Billiards International Presents Tournament of Champions at Harrah’s Resort Southern California

Ga-young Kim

Ga-young Kim

You’ve watched them all on ESPN, now it’s your turn to see the Champions of Billiards performing live at Harrah’s Resort Southern California October 6 through October 9, 2014. Be a part of the ESPN filming and win fabulous prizes (must be present to win). Admission is free.

On Monday, October 6, 2014 at 7 p.m. come challenge the champions and share a rack with the world’s best and get some pointers, too.

Thorsten Hohmann

Thorsten Hohmann

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 3 p.m. come see Darren Appleton, Shane Van Boening, Thorsten Hohmann and Dennis Orcollo compete in the Men’s International Challenge of Champions for $25,000 in a 9-ball event.

On Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 3 p.m. the Women’s Tournament of Champions will feature Karen Corr, Allison Fisher, Kelly Fisher and Ga-young Kim compete for the $25,000 prize in a 9-ball event.

Come watch Florian “Venom” Kohler, Nick Nikolaidis, Andy Segal and Gabi Visoiu perform Trick Shot Magic on Thursday, October 9 at 2 p.m.

Andy Segal

Andy Segal

Don’t miss this opportunity to see the best of the best compete in this ESPN event. Free admission.  Must be 21 to attend.

Discounted rooms available. Call Harrah’s Resort Southern California at 888-242-7724.

For more information, contact Robert Turner at 562-922-9011 or robertturnerpoker@gmail.com.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards and 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. 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 and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

 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.

Minnesota Fats, the Hustler: Part 2

Minnesota Fats 2

Fats made several more visits to the Bicycle Casino, and on one particular visit in December 1994 the Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Jim Murray wrote a feature about him for the Los Angeles Times called “Cue Music, ‘Hustler’ Is in Town.”

I can’t improve on Murray’s description of Fats, so I won’t even try: “The things Fats could do with a pool cue were works of art. He could put a cue ball in your ear as well as a corner pocket if you wanted. He did with a pool cue what Babe Ruth did with a bat, Red Grange with a football, Magic Johnson with a basketball, or Ben Hogan with a two-wood.”

Meeting a character like Fats can’t help but leave a life-long impression on you. After I wrote the first article I was fortunate to receive some amazing stories about how Fats touched other people’s lives as well. Here are a couple of highlights:

Earl Burton, a writer for pokernewsdaily.com, shared how his parents owned a truck stop in central Illinois in the early 70’s that had a good pool table. He recalls, “I don’t know how it happened and don’t know how he had heard about the games that had occurred on that pool table, but one night a gentleman pulled up in a huge Caddy and entered the room. In he strolled, coming to the counter to ask my mom, “Where’s this big game at?” My mom immediately knew who he was and sent him to the pool room, where the game that was going on immediately stopped. I was doing homework at the time but, interested, I headed back to the room to see what was going on.”

Earl continues: “It was Minnesota Fats, as I was to learn from watching ‘Wide World of Sports’ over the next couple of years. He shook hands with some of the players, and then announced a challenge. “Who wants to take on the best player in the world?” Some of the men in the room pulled out $20, a couple pulled out a $100, but Fats said, “No less than $500 a game, boys. Otherwise I’m gonna go eat.”

Two men ponied up the money and, while he proceeded to wax both of them, Fats constantly talked. “You know, I could be in Decatur tonight. Probably would earn a lot more.” Another roll of hundreds came out and, surprisingly, Fats lost his first game. “Gotta be something wrong with the table here,” he said.

After that loss, another couple of rolls came out and Fats went back to beating anyone who came in front of him. After a couple of hours of play, no one was left. I had watched it all and was amazed at how he commanded the table, not only through his play but through his personality. As some of the men left the room, Fats saw me sitting on the side. “You want to learn how to play?” he said. I immediately jumped up!

For the next hour, Fats showed me masses, jumps, the angles to the game and tried to teach me how to “talk the talk,” as he put it. “Anyone can play this game, you just got to make it interesting for some,” he said as I struck a shot.

“You’re gonna do OK, kid,” he said to me as he tossed my mom a $200 tip. “He’s gonna do you proud,” he said to her as he left. To this day, I still shoot a decent game of pool. And, I’d like to believe, it was because of Fats.”

I’m sure many others can say the same. Pool enthusiast Scott Kennedy is another such person:

“1971, I was 18 years old and was about to see Minnesota Fats play pool at a pool hall in Cudahy, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. So here’s the Fat Man in front of maybe 50 people and he says, “I understaaaaand (he talks just like W.C Fields really) there’s a young maaan in the audience who thinks he can shooot pool. His naaaame is Scott Kennedy.”

Oh no!!?? Fats calls me down, and we shake hands. He says “Mr. Kennedyyyy, I will let you breaaak ’cause it may be your onlyyyy shot.” I broke very nervously and got something in and maybe made a ball or two. Fats gets up, runs the table and does some trick shot on the 8, and the cue balls goes around the table and scratches. “Wellllll, Mr. Kennedyyyy, looks like I lost.” I just had the thrill of a lifetime.

After the exhibition was over, a crowd gathered around a small table where Minnesota Fats was sitting and signing autographs. I was not prepared and got a small piece of paper from someone and approached Minnesota Fats. He used a rubber stamp instead of a pen to sign. I asked him to please sign this for me because none of my friends will believe I met Minnesota Fats, let alone played pool with him. He signed the paper, “I played pool with Scott Kenedy, Minnesota Fats.” He spelled my name wrong but I didn’t care.”

Now for the story how Minnesota Fats changed my life forever.

After he passed away on January 15, 1996, I received a call two years later from Fat’s widow T-Bell who said she missed the pool tournaments and asked if she could visit for a few weeks. A few days later, she asked if one her relatives named Charity, who loved pool, could come, too. I said, “Sure.”

I ended up marrying Charity, and we had three beautiful children who are now my life. And it’s all because of Minnesota Fats. Our paths were destined to cross, and my life is better for it.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino and billiard 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 Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002, and he also created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino both in 1995.

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing and managing group.

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

Money Breeds Money: Minnesota Fats, Pool Hustler and Showman, Part 1

Minnesota Fats

Minnesota Fats changed my life. I first fell in love with pool at the age of 15 when a friend invited me to a pool tournament in Tennessee. It looked like something out of a movie. The pool room had two sides, one where we were watching the tournament and a practice side. We were in the middle of nowhere watching these pool sharks in a tournament betting and gambling when all of a sudden the room exploded with excitement.

Everyone started yelling, “Minnesota Fats is here!” and rushed over to the practice area. Fats was standing there doing what seemed like a stand-up routine talking about gambling, and what came out of his mouth just amazed me. He was saying things like, “I can’t believe I’m in this dump in Tennessee.” Though he was insulting people, they loved it. He continued his tirade, “I’ve busted kings and queens and sultans all over the world, and now I’m in this dump where no one has change for a $20. Does anybody in this joint have ANY money at all, or did I just waste my time?”

He was unrelenting: “I’d like to play for $500 if you brokes can come up with the money. I know you’re scared because I’m Minnesota Fats, the world’s greatest pool player. But that’s ok because when I leave this joint I’m going to bust every single one of you. So call your friends, gather all your money and give it to the Fat Man.”

When a waitress walked by, he’d leer and say, “Wow, what a tomato!” He went from bragging about his pool game to his other game: “Women follow me all over the world with a mattress strapped to their backs.” He was a character I had never seen before or since.

Fast forward nearly 30 years later to 1993 when I was the marketing director for the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. I was starting to promote pool at the time. I often wondered what happened to Fats. I asked Mike Massey, one of the world’s greatest trick shot artists, about Fats. He told me he was living in Nashville and that he had his number. I asked if he thought he would come out to our pool tournament in Los Angeles. He said he’s pretty old but give him a call.

I did just that and spoke to a woman named T-Bell who said she was his wife. I asked her if I sent two airline tickets, would they come out and do an exhibition. She agreed. I will never forget the first thing he said to me when he walked into the Bicycle Casino, “Robert, nice place you have here. What kind of groceries do they have?” I had to think for a minute, then I realized what he wanted and said, “Are you hungry?”

Over lunch I realized I had a problem. Looking at his hands, I noticed he had a severe tremor. I had invited television stations to come that night and wondered if he could perform, but it was too late to turn back now. We went back to meet the news crew, and boy, was I in for a surprise.

Even though he was in the later stages of life, he was still the showman I remember from my youth. With the cameras rolling, he prepared to do a trick shot where he was going to bank the ball from one end of the table to another.

He missed the first three shots. He then looked up at the sportscaster and said, “You better not show this on TV because they won’t believe that I missed a shot.” Everyone burst out laughing.

He continued, “Nothing in life is free. Someone put some money on the table, and I won’t miss.” Sure enough, someone pulled out a twenty, and Fats shot the ball right in. He made the next two shots, the crowd went wild and it was on the news for the next two nights.

He told me the Bicycle Casino put on one of the nicest pool tournaments he had ever been to. He said, “Money breeds money, and you are doing the right thing here. You have all these people gambling, and the groceries are good. What’s not to like about this place?”

I took him to a few pool rooms around Los Angeles during that stay, and everywhere we went he was like a magnet. As soon as people heard he was in the room, people would come running, and if it was an empty room, it would be full in 15 minutes. He regaled them with stories and mesmerized the crowd.

After this trip, I invited him back to the Bicycle Casino for the next tournament, and this visit would change my life forever.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino and billiards 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 and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino both in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing and managing group.

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

Casino Marketing: Making Everyone a Winner

kiosk

Over the years I have turned around numerous casinos. Many were at rock bottom when I was brought in, and some even brought me back more than once. There are two facts these experiences taught me: One, keep promotions simple, and two, be creative.

This month a casino sent me an email for my birthday, which I opened on my smart phone. It said just print this offer and bring it to the casino to receive your birthday gift. I thought that’s nice, but how do I print it? Since most things are going paperless nowadays, why ask me to find a printer in this era of bar codes and scanning? Or make it even easier by saying, “Use reward number XXX at guest services.” Sometimes our promotions get too sophisticated; keeping them simple is the key.

Over the holidays I noticed several businesses gave away gift cards with purchase. One restaurant I went to gave away gift cards with an unknown amount that were good after the holidays. The gift cards’ value ranged from $5 up to $1000. That was a simple, well-thought-out promotion that worked because it had that surprise element of what you would win, plus everyone was still a winner. That promotion got me back in the restaurant in January. Casino marketing managers should take note of what other businesses are doing successfully and adapt it to their business. They do not have to re-invent the wheel with every promotion.

Recently I went to one of the largest casinos chains in the world for a few days as their guest. One thing that stood out on this visit was the casino had a kiosk where you swiped your card to see if you won anything, but it was only on Tuesday, and as far as I could tell, everyone got the same message on the screen: “Sorry, you didn’t win.” The fact that we drove 100 miles to a casino property should be rewarded with something, even a hat. It’s simple: Make everyone feel like a winner.

Some marketing genius thought this would drive business on a slow day and since it is all automated, they could eliminate a host. I am sure he told his boss how he created something that saved money. What he did not realize was his bright idea created a dead feeling in the casino.

Besides making everyone feel like a winner, I discovered another marketing secret that will do wonders for any casino. It is as simple as going on the casino floor and inviting your customers (this has to be random) to a focus group and lunch with your management and senior executives. The customers are encouraged to give an honest assessment about what they really like about the casino and what they feel the casino can improve on.

This creates the most amazing feedback. You hear, “You are right, and you know what else…?” The customers feed off each other’s reactions. You can’t do this with surveys; it has to be done in group sessions.

Another problem many casino managers have is doing the hard work required to take a promotion to the next level. Once a marketing manager said to me, “We printed the flyers and placed them around the casino. Now I am going to do an email blast to market this event.” I thought, “Ok that’s just the beginning, but what’s next? That gets you from A to C, but what about A to Z?”

Let me explain what that means. To get to Z requires hard work and connecting with the customers both before and after the event. This is where most marketing managers fail.

To promote my billiard events, I would mail flyers to every pool room and pool bar in Southern California, then I would personally visit the pool rooms to talk to people every night. The result was these events always sold out. People could not understand why they were the most successful billiard events in the country. I did not want to fail and took nothing for granted. That’s the Z factor.

As I said at the beginning of the article, successful casino marketing requires simplicity, creativity and hard work. Marketing is the same whatever business you’re in. Everyone wants to feel like a winner. The kiosk that said, “Sorry, you’re not a winner” was funny to me because I always considered myself a winner.

The casino could reprogram that kiosk to give you the feeling that you are a winner, which would give you a positive feeling at the start of your visit. Marketing managers should always work toward the Z factor or what I like to call, “How can I make everyone feel like a winner?”

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

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing and managing group.

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