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.

Lessons I Learned at the Poker Table–Part 2

Homer Simpson Poker

In my last article, I discussed the life lessons I learned at the poker table. You can read it at http://www.gamingtoday.com/columnist along with my previous columns. Because I have been playing poker nearly 50 years, I have a few more stories to share.

You meet some of the best people at the poker table. However, you cannot judge a player by the persona he projects at the table. Many players are completely different away from the table. One great example is Phil Hellmuth. His image at the table in no way reflects Phil off the table. He is a caring, sincere gentleman and a devoted family man. He is nothing like the man at the table. Of course, there are some bad actors, and what you see at the table is what you get in real life, but that’s rare. Poker is filled many wonderful characters.

But poker can also put you in dangerous situations, and one extreme example almost cost me my life. I was playing in a friend’s game in Guntersville, Alabama in a beautiful city located on a lake. The idyllic setting is in stark contrast to what happened next. I had played poker all day in a small hotel suite and quit around 9 p.m. to play gin on the bed next to the door. A few moments later, there was a knock at the door that caught everyone’s attention. It sounded like someone was tapping metal on the door. The gentleman running the game asked, “Who is it?” The man identified himself as Johnny. The door didn’t have a peephole, so the host of the game opened the door a crack.

As he did so, the person tried to push the door open. My friend pushed back, but a shotgun barrel came through the door near my shoulder and fired. It was so close I could smell the gunpowder. As everyone dove to the floor, the suspect ran off. Someone hollered, “Is anyone hurt?” One of the players was shot in the arm and permanently lost the use of his arm.

After this close call, I kept asking myself, “Why, with a young daughter at home, did I put myself in this situation?” In Alabama poker players feared three things: the police, cheats and hijackers. I determined right then I would move to a place where poker was played in a structured, safe atmosphere, so I went out to California. It was the best decision I ever made.

On a lighter note, the money you make in poker can sometimes seem like play money. This story puts it back in perspective. In one of my regular games a player named TJ normally lost every day. He owned a construction company that generated a lot of money. On this particular day, he won a huge pot around $20,000. In those days when you stepped away from the table, you took your money with you.

TJ folded up the wad of $100 bills and said he was going to the bathroom. We kept playing and about 20 minutes later we noticed he hadn’t come back. I went looking for him and couldn’t find him. He actually slipped out the door and left.

About an hour went by, and we heard someone honking a horn outside. I looked out the window, and there was TJ in a brand-new yellow Cadillac. He said, “Get Ray Hall out here.” Ray was the one he beat out of the money. He said, “How do you like this new Cadillac you bought me, Ray? Would you like to go for a ride?” Ray didn’t mind losing to TJ because he usually won it back. But not this time.

Every day from then on he would say to Ray, “Look at this car you bought me.” And every day he would lose, but we never forgot the day he locked up his winnings.

The Cadillac story illustrates how quickly fortunes can change in poker. This next story shows how actual fortunes are won and lost. James Roy, one of the best No Limit players nicknamed Shany, was a good friend of Jack Binion’s and travelled with another player nicknamed Chicken Man. James would often tell the story that Chicken Man’s daddy left him a saw mill and he turned it into a toothpick. James continued, “I only used to have a toothpick, now I have a saw mill.” That story shows how dramatic the swings at the poker table can be.

Like I said in my first article, you can learn from whoever or whatever is in front of you in poker and in life. I have many other stories to tell. Share your stories with me at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com.

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.

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.

Lessons I Learned at the Poker Table–Part 1

Poker Game

While I was reading an article from the Boston Globe titled “Lessons Learned in a Pool Hall” by Carlo Rotella, the last line in particular stood out to me. Rotella writes: “If you pay attention, you can learn something of value from whatever and whoever you find in front of you.” His words inspired me to write about the lessons I learned at the poker table over the years.

The first thing I learned is that all players are in control of their destiny; a bad run cannot be blamed solely on bad beats. If you are managing your bankroll properly, a string of bad beats will not affect your bankroll because you are playing within your limits and making adjustments as necessary. Say if you have a bad session, you may need to drop down in limit until you make it up before moving back up. The decision is all yours. That is one of the beauties of poker—you are in charge, but it is also one of its pitfalls. If you make mistakes in money management and get completely broke, you have only yourself to blame for playing above your means and jeopardizing your whole bankroll.

This leads me to my second point. I learned that the hardest thing in gambling is dealing with your own demons. We all have a dark side that affects our play and controlling those demons is such an important part of gambling. I have seen sports betting and other forms of gambling take a toll on many poker players’ lives throughout the years. These players get tired of grinding at poker and give in to the urge to do something more exciting. They seek the adrenaline rush that games of chance such as craps and blackjack gives them. If poker was that easy, there would be many more successful poker players.

One of the greatest skills a poker player can possess is the ability to read opponents. An extreme example of this happened in a home game I was running. I had two players who kept needling each other. Both were drinking. All of a sudden it got out of hand, and one of the players named Wayne reached across the table and slapped the other player called Doc. He got up without a word and left to go home, or so I thought. As I was addressing the issue with Wayne, there was a knock at the door, and to my surprise Doc was standing there. He walked back to his seat and said, “Let’s play poker.” I went to get a towel to wipe the blood from his face, and as I walked back to the table, I noticed he had a gun under the table with the hammer back aimed at Wayne’s stomach. I was in shock. I walked over to Wayne and whispered to him, “Wayne, you better go. Doc has a gun under the table pointed at your stomach.” Wayne said, “I’m not leaving. If he was going to shoot me, he would have already shot me. Let’s play poker.” I learned that night that reading people might not just win you a pot but save your life.

The most important thing we all should remember is nothing is as important as family and friends. One of my best friends and one of the greatest people I have ever met at the poker table was an attorney who sometimes let poker interfere with his family. He was always making comments about the time like, “I should have left a long time ago. I don’t know why I’m still here. My wife is going to be so upset.”’ We didn’t take it literally until one night about 11 p.m. he was involved in a big pot when all of a sudden two diamond rings were thrown into the pot. Everyone was startled and looked up to see his wife standing behind him. She said, “You guys want to win it all? You might as well win these.” It created quite a problem for the dealer. Of course, we gave the rings back, but after that we were always looking over his shoulder for his wife. We saw her one more time. She suddenly appeared and slapped him across the face and turned around and left. Blood was streaming down his face. He didn’t miss a beat and just kept on playing. He always struggled balancing his real life with what he loved to do, which is play poker.

Poker can be exciting and life changing, for better or worse. You can meet some of the best people and some really bad actors. In my next article, I will share more stories about life lessons from the poker table.

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.


THE NEXT GOLD RUSH: ONLINE POKER AND THE LOTTERY

Scratcher

My brother-in-law bought me several California Lottery scratchers as a stocking stuffer this year. Two of them were $5.00 games based on poker. It says on the California Lottery website, “LIKE POKER? Then our $75,000 Poker Scratchers® game is the one for you.” I LOVE poker, so how could I resist?

I scratched eight spots to reveal poker hands that I had to use to beat the dealer’s hand. Three of my hands won! I felt like it was my lucky day. I won more with my scratcher that day than I did playing real poker.

After scratching for five minutes and leaving plastic shavings everywhere, I can see why lottery players look forward to the day they will be able to log onto their state’s lottery site and let their computer do the scratching for them. Look for your favorite lottery games coming to a computer near you.

The Obama administration’s decision in December 2011 limiting the Wire Act to sports betting paved the way for the legalization of online lottery sales. Three months later on March 25, 2012, Illinois became the first jurisdiction to sell lottery tickets online. Currently, that is the only state which allows Internet lottery sales, but in the not-too-distant future, expect the lottery to be online in many more states.

People think the lottery is just picking numbers, but it is much more than that. Pretty soon every casino game you can imagine will be adapted and played with a lottery ticket. According to the website of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, U.S. lottery sales totaled $78 billion in 2012. The New York Lottery, North America’s largest and most profitable lottery, accounts for over $9 billion of that total. In comparison, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has projected online gambling in his state will generate over $1 billion in revenue by July 2014, and many industry analysts are calling that number overly optimistic. Regardless what the final number is, it will pale in comparison to the revenue state lotteries generate.

Factor in the fact that lotteries often use funding education as a way to get passed in legislatures and then as a selling point (though as little as 11 cents of every dollar actually goes back to some states), lotteries hit the marketing jackpot. With record jackpots making the national news and multi-state drawing games like Powerball now played in 44 jurisdictions, online gambling will have a hard time competing.

While the gaming industry is spending millions lobbying for the legalization of online gaming, the lotteries are sitting back cheering them on. When all the hard work is done, they will take it over from there. Online poker is currently being used to pass all other forms of Internet gambling because it is easier to push online poker through legislatures because it is generally considered a game of skill. It would be difficult to pass online gambling if it was presented as games of pure chance.

All eyes will now turn to New York, Massachusetts and the big prize, California. The bills introduced in the California legislature specify online poker only at this time, but do not be fooled by the words poker only. It is just the beginning of what is coming. Online poker will increase in popularity for the next ten years when New York and California finally offer online gaming.

During this time, online poker will create the pathway for all other forms of online gaming. These states with the largest populations in the nation will become meccas for online poker, and in ten years or so they will also be home to the biggest gaming companies in the world, the lotteries. Poker players can look back one day and say, “We started it all.”

I believe poker will all but vanish from the online gambling sites once it has served its purpose. One day you will have to search hard on any gambling website to find the poker tab and look even harder for a poker game.

The big winners in all this are the state lotteries if they are allowed to cross state lines and become legal in every home. The lottery will create slots and poker games and camouflage them to look like scratcher games much like the one I described at the beginning of this article.

The lottery industry is not as innocuous as it seems. It is about more than just picking some numbers; it is a whole new gambling platform. Do not be surprised if America’s game changes from poker to the lottery. Think about that the next time you buy a Powerball ticket with a 1 in 175,223,510 chance of winning the jackpot, roughly the same chance as getting hit by lightning–on your birthday.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He also created the Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He 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 is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

Follow Robert on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. Robert is available for consulting, marketing or teaching. He can be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com.