10,000-$12,000. That’s one of the best bankroll builders around.

Before the Poker Boom: Poker in the 90s

Trump

In the 80s poker had become primarily a west coast phenomenon, but thanks to poker pioneers like Steve Wynn, Jack Binion, Lyle Berman, George Hardie and even Donald Trump, poker would expand across the United States in the 90s.

I became casino marketing director of the Bicycle Casino in 1991. Knowing I was from Alabama, the Bicycle Casino’s founder George Hardie sent me to Tunica, Mississippi, to scout the area for a large poker casino he had planned to develop there.

As I looked out at the cotton fields and the raging Mississippi river, I remember looking forward to running a poker room in the south; it would be going back home for me. I had hosted many games in that area for years and finally would have a chance to offer the players a legal and safe environment to play where they would not have to worry about law enforcement or hijackers.

Hardie had options on land around Robinson and the Tunica area, which would later be sold to Lyle Berman. Berman is one of the best Omaha players in the world. He would visit the Bicycle Casino to play in the Diamond Jim Brady tournaments and became good friends with Hardie. Hardie had an ambition to build the largest poker room in the world in Mississippi and purchased a piece of property called Buck Lake around Tunica.

Hardie had lobbied to have the nearest casino to Memphis, Tennessee. He would later sell that property to Berman, who built the Grand Casino in Tunica in 1996, which helped establish poker in Mississippi. Jack Binion also purchased land to build the Horseshoe casino, which opened the previous year. Poker had finally arrived in the south.

Ken Lambert Jr., Regional Director of Operations for the Heartland Poker Tour, recalls opening day of Jack Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Tunica where he was director of poker operations, “We finally opened in February of 1995 to long lines of excited players. The lines extended hundreds of feet. It was a cold day, but to warm as many of the guests as he could, Jack emptied out his gift shop and began handing out any type of cold apparel that was on hand.”

Lambert continues, “I had 10 poker tables opened and ready to go as players rushed to the room to be the first to play a hand in Tunica at Jack Binion’s Horseshoe. Not long after opening, the poker room expanded to 12 tables and the rest was history. We had the biggest players in the world come play. The new dealers were dealing games they had only heard about, $4,000/$8,000 limit Hold’em and the Pot-Limit Omaha had a $75,000 max bet.”

When poker exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, I felt like Forrest Gump. I was lucky enough to see landmark events in poker history firsthand and even established a record myself. I became the first player to have four consecutive cashes in the WSOP Main Event in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. My highest finish was 6th in 1994. Ronnie Bardah set a new record in 2014 with five consecutive cashes in the Main Event.

On the east coast, poker was also having its own boom. In Nolan Dalla’s article “The Early Years of the Atlantic City Poker Scene,” Dalla says, “The epicenter of the East Coast poker universe instantly became the Trump Taj Mahal, which opened the sparkling 50-table room in the Summer of 1993.”

Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland was hired by Donald Trump in 1996 as poker tournament director to establish a major poker tournament on the east coast. Trump created the United States Poker Championship tournament, which was a prestigious stop on the professional poker circuit for years and was televised on ESPN. McClelland says Trump was a no-nonsense, get-it-done right kind of guy. He really enjoyed working for him.

I remember going to the opening of most of these new poker rooms. Poker now had a showcase across the United States. This developed thousands of new poker players. Poker had arrived as a must-have amenity in casinos to reach out to a new demographic of gamblers.

The 90s was a great decade for me personally as I found success both in casino boardrooms and on the felt. In part 2, I will discuss the poker boom in Las Vegas. Steve Wynn, with the help of Bobby Baldwin as his president, opened Bellagio, which would be a game changer in the history of poker.

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 the 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Follow Robert on Twitter @thechipburner.

Before the Poker Boom: Poker in the 90s

Trump

In the 80s poker had become primarily a west coast phenomenon, but thanks to poker pioneers like Steve Wynn, Jack Binion, Lyle Berman, George Hardie and even Donald Trump, poker would expand across the United States in the 90s.

I became casino marketing director of the Bicycle Casino in 1991. Knowing I was from Alabama, the Bicycle Casino’s founder George Hardie sent me to Tunica, Mississippi, to scout the area for a large poker casino he had planned to develop there.

As I looked out at the cotton fields and the raging Mississippi river, I remember looking forward to running a poker room in the south; it would be going back home for me. I had hosted many games in that area for years and finally would have a chance to offer the players a legal and safe environment to play where they would not have to worry about law enforcement or hijackers.

Hardie had options on land around Robinson and the Tunica area, which would later be sold to Lyle Berman. Berman is one of the best Omaha players in the world. He would visit the Bicycle Casino to play in the Diamond Jim Brady tournaments and became good friends with Hardie. Hardie had an ambition to build the largest poker room in the world in Mississippi and purchased a piece of property called Buck Lake around Tunica.

Hardie had lobbied to have the nearest casino to Memphis, Tennessee. He would later sell that property to Berman, who built the Grand Casino in Tunica in 1996, which helped establish poker in Mississippi. Jack Binion also purchased land to build the Horseshoe casino, which opened the previous year. Poker had finally arrived in the south.

Ken Lambert Jr., Regional Director of Operations for the Heartland Poker Tour, recalls opening day of Jack Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Tunica where he was director of poker operations, “We finally opened in February of 1995 to long lines of excited players. The lines extended hundreds of feet. It was a cold day, but to warm as many of the guests as he could, Jack emptied out his gift shop and began handing out any type of cold apparel that was on hand.”

Lambert continues, “I had 10 poker tables opened and ready to go as players rushed to the room to be the first to play a hand in Tunica at Jack Binion’s Horseshoe. Not long after opening, the poker room expanded to 12 tables and the rest was history. We had the biggest players in the world come play. The new dealers were dealing games they had only heard about, $4,000/$8,000 limit Hold’em and the Pot-Limit Omaha had a $75,000 max bet.”

When the poker explosion happened in the 1980s and 1990s, I felt like Forrest Gump. I was lucky enough to see landmark events in poker history firsthand and even established a record myself. I became the first player to have four consecutive cashes in the WSOP Main Event in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. My highest finish was 6th in 1994. Ronnie Bardah set a new record in 2014 with five consecutive cashes in the Main Event.

On the east coast, poker was also having its own boom. In Nolan Dalla’s article “The Early Years of the Atlantic City Poker Scene,” Dalla says, “The epicenter of the East Coast poker universe instantly became the Trump Taj Mahal, which opened the sparkling 50-table room in the Summer of 1993.”

Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland was hired by Donald Trump in 1996 as poker tournament director to establish a major poker tournament on the east coast. Trump created the United States Poker Championship tournament, which was a prestigious stop on the professional poker circuit for years and was televised on ESPN. McClelland recalls Trump as a no-nonsense, get-it-done-right kind of guy. He really enjoyed working for him.

I remember going to the opening of most of these new poker rooms in the south and on the east coast. Poker now had a showcase across the United States. This developed thousands of new poker players. Poker had arrived as a must-have amenity in casinos to reach out to a new demographic of gamblers.

The 90s was a great decade for me personally, as I found success both in casino boardrooms and on the felt. In part 2, I will discuss the poker boom in Las Vegas. Steve Wynn, with the help of Bobby Baldwin as his president, opened Bellagio, which would be a game changer in the history of poker.

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 the 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting, marketing and coaching. Follow Robert on Twitter @thechipburner.

Best Poker Tournaments in the West: Summer 2015 by Patricia Chavira

WPTDS Reno

As summer winds down, it’s a great time to play poker tournaments in California and Nevada. These events feature buy-ins that will appeal both to professional and recreational players. At the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, California, the World Poker Tour’s Legends of Poker Main Event will consist of three starting days beginning on Saturday, August 29 through Monday, August 31. The $3,700 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament final table with 6 players will be filmed on Friday, September 4 at 4 p.m. The winner will receive a seat into the WPT World Championship. Last year’s winner, Harry Arutyunyan, topped a field of 593 entrants and collected $576,369. Previous winners of this prestigious tournament include Mel Judah and Dan Harrington.

The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada is currently hosting the WPT’s DeepStacks tour, which runs through Sunday, August 30. The 11th stop on the DeepStacks’ 16-stop schedule features both No-Limit Hold’em and Omaha events with buy-ins to suit every budget. On Wednesday, August 26 there are two No-Limit Hold’em tournaments—one is a two-day, $550 buy-in event with a $40,000 guarantee, the other is a $150 buy-in tournament with a $5,000 guarantee.

The three-day $1,100 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event begins on Friday, August 28 and runs through Sunday, August 30. The last event of the series is a $150 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo at 6 p.m. on Sunday. If you get knocked out, you can play in the Atlantis’ poker room which spreads a variety of poker games including $6/$12 Omaha and $1/$2 Mixed Pot Limit while earning $2/hour comps. Call the poker room at 775-954-4142 for more information.

If you like to plan ahead, the next California stop on the WPT DeepStacks tour will be held at the Ocean’s 11 Casino in Oceanside, California just north of San Diego and will run from October 17-26.

The Commerce Poker Series at Commerce Casino starts Wednesday, September 2 and runs through September 20. The Series kicks off with a $350 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament with $200,000 guaranteed. There will be four starting days held from Wednesday, September 2 to Saturday, September 5 with 2 flights on Friday and Saturday at 1p.m. and 5 p.m. The $1,650 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event will begin on Friday, September 18 with a $500,000 guarantee. For more details and structure sheets, visit commercecasino.com.

 

The First Poker Boom

Stardust

I was discussing music with my wife while we were listening to satellite radio in the car. Some stations were listed by decades. I knew just about every song from the 1960s and 1970s, and I had in fact seen many groups in concert from that era, but I knew nothing of the 1980s, the decade my wife grew up in.

Then the thought struck me that I knew nothing about the 80s because I had gambled away a whole decade. I spent so much time playing poker tournaments and live poker that nothing crossed my mind but poker. I traveled all over the world playing cards seven days a week without stopping to smell the roses.

In that decade, I probably won hundreds of tournament. At the time, it would not be unusual to play in Las Vegas in a poker room with 4-8 tables. The Stardust and Golden Nugget, which were the two biggest rooms in Las Vegas and the world at the time, featured only 15-20 tables.

I felt there was nothing more for me to accomplish, so I decided to retire at 32. I was living in Alabama at the time. I had bought a 2,500 square- foot home with five bedrooms and a huge pool. My mortgage payment was $99.00 a month. It was a great life I had built all from poker.

Then everything changed. California legalized Texas Hold’em around 1986. I was in Alabama thinking of all that gold, and I left for California to seek my second fortune. I was not wrong; poker became huge in Los Angeles and all of California.

In the 80s poker really exploded. George Hardie had a dream to build the largest poker room in the world when he opened the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California, on November 30, 1984. The Commerce Casino opened the year before. These were super poker rooms and brought in new demographics to poker. Hold’em appealed more to the mainstream than lowball. These rooms were no longer considered second class but rather showplaces with the focus on poker for the first time in gaming history.

I was offered a job as a poker manager, then general manager at the Horseshoe in Gardena, California. At the time, everyone was spreading limit poker. Poker players were coming over from Las Vegas and the rest of the world to play poker in California. These players were used to playing PLO and Seven Stud Hi/Lo, so I introduced these games into the game mix in California.

The owners offered me ten percent of the casino to spread the new games as it was all new to them, and they had no business to speak of. I soon found myself in charge of a California casino. I developed twenty poker games in 90 days. It was a dream job.

Las Vegas was now trying to catch up to California. Eric Drache, Poker Hall of Famer, said Steve Wynn was interested in purchasing the Commerce Casino, but laws in California prohibited Las Vegas’ licensees from owning casinos in California.

Steve Wynn set a new standard when he built the Mirage in Las Vegas at a cost of $630 million, which was the most expensive hotel-casino in history at the time. When the Mirage opened in November 22, 1989, it featured the best poker room in Las Vegas with 31 tables. In 1990 Donald Trump opened the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which would feature the east coast’s largest poker room. Foxwoods opened their casino and featured poker a few years later.

All of these great rooms laid the groundwork for the next poker boom that would take place from 2000 to 2010. I was at the right place at the right time to be a part of both history-making decades. With that much poker being showcased coast to coast, you can see how a person could get totally consumed by it.

I worked so hard for so many years that I lost contact with the outside world. The 1980s were a total blur. If something wasn’t poker or casino-related, it wasn’t on my radar. My friend Eric Drache said he lost the 70s when he moved from New Jersey to Las Vegas, so I’m not alone in this.

I became so consumed by work and gambling that it was like I lived in two worlds—one world with family and friends and regular life and then there was this other world that consisted of non-stop grinding.

Was my poker success worth it? Looking back on the amount of work and poker playing that I did, I would say no. I would not recommend that to anyone. But as Eric Drache said, “What else could we have done?”

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