Pioneering Women in Poker: Phyllis Caro, Part 1 by Patricia Chavira

phyllis-caro-photo

In the poker world, the name Caro represents integrity in poker. But before Phyllis Caro became the well-respected casino executive she is known as today, she worked her way up the ranks starting as a dealer.

She played 7-card stud in the 70’s at Caesars Palace. At the time, poker was a small community where everyone knew each other. She was going back and forth between Las Vegas and New York, where she is originally from.

While she was in Vegas in 1979, she had a neighbor who was a box man at the El Cortez, which just opened a poker room in Downtown Las Vegas. She was asked to shill for a few days, and so began Phyllis’ first foray into the poker business.

The next day the room had four tables, and they still needed help, so she sat in the box. The room was very successful from the beginning. Over the years, she dealt at the Las Vegas Club, Aladdin and Golden Nugget.

She was dealing at the Golden Nugget in 1982 when Bill Boyd replaced Pineapple with a new game called Nugget Hold’em. This game would become Omaha, which Robert Turner brought to Boyd.

Not only was Phyllis there at the start of Omaha, she would also meet someone at the Golden Nugget who would take her life in a new direction. That person was Mike Caro.

They married in 1983, and Phyllis quit dealing and helped Mike write books. During that time, Mike was invited to a seminar in Redding, California, where George Hardie was also in attendance.

He told them he was going to open the biggest poker room in California and asked Mike to be involved. Hardie wanted to run a clean, honest poker room, and the Caros were the perfect people to help him.

Before the Bicycle Club opened, Phyllis helped interview and audition dealers and set up the casino staffing. She was offered any job she wanted. She became dealer coordinator.

Hardie had a new vision for California gaming, and it was different from the rampant cheating that defined Gardena at the time. It was so bad, Mike said, “I didn’t know poker was a team sport.” They had their work cut out for them.

In Part 2, read about how Phyllis helped shape the future of poker in California.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer specializing in poker. She writes the “Poker Scene” column for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

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Brian Nadell: A Poker Player’s Poker Player by Patricia Chavira

brian-nadell

Los Angeles-based poker pro Brian Nadell had a great week at the Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC). On Monday, January 16, he cashed in Event #4: $350 Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better.

Three days later on Thursday, January 19, he made the final table of Event #8: $350 Omaha 8/Stud 8 or Better.

This is no surprise. Nadell has been playing cards since he was a kid, but in his early 20s he would play in a poker game once a week where you could bet up to $3. He says he played every week and never lost.

The first time he stepped into a casino was in August 1987. He was reeling from the loss of his father when a friend asked him to come to the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California.

On that first visit, he played $15/$30 Stud Hi-Low and won $3,300. Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner was responsible for bringing this game to the Bike. Nadell and Turner have been friends ever since.

The First Legends of Poker

 

legends-of-poker-logo

Eight years later, Turner created the first Legends of Poker for the Bike in 1995 and made Nadell a Legend of Poker host for the Omaha tournament.

Turner said, “We had an elite group of poker players who were very popular. Nadell was a great host and ambassador for the game of poker because he was such a well-liked individual and a great promoter of the game of Omaha.”

In 1996, Nadell moved back to Las Vegas and played high-limit poker at the Mirage. In Vegas, he found success playing in the WSOP. 1999 was a particularly memorable year.

Nadell at the WSOP

brian-nadell-at-wsop

He placed 13th in the $1,500 Seven-Card Razz, 2nd in the $2,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better and 15th in the $1,500 Razz.

He made a dramatic comeback in the Stud event. He was down to one black chip, but went on to capture second place for $85,000. This would become a familiar narrative for Nadell and the WSOP.

Nadell says he has made 11 final tables, and at one time, held the record for making the most final tables at the WSOP without winning a bracelet.

He has made millions playing poker, but he isn’t an ordinary poker player. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. He brings passion to everything he does. He is one to watch this year at the World Series of Poker this summer.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer specializing in poker. She writes the “Poker Scene” column for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

 

Jerry Stensrud: Making Commerce Casino Great

jerry-stensrud

Jerry Stensrud

If anyone deserves to be in the Poker Industry Hall of Fame, it’s Jerry Stensrud. During his 25-year tenure at Commerce Casino, Stensrud helped develop Commerce Casino into the largest poker room in the world, a distinction it still holds today.

This is Jerry’s story in his own words.

“I started playing poker at the tender age of 8. When my grandfather would clear the table at family functions, that meant the poker game was on. Once I got a taste for the game I was hooked.

I played in family games until I joined the Coast Guard. My introduction into poker games in the service was a disaster. It kept me broke and on base for quite a while.

I finally asked guy who consistently won what was wrong with my game, and he said without hesitation, “You play bad.” I talked him into being my tutor for a percentage if I won. I finally had beer money!

After the Coast Guard, I moved to Southern California and discovered the city of Gardena. They had six legal poker rooms holding 36 tables each. The only legal games at the time were draw poker low ball and 5-card draw high.

To Catch a Thief

poker-cheat

It was deal yourself, which meant every kind of poker cheat was spread out in these rooms and many times management went along with it. Most players were just lovers of the game–amateurs mixed in with some tough pros.

The pros hated the cheats but never had the power to stop all of it. When I became swing shift manager at the El Dorado Club in the 80s, I never had so much fun in my life playing cat and mouse with the cheats.

One story stands out from around the time we had started to bring in dealers. I had come on shift and surveyed the room as I did every shift. I noticed an unfamiliar face in a 15/30 lowball game.

This player kept his head down trying not to make eye contact. I go to the office and sit on the guy. He’s got the shuffle, the grip, stacking as he brings in discards, but he never moves.

I sit on him for two hours, and he’s an angel. Finally, it dawns on me that he knows I’m in the office, so I leave, order some lunch and eat at an empty table in plain sight.

While I am doing this, the cameras are rolling on him. I leave the food on the table and sneak in the office from another door, rewind the tape and look at his work.

Oh, my God, I don’t have the typical card cheat; I have the Michael Jordan of cheating! It was beautiful to watch and nobody had a clue. He was working alone dealing bottoms and holding out at the same time.

This was like winning an Oscar! So now I go get him. I walk in front of the table, make eye contact, take my right hand and brush my left arm. The thief will acknowledge this and get up from table without problem almost 100% of the time. A guard and I escort him into the office where we get his I.D. and mug shot.

He wants to tell me his problems. He started cheating at cards at the age of 12 in the Bronx and has been doing it his whole life. He has a Cadillac in the parking lot he’s making payments on, two kids in college, a mortgage and a wife who spends big.

He says he is 54 and too old to go legit. This guy had tears in his eyes. I spotted him years later in Laughlin, Nevada working the blackjack pit for the house. I always wondered if he went straight.

Largest Card Room in the World

Commerce Casino

I went back to playing. When the Bicycle Club opened, it had dealers at every table. The known cheats were told they could not play; it was paradise. I was living the good life when I got a call from the Commerce Casino. My name had come up to manage the poker section.

After much arm twisting, I took the job. Little did I know what I was getting into.

The owners came from other businesses and had hired a bunch of the old Gardena crooks to run the place They were pals with the cheats. The owners were honest but just didn’t know who they had hired, so I became the new sheriff in town come to clean up Dodge.

Commerce became the largest poker room in the world, and I doubt that anyone will ever be bigger. I put 25 years at Commerce and have so many people to thank that I could fill pages. I retired four years ago, but I’m still playing.”

Jerry has done as much for poker as anyone in the industry. It’s been an honor to know him.

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” at www.robertturnerpoker.wordpress.com to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Gardena: Poker Capital of the World

facebook_1461345592678 (1)Robert Turner as part of Larry Flynt’s  Original Hustler Casino Management Team

The Normandie Casino has been rumored to be an acquisition of the Hustler Casino by Larry Flynt. If this happens, the Gardena poker legacy will be gone, and all that will be left is one corporation controlling the remaining two.

Poker was started in Gardena in 1936 by legendary card club owners Ernie Primm and Russ Miller, the patriarch of the Miller family who owns the Normandie Casino.

The six clubs of poker that made up the Gardena landscape are now just a memory, and if Larry Flynt takes over the Normandie Casino, the last of the original six, a poker era will varnish forever.

As I reflect back, it has occurred to me that I managed four of the six casinos in Gardena, a small city ten miles outside Downtown Los Angeles. When poker boomed in California with the legalization of Hold’em around 1986, many characters came out to play in Gardena, including myself.

A Storied History: The Horseshoe Club

Horseshoe Club Gardena

Some were very famous for their play while others were notorious for having a shady past like Shoeshine Nick. Legendary poker author Mike Caro was also part of Gardena history.

Caro recalls of that time, “Old Gardena was a poker garden where money grew, but there was also treachery, and you had to avoid the cheating. You dealt your own cards, which was fine, but so did they, and there was always danger.”

Caro continues, “The producer — weak players who provided you profit — came, and many went broke or disappeared. But along came new producers, so you survived. It was five-card draw, high or low, and the draw could determine your fate for now. But there was always tomorrow. So, we won.”

“Gardena called itself the Poker Capital of the World. And it really was,” Caro concludes.

I agree with him. When I was General Manager of the Horseshoe Club in 1986, I had many problems to solve including rampant cheating, which I solved with stationary dealers. Before that, each player took turns dealing, which led to mechanics and teams plying their trade at the expense of the producers.

Some of the problems I had to deal with at the Horseshoe not only had to do with the players but also involved the owners. One day I discovered a security guard in the count room area taking chips out of the drop boxes.

After an investigation, it was determined that one of the owners had given him the key. That particular owner was the general partner of the casino; I knew my days were numbered there. The casino was sold, and my contract was bought out. It was closed for remodeling, and it never reopened.

Poker Legends in Gardena

Huck Seed

1996 WSOP Main Event Winner Huck Seed

 

But while I worked there, I added new games, such as seven-card stud and Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO), which was spread in California for the first time at the Horseshoe. These games attracted the best poker players in the world. Regulars in these games were Freddie Deeb, Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan.

Hellmuth would fly into Los Angeles, take a taxi to Gardena to play PLO and sometimes he would go broke and turn right around. The first time I met World Series of Poker Main Event winner Huck Seed was in Gardena. He was playing $15/$30 Limit Hold’em and was a consistent winner, who showed greatness even at that time.

The first World Championship of Omaha was played in Gardena at the Horseshoe. It featured a $500 buy-in, and people came from all over the country to play.

I left Gardena for nine years while I managed other clubs, such as the Regency, the Bicycle Club and Hollywood Park Casino. I returned to Gardena in 2000 to open Hustler Casino with Larry Flynt as his executive host in charge of the house players and, of course, promoting Omaha.

Eric Drache and Yosh Nakano created a huge stud game hosted by Larry Flynt himself at the Hustler with great players from all over the world. Regulars in that game included a who’s who of poker royalty—Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Thor Hansen and Danny Robison.

In 2006, I was hired as the poker manager of Normandie Casino. I remember Mike Sexton roasting me for my sixtieth birthday and referring to my Horseshoe days in 1986. He said, “Robert Turner came a long way in his poker career—right across the street.”

At one time, the Horseshoe was located right across the street from the Normandie Casino. It is pretty funny that after twenty years I had come right back to where I started, the other side of the street.

Today the Normandie is facing some serious fines and legal issues, so passing the torch to Larry Flynt may be their best opportunity.

Only time will tell where Larry Flynt takes Gardena, the former poker capital of the world. He owns it all now.

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.

Pioneering Women in Poker: Terry King by Patricia Chavira

Terry King

Photo of Terry King from “Poker For Women” by Mike Caro

 

My husband Robert Turner has been playing poker for over fifty years and has met many characters of the game. He directed me to his friend Madison Kopp’s post on Facebook about poker player Terry King. Robert also spoke of Terry in such high regard that it inspired me to write this article.

 

Terry King is one of the trailblazing women in poker. This is her story told in her own words.

Terry says, “I got to Vegas in 1972, right after graduation from high school. My friend played poker, and I sat behind her watching at least ten times before I got the nerve to play.”

Terry continues, “My friend Natalie and her husband really helped me learn how to play better, and in 1978 I won the WSOP Ladies’ event. I was also was one of the first women to deal the $10,000 Main Event.”

Tales of the Legends of Poker

Chip and Stu

Photos of Chip Reese and Stu Ungar Courtesy of Sextonscorner.com

 

Terry crossed paths with poker legend David “Chip” Reese, an event which changed her life forever.

Terry explains, “In 1979, Chip Reese asked me to play in the mixed doubles event. Not long after that, Chip took over the poker room at the Dunes and asked me to play for him to keep games going. Our first date was going to Lake Tahoe to play blackjack.”

“Stuey Ungar owed some rather unsavory people $70,000, and Chip couldn’t play in Vegas, so we helped him get his money back in Reno and Tahoe.”

The couple were together five years and engaged the last year, but they split amicably, and Terry eventually moved to California and went to work at the Bicycle Club. She also helped open Hollywood Park Casino and was a shift manager for 5 years.

Phyllis Yazbek, one of the most respected female executives in the casino industry says of Terry, “Many years ago Terry and my paths first crossed at the 1978 Ladies WSOP Stud tournament final table where she claimed first place and the bracelet. I was just one of the victims of her poker-playing prowess.”

Robert Turner adds, “Terry has played poker at the highest limits, managed the largest card clubs in the world and dedicated her life to poker. She’s a perfect candidate for the Poker Hall of Fame.”

With the World Series of Poker kicking off in Las Vegas in a month, what a fitting time to shine the spotlight on one of the pioneering women in poker.

Visit Madison Kopp’s blog at http://www.madisonkopp.wordpress.com.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker. She writes a column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.

 

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.

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.

The Life of a Gambler: Easy Come, Easy Go

Poker Legends Doyle Brunson and Stu Ungar

Poker Legends Doyle Brunson and Stu Ungar

Las Vegas is a town defined by big gambles, spectacular successes and lost opportunities. A dealer once told me he had taken out a loan on his house to play a progressive slot machine at the Hilton. He and his wife, a cocktail waitress, had worked so hard for years to pay off the mortgage.

He said, “Robert, it has to hit.” It did hit, but it only got them even for the month they played. What if it hadn’t hit? Did he have a back-up plan? Was the long-shot of hitting a jackpot worth the very real risk of losing his home? I had a difficult time understanding his reasoning. Then I realized, there was no logic involved.

In my years of visiting and living in Las Vegas, I have seen how gambling can conquer even those who seem to be in control. The truth is a town like Las Vegas offers so many ways to knock you off your center and provide you with adrenalin rushes 24/7 that few gamblers are able to resist.

This is a perfect example. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Stu Ungar. He was walking from the Dune’s poker room with three women to the craps table, and I followed them. Stu bought in for $10,000 and placed his bets.

I watched in amazement as this kid with such a great reputation as a gambler began to shoot the dice. Stu lost it all, except for about $1,500 dollars. I will never forget what happened next. He took the last $1,500 from the tray and said, “This is for the boys,” and pitched the money across the dice table.

My thought was he is not a great gambler but a sucker with no regard for money. It is this “no- regard-for-money” attitude that makes or breaks great gamblers. How many gamblers really master self-control? In gambling, money can lose its value. In that regard, Stu was no different from your average gambler.

Another legendary gambler I have seen in action is Archie Karas, who is famous for turning $50 into $40 million, then losing it all. When Archie won all that money at the craps table, I begged him to invest in something for his future, but I could see in his eyes that it wasn’t his future he was thinking about during “the Run.”

Archie called me at the Bicycle Casino one Saturday morning and said he was going to play a $500,000 Razz freeze out with Johnny Chan. Archie beat Johnny, a player I consider to be in the top three of all time. Archie once told me, “Robert, look at all these players that have their pictures on Binion’s Hall of Fame. It should say Hall of Shame because I beat them all.” And he did; he beat Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese and Johnny Moss, all considered some of the best players ever to play the game. Archie is considered to be one of the greatest gamblers of all time—there certainly will never be another like him.

When I first started coming to Las Vegas in the 70s, I was playing poker at the Golden Nugget when an older gentleman dressed in a suit sat down. Different people kept coming up to him and congratulating him, so I assumed he was an employee of the casino.

He was playing very aggressively and drinking heavily. After playing for about an hour, he was approached by security and a couple of suits. They asked him to come with them. I was curious about what had just happened, so I asked about it the next day.

I was told the gentleman was a pit boss who retired after 25 years. The casino had a retirement party for him earlier that day. The problem was he had already lost $25,000 at dice that night, and rumor was he had not gambled in 25 years. Management intervened because it appeared he had fallen off the wagon.

I have been in the gambling business for over 50 years both as a player and as a marketing executive. I have seen it all. What drives most gamblers is the desire to make that score that will change their lives, so why then do they keep gambling even after they win life-changing money?

You can be successful in the professional world of gambling if you can master the art of staying in control of your bankroll and yourself. Like everything in life, it’s all about moderation. Know your limits before you start.

If you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, call the National Council on Problem Gambling’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

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 also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.

Tribute to Paul “Eskimo” Clark

Eskimo

My friend Paul “Eskimo” Clark recently passed away. Poker has lost a real legend of the game. A few articles have been written about him that focused on some of the more unfortunate aspects of his life. I have a little different take on Eskimo.

Eskimo was hard to miss. When I first laid eyes on the big guy, he looked like an Eskimo just left Alaska to play poker. I remember he always wanted a piece of my tournament play, and many times he would say let’s go parlay some money on blackjack to play the tournament.  He always had a plan.

Eskimo would say, “I am going to bet $200 and let ride 4 times. If I win, we are both in the tournament.”  It rarely worked.  What I never understood was he would have $100,000 in his pocket at the time, but he would always want to win his or my way into the tournament.

Another time I remember he was staying at the Lady Luck or one of those hotels near the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. On one of our blackjack trips, he said, “Robert did you know I can sing like Elvis Presley?” I said no, and he started singing walking down Fremont Street.  After about five songs, I said, “OK, I believe you!”

Eskimo always had business ideas. Once he invested over $200,000 to build his own online poker site. After running into problems, he asked me how he could find the guy who had run off with his money. I told him you can’t. He really was a trusting soul. 

Another time he had just bought a new Lincoln Town car and he walked me outside the Horseshoe and showed me $500,000 in a paper bag, and told me, “These poker players play so badly. They think they can beat me.”

I never knew if Eskimo had $20 to his name or $1 million. He really had a big heart. He helped many poker players and played both sides of the staking game.

In 1999 he wanted to go to Atlantic City to play a $500 buy-in tournament. On Tuesday, he offered to drive a few guys from Los Angles. I saw them six days later. I said, “I thought you guys went to the East coast.” They said, “We did.”

I could not believe Eskimo could drive to Atlantic City, play and be back in less than a week, so I asked one of the guys what happened. He said Eskimo drove non-stop, chain-smoking the entire time. Eskimo got knocked out of the tournament in less than 3 hours. And he said, “Let’s go back.” They never even checked into a room. Imagine riding in a smoke-filled car across the country and back in six days. That had to be the most miserable poker trip in history.

I would see Eskimo playing $6/$12 poker at 2:00, win $300 and move to $20/$40, win $1,000 and move right into a $100/$200 game and win $40,000 not once, but many times. He was a true gambler and did it his way.

One time he called me outside of the Bicycle Casino and said he needed to borrow $100 and could I hold his bicycle until Friday. I asked if he rode this bicycle to the Bicycle Casino, and he said, “Yes, it is a good bike.” I could hardly hold back my laughter, but he was he serious.

I gave him $100 and told him to keep the little red bicycle.  Now the story gets crazy.

A few days later he said, “Robert, come outside. I need to sell my boat. Do you know anyone that would give me $50,000 for it?” As we are walking outside to the parking lot at the Bicycle Casino, I thought about the red bicycle and now here is a 50-foot yacht on a trailer.  It was the biggest boat I have ever seen out of water.

He said, “Robert, I paid $250,000 for it new, but I will take $50,000 for it. I need to go the WSOP.” I have no clue where the boat or the little red bicycle came from but I knew never to judge a book by its cover.

Eskimo was a 3-time WSOP bracelet winner with over $2,700,000 in earnings over his career. His 20 cashes at the WSOP account for $632,005 of those winnings. He won bracelets in 7-card Stud, Razz and 7-card Stud Hi/Lo winning his last bracelet in 2002. He was a master of all games.

Eskimo died this past April in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was 67. Eskimo was a true legend of game, and I will miss all the laughter he gave me over the years. I will never forget him.

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 also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.

The Best Poker Player I Ever Met, Part 2

Maverick Card Player magazine once ran a feature that claimed Charlie Esslinger was the best poker player who ever lived. Though he may not be a household name, to me there is no doubt he was the greatest poker player I ever met.

He was not only an exceptional poker player, but he was also a great game strategist. He studied poker and other card games before computers and strategy books became the norm. But more importantly, he understood human nature. He could make you a bet on what time a guy would order a drink or what time he would quit the game or even on how much he would lose.

When I would kill time before a game, I would play gin with Charlie. After about the fifth card we drew, Charlie would say, “Let’s bunch the hand (a term where you both surrender) because it’s draw. Robert, you can’t win.” He could play any gin rummy hand to a draw and name all the cards in your hand. He thought it was funny to see the look on your face when he could tell you nine of the ten gin cards you were holding.

This demonstrated how he was aware of everything. I asked Charlie to explain his seemingly random hand selection. His answer surprised me. He said that cards ran in patterns, so he would observe the board for hours to see how the cards ran and played accordingly. Who was I to question one who never lost?

You have to remember that in those days most games were limit, and No Limit was hard to find. I tried, like so many people, to give Charlie a free bankroll to play higher, but he always told me, “It’s not the money; it’s the game. It can’t get any better than these Golden Nugget players. Why would I change?”

Once Charlie was waiting on a seat and playing $2/$4 limit. I said, “Charlie, how can you play so small?” He replied, “I play as hard here as any game. If I can beat this game, I can beat any game.”

A mutual friend of ours, Ray Hall, once told me over breakfast that he was ending his friendship with Charlie. I asked him why. Ray said, “When we are driving to the games, Charlie tells me what a great player I am. In the game, if I was losing, Charlie was the first one to offer me money. On the ride back, he would tell me I was the best player and I just got unlucky. Every morning I would take to his apartment the thousand or two that I borrowed in the game the night before. It took me twenty years to realize he was the best player, and I was his huckleberry.”

In later years, Charlie became very concerned that his mind was leaving him–a mind that could play any game with a genius IQ. The most studious poker player I ever met was now in his sixties and didn’t feel at the top of his game. He said the doctor said he had early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. His mother had died from it. He watched her suffer and did not want to go through that.

One night at a poker game Charlie asked if someone would find him a pill he could take and never wake up. He said he would pay them $5,000 dollars. Players started wondering if Charlie was ok.

In a motel in Alabama where they were playing poker four nights a week, Charlie played one night wearing only his pajamas, which was very strange for a person who always dressed to the nines. Charlie had rented an apartment to be near the game in Athens, Alabama.

It’s said he left the poker game and went to his apartment. After not showing up to the game for a few days, which was unusual, a couple of his friends went to his apartment and found his body and a gun along with $900,000.

I will never forget what a gentleman gambler he was. He was the first to stand up and pull out a chair for a lady. He always tried to keep the game under control. If there was a dispute over $5, he would throw in a $5 chip to settle it.

He was master at money management. He knew what every player’s worth was, what he could extract from the game and when it was no good, it was time to quit.

I don’t want him to be remembered for how he died, but how he lived. If there ever was a modern-day maverick, Charlie Esslinger would be it. I was honored to know him.

National Suicide Prevention Lifefline

1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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 also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.