Poker from a Woman’s Perspective by Patricia Chavira

 

hot women

What does this have to do with poker skill?

 

My birthday was last Thursday, and to celebrate my husband said we can go to dinner at my favorite restaurant, or he could put me in a tournament. I chose the latter.

We chose the $10,000 guarantee Pot Limit E.O. Stud 8/Omaha 8 during the World Series of Poker Circuit at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino on St. Patrick’s Day.

I had never played Pot-Limit before, but with a little coaching and encouragement from my husband, fellow Gaming Today columnist and creator of Omaha, Robert Turner, I thought I’d take a shot. He has pushed me to play out of my comfort zone, and it has really helped me in all my games.

Where Are All the Women?

Crowded Poker Room

How many women can you count in this picture?

 

The first thing that struck me when I looked around the room was the lack of women in the field. There was one woman at my table and another one sitting a table away. Three women out of a field of 50 is a sad commentary on the state of poker in 2016.

On Twitter there have been numerous debates about the reason for this, and the answers have ranged from biology and cultural expectations of women to outright misogyny. I can only speak from my own experience, and I can say, when anyone—male or female—is starting out playing poker live, the environment is extremely intimidating.

We all have a responsibility to make newcomers feel comfortable. If you cannot be friendly, don’t be rude. When I was starting out, men would often remark on my play. I simply learned to say, “Where can I get your book?” and that would often end the conversation right there.

“Nice Rack”

Nice Rack

I don’t think he means my chips.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the men who are too friendly. When I started playing poker in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I would often have my dad accompany me. So when I would get a remark like “nice rack,” I would introduce the fellow to my father. One time the gentleman just racked up his chips and left.

Of course, being a woman at the table also has its perks and can give you a slight edge if you don’t let sexist behavior put you on tilt. I’ve had players say, “Honey, do you want me to call or fold?” I answer, and they do it. I wish I could get my husband to do the same!

I can’t say it enough, be courteous to your fellow poker player—male or female. The game will be better for all.

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

 

 

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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.

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.

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.

The Best Poker Player I Ever Met

Charlie Esslinger, left, with Jeanette Suttle and long-time  Las Vegas pro Harry Suttle

Charlie Esslinger, left, with Jeanette Suttle and long-time Las Vegas pro Harry Suttle

My father would always stop at a bait shop and small grocery store in Farley, Alabama, before we went fishing. One day he introduced me to a man he said was a professional gambler whose family owned the bait shop.

My dad told me never to play poker with that man. I was seven years old, and I never forgot his words.

Years later when I was the manager of a high-end men’s store, the owner said, “Robert, I want you to meet Mr. Esslinger. He wants us to order some suits and special white-on-white shirts.”

The man was the professional gambler my dad had introduced me to when I was seven. Charlie Esslinger ordered a dozen shirts and four suits by Hickey Freeman made of Italian wool and silk.

He looked more like a banker than a gambler.

About two months went by after he picked up his suits. He came back into the store and ordered the same items. I said, “Charlie, this is the same order as last time.” He said, “Yes. I left those suits in Las Vegas. I didn’t feel like packing.”

When I started hosting my own poker game, I asked Charlie to play. He said he lived in the same apartment complex, and he may stop over.

Thus began a long relationship with the man my dad said never play poker with.

Charlie would play every day. I was mesmerized by him; he never lost, not one time in the fifteen years I knew him. It got to a point where everyone thought he must be cheating, but I knew it was something else. Could he be the best limit poker player alive?

One night Charlie invited me over for a little party he was having at his place. Inside Charlie had about six girls dancing all over the apartment. During the festivities, Charlie dropped his wallet on the floor.

I told Charlie I kicked his wallet under the couch. He said, “Robert the girls will get it all anyways.” He was quite the philosopher.

Charlie then took me aside and said, “Robert you have to change the hustler crowd you’re hanging around with.”

Charlie continued, “Everyone likes you, and you have a gift for cards, but the guys you hang out with will get you in a lot of trouble.” I took his advice, and it changed my life.

Not long afterwards, the players all refused to play in my home game. I asked them why. They said unless I barred Charlie, they would never play at my place again.

I had to call Charlie and tell the one person who I considered my mentor and friend that he was barred from my game for no other reason than he was too good.

A few years later I was hosting a bigger game, and the players agreed to invite Charlie back. That lasted 30 days. They selected a spokesperson to tell me that they would never play with me if I didn’t bar Charlie. The live producer in the game said, “Charlie is my friend, but I can’t beat him at poker.”

Again I had to bar him for winning.

How does a man go twenty five years and never lose a day in his life until he decided to throw a party at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas? Charlie found a way, and he did it every year.

He would play his cards face up just to give back some of the money he beat the players out of every day. If he caught a pair, he would cap every bet, and then laugh if he drew out. He would lose around $10,000 just for fun.

During these times, he would get drunk and give the cocktail waitresses hundred dollar tips until finally Bill Boyd would have security take him to his room. The next day I would see him with a hangover in the poker room back to grinding away.

They had to change some poker rules just for Charlie. He would sit at the poker table listening to music on a transistor radio, and the players would complain. The Golden Nugget had to ban music at the table. The next day Charlie would read several newspapers, and the players complained again, so they instituted a no-reading rule at the poker table.

Charlie would sit there and not play a hand for hours, and then he would be in a massive pot. The board would read QQ772, and Charlie would show Q7. I tried for years to figure out how he did it. To this day, it is still a mystery.

In Part 2, I have more tales to tell about my mentor Charlie Esslinger.

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.

A Buyer’s Market: The New Poker Rewards Programs

Poker Promotions

I remember something Bill Boyd, a Poker Hall of Fame member and the legendary poker room manager at the Golden Nugget, told me when I worked as a host for him around 1978. I asked Bill for a comp for two very loyal customers who wanted to have dinner in the restaurant.

Bill said to me it’s better to comp after they eat and do it as a surprise. He said if you comp players up front, they will eat you out of house and home.  Bill would walk into the restaurant and pick the check up after they finished eating. He saved the Golden Nugget a fortune.

It is a lesson I have never forgotten.

I have been on both sides of giving and receiving comps. Most of my meals over the past 25 years have been comped, but I have also used them to great advantage when I have hosted games, so I understand there must be a balance between cost controls for casinos and their value as a marketing tool to retain players.

Comps in Las Vegas always had limits to manage the cost. I remember in the old days the Stardust only had a free buffet, but regardless of the form they take, food comps have been the main marketing hook for casinos for sixty years, especially in California.

The cost of free food for top-section poker players has cost the top card rooms in Los Angeles millions of dollars a year. It was not uncommon for players to order up to $50 at a time and eat a few bites only to discard the food and order again an hour later.

I remember the Bicycle Casino would offer free food to Omaha players in smaller limits during certain lunch hours to get the games started. I would sometimes see 9 steaks and just as many shrimp cocktails and desserts ordered at once.

This kind of abuse reached a tipping point where it just was not cost effective to continue this traditional practice. Starting in March, card rooms in Southern California instituted a new policy.

From now on players will earn a certain amount of money per hour based upon their play. Reward cards and tracking systems are becoming the norm, and they are just as valuable to the players as they are to the casinos.

Both recreational players and pros alike need to understand the system and maximize the value they can derive from it. If you want to survive as a professional player, understanding the reward system is vital for you to be a winner.

Whether the rewards are in the form of freeroll tournaments or other special promotions, such as discounted hotel rates, not taking advantage of them is like throwing money away. Utilizing the money returned as perks can be the difference between being a winning or losing player in poker.

Some casinos do an outstanding job with player rewards such as Hollywood Park Casino. Hollywood Park Casino pays up to $6 an hour in some games, and players can use their points for cash and free massages if they wish.

In some card rooms, players get increased points for certain slow periods and certain days. However, nothing beats cash back or rakeback for players trying to earn.

Because the rake makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the game to be profitable for the players, it is imperative that players research the best rakeback deals. The hourly rakeback added to a player’s reward card can be applied to a player’s bankroll and help offset the heavy cost of the rake on a player’s earnings.

Even as we see read about a number of poker rooms closing, we also have many poker room expansions, such as The Gardens building a mega casino in Hawaiian Gardens, California.

In Bell Gardens The Bicycle Casino is adding a brand-new Hotel Casino, and the most ambitious project of all is Hollywood Park Casino’s new billion-dollar entertainment complex and state-of-the-art poker room.

The power is in the players’ hands now as casino marketing departments scramble for players. The rewards will get even better, so learn to use them to your advantage and remember it’s all about the ability to earn.

In my next article, I will cover specific rewards programs and promotions in poker rooms from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

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.

Old-School Card Room Marketing

Ultimate Poker

Why do poker rooms fail in this post-Black Friday landscape? Why do online sites think they can simply advertise their way to the top?

In my last article “Offer Promotions Poker Players Can’t Refuse” I stated that with creative ideas and the attendant hard work, it is possible to turn around casino card rooms in this current environment.

In this article I would like to expand upon that and add specific things any card room can do to be successful.

Nowadays you have to be like a politician and personally invite players to your gaming site or card room. Once you have the customers’ attention, then the real work begins.

Let’s take Ultimate Poker as an example and analyze what caused them to fail.

For any poker room to succeed, it must have a certain number of players and a variety of games available around the clock. Players need to know they can log on and get action any time of the day or night. Ultimate Poker could provide neither.

Even with Station Casinos marketing the Ultimate Poker website through its Nevada casinos, a $1 million marketing campaign and a marketing agreement with the UFC, Ultimate Poker folded in a year and a half.

I was really troubled by the failure of Ultimate Poker, which seemed almost impossible given all they had going for them. Could Ultimate Poker have bought the business? The answer is, “Absolutely. “

What Ultimate Poker failed to do was add a personal touch to their marketing and reach out to every poker player in Nevada making them an offer they could not refuse. All the marketing dollars in the world are not going to help if you don’t put in the sweat equity.

With all those marketing dollars, they could have instituted the following:

  1. Hire approximately one hundred affiliates with great incentives and communication programs to monitor what was working and what wasn’t.
  2. Hire over a thousand players with 80% rakeback. Build a great relationship with them, so they could help identify the site’s weak areas and have input on how best to promote the online site.
  3. Take some of your best customers to lunch and ask for their recommendations on ways to make the site and their player experience better.

You may say that sounds like a lot of work. Well, if you want to be successful, it requires a lot of hard work. You say this is old-school marketing, and to that I answer, “Nothing beats the personal touch.”

In California when they legalized hold’em, one casino dominated the gambling market. So how did number two overtake number one? Here’s how they did it.

The general manager at the time hired everyone who wanted a job. Over a hundred players were hired to promote the middle-limit games.

The GM knew that out of a hundred proposition players, or props as they were called, only ten percent could survive gambling. He hired friendly people who had friends.

The players who had reputations for providing lots of action would eventually go broke. His challenge was to keep finding and hiring players as very few could survive in a job gambling six to eight hours a day.

Did his plan work? Yes! This casino went to number one and has never looked back. It was an amazing marketing concept that I have used to turn around many casinos without one failure.

This is not a new concept in casino marketing. When I was in marketing at the MGM based out of the Beverly Hills office, it was my job simply to recruit players. The cost of acquisition was never an issue as long as the company had a shot to make money from the players.

For as long as I can remember, casinos have hired people to go out and find players. As old school as this may seem, it works. Translating this to the online world means offering incentives both to affiliates and directly to new players.

Remember when Party Poker had hundreds of affiliates that took them to number one? Everyone wanted to be part of the growth of the new online poker business. Many people worked their tails off, which led to Party Poker’s spectacular success.

It troubles me to see sites that had people promote them for years, but once they reach a certain level of success, they abandon those same people that brought them to the dance.

The concept is simple: All business is about people, but in gambling even more so. People want to be where the action is.

Once you create action, the promotions are just maintenance to keep your players happy. I had rather spend marketing dollars on people-to-people business than intangible concepts like analytics and data mining.

Call me old school; I’ll take it as a compliment.

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 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.

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.

Liam Flood: The Gentleman of Poker

I was introduced to Liam Flood at the WSOP in the eighties by Terry Rogers, the legendary bookmaker from Ireland. I thought he was the CEO of some big corporation or a movie star. Liam was very tall and looked like a cross between Rock Hudson and Pierce Brosnan. While other players wore t-shirts and sweats, Liam came to the poker room wearing a suit. Liam dressed better than anyone; even Crandell Addington remarked how well Liam dressed for a poker tournament.

We spent a great deal of time at the tables and became good friends. Liam was very down-to-earth and had many Irish poker stories to tell. He constantly joked about people and kept you smiling.

In the early eighties I thought I could party with the best of them, but I was no match for Liam. On tournament nights I wanted to be in bed by midnight. I would say good night to Liam and tell him I would see him around noon at tournament time.

Around 10 a.m. I would get a call from Liam to have breakfast. I would ask him how his night was, and he would say, “I have not been to bed yet. I just took a shower.”

This was his routine: He would play all night, shower, change suits and play the tournament. I thought someday he would have to sleep. Liam always had a story about what happened last night.

Terry Rogers was the opposite. He was strictly business. I remember Jack Straus hosted an invitational poker series at the Frontier around 1984. My first opponent for the heads-up tournament was a guy from Texas called Timmy.

He showed up with a big bag of money and wanted to place a bet on himself against me for around $20,000. Terry took the bet, and I busted Timmy the Texan on the second hand. Terry said, “That is the fastest $20,000 I ever made.”

After that, Terry invited me and my wife to Ireland as his guest. Liam said he would love to show me his homeland while I was there. So that summer I went to play poker in Ireland as their guest. It was a trip I will never forget.

What a beautiful country! The first thing that struck me was how much greener it looked than in pictures. Ireland was so green it almost hurt your eyes. Both Terry and Liam loved playing poker and booking horses, so that’s how we spent most of our time.

Terry and Liam would alternate nights showing me around Ireland. Terry would take me and my wife to the theater and talk about politics and the future of poker in Ireland while Liam would entertain us with long dinners, laughter, drinks and gambling stories.

One day Liam wanted to take us to the countryside and show us an Irish spring and waterfall. I dressed in a jacket and sneakers and off we went. In this picturesque setting was Liam dressed in a suit with new shoes and a pocket handkerchief. I thought this man does not own a casual wardrobe, but that was Liam.

On his nights Terry Rogers would take us to a fine restaurant. On Liam’s night, he would take us to his mother’s for a home-cooked meal. It was almost like a competition to see who could impress us the most.

Liam had a friend or relative who trained the Irish national champion, and he took me and my wife to a farm to watch the horse train. It looked like a scene out of a movie. It was a misty Sunday morning, and we were treated like royalty.

Everything was first class. Liam had set up a table with a white tablecloth on the bright green grass. On it was a bucket with champagne and strawberries. It was classic Liam. He wanted this to be a trip of a lifetime, and it was. It is a memory I will cherish forever.

Liam passed away this past week. I lost a dear friend who really loved poker, gambling and life. I recently married a girl named Patty who was born on St. Patrick’s Day, so I owe it to her to visit Ireland. It has always been a dream of hers. What is there not to love about a country of four-hour dinners followed with three hours of laughing and drinking dark beer in the pubs?

I imagine Liam and Terry are up there right now continuing their debates. Liam is beating Terry at the table, and Terry will get his money back betting on how fast angels can fly.

I miss my two friends, but I pray one day we will all play again in the big poker game in the sky.

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 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.

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.