Pioneering Women in Poker: Phyllis Caro, Part 2

phylliscaro2

Last week I wrote about how Phyllis Caro got her start in poker and how she ended up working with her husband at the time, Mike Caro, and founder of the Bicycle Club, George Hardie, to clean up poker in California.

People like myself who have been playing poker since the boom times have no idea how bad it was, especially for the dealers. As a dealer herself at one time, Phyllis can tell you some horror stories, but as she says, it was an accepted part of poker.

Players acted out and blamed the dealers for everything. She says players were not only verbally abusive towards dealers, but physically as well.  My husband Robert Turner described a horrific incident where a player actually got out a lighter and tried to burn a dealer.

It did not happen overnight, but Phyllis was instrumental in helping stop dealer abuse. Players were given warnings and then time out (yes, like children). Poker was changed forever once management took a stance against dealer abuse.

Phyllis continued to rise through the ranks from Dealer Coordinator to Vice President of Casino Operations of the Bicycle Club. In between, she worked tournaments becoming the first female Tournament Director making such innovations as starting the first non-smoking tournaments.

Always an advocate for women in poker, she started the annual Queen of Hearts tournament, which runs to this day; in fact, it was just held this Sunday at the Bike.

As Tournament Director of the Bike, she also ran the second largest tournament in the industry at the time, the Diamond Jim Brady. In 1993, when Phyllis became the Vice President of Casino Operations, she was the first female to hold that position in the industry.

In April 1990, the Bicycle Club was seized by federal authorities making federal government part owner of the most valuable asset ever seized at that time under federal racketeering laws.

The government appointed a trustee named Harry Richard to oversee operations at the Bike. Under the trusteeship, Phyllis fought to keep poker honest. As Phyllis says, “Mike ingrained the fact that all games should be honest.”

In 1995, Phyllis was hired as Casino Manager at Hollywood Park Casino and eventually became Director of Poker Operations where she continued making history.

Phyllis may be retired from poker now, but she will always stand for integrity in poker; she has committed her life to it.

Listen to me and Robert discussing Phyllis’ career on High Roller Radio here: https://youtu.be/bmhuFvCUw38

 

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.

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.

 

A Passion for Poker: Meet Hollywood Park Casino’s Ginger Lee by Patricia Chavira

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As I have written about before, women are underrepresented both at the poker tables and on the casino floor, so when I meet a woman who has both played poker and worked in a casino, I know I am talking to a very rare person indeed, and that special woman is Ginger Lee.

Ginger ended up in a card room like many women do—she tagged along with a friend. When she was a college student, she was asked if she would like to go to the Bike. She said yes thinking she was going to a bicycle shop.

Much to her surprise, she ended up at the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California, one of the largest card rooms in the world. Little did she know that fateful decision would change her life.

When she was a waitress at a sushi bar, a customer who worked at Commerce Casino convinced her to apply for a job at the card room. In 1990, she learned to deal and passed her auditioned. She began working as a dealer but realized that to be a better dealer, she had to learn how to play poker, so she began playing after work.

Working With Poker Legends

linda-johnson

Linda Johnson, the First Lady of Poker

Ginger rose through the ranks being promoted to the tournament staff by her mentor Cheri Dokken, Commerce Casino’s tournament director for many years. She also had the privilege of working tournaments with legendary tournament directors Jack McClelland and Matt Savage.

Ginger began playing tournaments herself even meeting her future husband at the L.A. Poker Classic in 1992. She tells a funny story about registering another player for a tournament who never showed up. She didn’t want to be stuck for the buy-in, so she decided to play herself. It was her first No-Limit tournament. She ended up chopping it. Ginger is also a skilled 7-Card Stud player who has cashed in several stud tournaments.

In 2003, she dealt during the first season of the World Poker Tour to such poker luminaries as Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen. But the best part for her was working with her idol Linda Johnson, “The First Lady of Poker.”

After working at Commerce for 25 years, Ginger now works at Hollywood Park Casino as a shift manager with Director of Casino Operations Ramy Wahba. They worked together at Commerce for over 20 years.

Over her career, Ginger has learned that a casino’s success depends on customer service. As she says, “We are here because of the customer; we have to listen.”

With her passion for poker, you can be sure any casino that Ginger Lee works at is a place you want to play.

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.

 

 

The Future of Poker at the New Hollywood Park Casino by Robert Turner

Resized_20160803_180822

The new Hollywood Park Casino, located just minutes from downtown Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport in Inglewood, California, provides a unique gaming experience that embraces the future but also honors its historic past.

Close to Beverly Hills, the beach areas and West Los Angeles, Hollywood Park Casino has always had its fair share of celebrity poker players, but the new casino is a glamorous addition to the Los Angeles poker scene where everyone is treated like a VIP.

Los Angeles now has a Las-Vegas-style casino that is just the first phase of the multi-billion-dollar City of Champions Revitalization Project. The design looks to me like they took the best of the Wynn and Aria to create a gaming experience to rival any casino in the world.

You can bet on horse racing or wine and dine with your friends or significant other while overlooking the action on the swank casino gaming floor. The casino has two race books, one being a very upscale experience specially designed for serious bettors.

The Ram’s $1.8 Billion Home

 

rams-stadium

In 2019 the Los Angeles Rams will play in a new $1.86-billion stadium being constructed next door, making it the most expensive stadium in the world. The Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in this spectacular setting in 2022.

The development also includes a man-made five-acre lake called Lake Park which will be surrounded by high-end residential areas, hotels plus retail establishments that will keep the excitement going on well into the next decade.

All of this new development is adjacent to the newly-remodeled Forum, which already features world-class concerts and events nightly making the Hollywood Park area a must-see destination.

Can you imagine a weekend with three concert venues all attracting 100,000 concert goers between the Forum and the other planned concert facilities? This is a poker player’s dream come true.

Players follow the action and the money. In Southern California all roads lead to Hollywood Park Casino.

According to Forbes, the value of the Los Angeles Rams increased from $1.4 billion to $2.9 billion since their return to Los Angeles. The money will be flowing into this area in the near future.

The New Hollywood Park Casino Welcomes You

hollywood-park-entrance

This is the future of Hollywood Park Casino. Frankly, I don’t think 125 gaming tables featuring Blackjack, Poker and Baccarat can handle that much action. I could easily see this casino double in size in a few years.

That’s a nice problem to have.

I remember a very different poker scene in Los Angeles when I arrived over 30 years ago.

I first started my career in poker management in Gardena. I managed four of the six card rooms in the area. These rooms were nothing like the card rooms of today; these rooms were full of smoke and shady characters who would deal the cards themselves.

There were no professional dealers at this time, and some players could deal much better than others (if you know what I mean).

This little city on the westside of town became the poker capital of the world. This was before the Bicycle Club and Commerce Casino became the biggest card rooms in the world moving the poker universe east.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that thirty years later I would see the westside become the place to play poker again.

Come see the future of poker at Hollywood Park Casino. You won’t want to play anywhere else.

Robert Turner 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.

The Future of Poker at the New Hollywood Park Casino

Resized_20160803_180822

The new Hollywood Park Casino, located just minutes from downtown Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport in Inglewood, California, provides a unique gaming experience that embraces the future but also honors its historic past.

Close to Beverly Hills, the beach areas and West Los Angeles, Hollywood Park Casino has always had its fair share of celebrity poker players, but the new casino is a glamorous addition to the Los Angeles poker scene where everyone is treated like a VIP.

Los Angeles now has a Las-Vegas-style casino that is just the first phase of the multi-billion-dollar City of Champions Revitalization Project. The design looks to me like they took the best of the Wynn and Aria to create a gaming experience to rival any casino in the world.

You can bet on horse racing or wine and dine with your friends or significant other while overlooking the action on the swank casino gaming floor. The casino has two race books, one being a very upscale experience specially designed for serious bettors.

The Ram’s $1 Billion Home

rams-stadium

The new Hollywood Park Casino, located just minutes from downtown Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport in Inglewood, California, provides a unique gaming experience that embraces the future but also honors its historic past.

Close to Beverly Hills, the beach areas and West Los Angeles, Hollywood Park Casino has always had its fair share of celebrity poker players, but the new casino is a glamorous addition to the Los Angeles poker scene where everyone is treated like a VIP.

Los Angeles now has a Las-Vegas-style casino that is just the first phase of the multi-billion-dollar City of Champions Revitalization Project. The design looks to me like they took the best of the Wynn and Aria to create a gaming experience to rival any casino in the world.

You can bet on horse racing or wine and dine with your friends or significant other while overlooking the action on the swank casino gaming floor. The casino has two race books, one being a very upscale experience specially designed for serious bettors.

In 2019 the Los Angeles Rams will play in a new $1.86-billion stadium being constructed next door, making it the most expensive stadium in the world. The Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in this spectacular setting in 2022.

The development also includes a man-made five-acre lake called Lake Park which will be surrounded by high-end residential areas, hotels plus retail establishments that will keep the excitement on going well into the next decade.

All of this new development is adjacent to the newly-remodeled Forum, which already features world-class concerts and events nightly making the Hollywood Park area a must-see destination.

Can you imagine a weekend with three concert venues all attracting 100,000 concert goers between the Forum and the other planned concert facilities? This is a poker player’s dream come true.

Players follow the action and the money. In Southern California all roads lead to Hollywood Park Casino.

According to Forbes, the value of the Los Angeles Rams increased from $1.4 billion to $2.9 billion since their return to Los Angeles. The money will be flowing into this area in the near future.

The New Hollywood Park Casino Welcomes You

hollywood-park-entrance

This is the future of Hollywood Park Casino. Frankly, I don’t think 125 gaming tables featuring Blackjack, Poker and Baccarat can handle that much action. I could easily see this casino double in size in a few years.

That’s a nice problem to have.

I remember a very different poker scene in Los Angeles when I arrived over 30 years ago.

I first started my career in poker management in Gardena. I managed four of the six card rooms in the area. These rooms were nothing like the card rooms of today; these rooms were full of smoke and shady characters who would deal the cards themselves.

There were no professional dealers at this time, and some players could deal much better than others (if you know what I mean).

This little city on the westside of town became the poker capital of the world. This was before the Bicycle Club and Commerce Casino became the biggest card rooms in the world moving the poker universe east.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that thirty years later I would see the westside become the place to play poker again.

Come see the future of poker at Hollywood Park Casino. You won’t want to play anywhere else.

 

 

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.