Women in Poker: Meet the Gardens Casino’s Carolyn Uzeta by Patricia Chavira

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It’s a fact that women are underrepresented in poker. Whether at the tables or on the casino floor, seeing a woman is still the exception rather than the rule, so when I see a woman in a card room, I am always curious about her journey. This is Carolyn Uzeta’s story.

Carolyn ended up in a card room the same way many other women do: her boyfriend was a poker player. As she says, she was that woman who sat behind her beau listening to bad beat stories and offering support.

At the time, she was in college working as a cocktail waitress. She figured she may as well work at the card room where her boyfriend played, and that’s how she ended up at Hawaiian Gardens casino in 2000 when it was still just a tent, not the showplace it is today.

She worked in various positions in the casino until she ended up at a corporation banker. It was in that job that Carolyn realized she wanted to be a dealer, and knowing how difficult it was to get a dealer position in those days, she practiced until she finally auditioned for a dealer position.

She became a dealer, and now she is the Training and Development Manager at the newly-named Gardens Casino. She has two assistants and a team of trainers who ensure the Gardens Casino has some of the best dealers in the business.

There is an extensive training and continuing education process the dealers are put through from learning about customer service to training them to deal in such a way that a player should never notice any difference from dealer to dealer.

As Carolyn puts it, if a customer has a bad time, not only does the casino lose one player, but that player may tell 20 other people who may never step through the door because of that one negative experience.

And she is right. The poker scene in Los Angeles is a tight community, poker players talk, and word spreads like wildfire.

But dealers talk, too, and it is imperative that poker is a positive experience for all. Dealer abuse should never be tolerated.

Carolyn works hard to ensure her dealers are well-trained; we as players should always show appreciation for a job well done or call the floor if we need a ruling.

In poker as in life, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves respect.

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.

 

 

 

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2015 Year in Review: Trends and Forecasts in Gaming

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As I reflect back on this year and look forward to the next, I see great things for the gaming industry. This year saw a trend in poker that will change the way tournaments are run; tournament directors are moving away from multiple rebuys and re-entry events. For example, the Bicycle Hotel & Casino held a tournament with a $100,000 guarantee for a $150 buy-in last Friday, Dec. 4, that drew over 1,000 players and packed the casino. I introduced the re-buy concept years ago at the Normandie Casino and regret it to this day. In the old days, I was dealing with a limited amount of players in a small casino and had to get the numbers up. The concept served its purpose years ago, but it is not necessary today because the fields are so much bigger.

Another trend is the smaller buy-in tournament with a large guarantee, such as the so-called Colossus event held for the first time at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) this year. This tournament drew a record 22,374 players. Events like this are a great introduction for new tournament players. Though there was some controversy over first-place paying only $638,880 for the biggest live tournament in history, I am sure this year first place will be a million dollars if the WSOP holds this event again.

Speaking of the WSOP, Joe McKeehen, 24, this year’s winner of the WSOP Main Event, really put on a dominating performance. McKeehen had a great game plan, and it worked to perfection. Joe’s performance reminded me of Jerry Wang and his perfect play and decision making in the 2007 WSOP Main Event.

The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles opened a great hotel addition to their casino that rivals any property in Las Vegas and sets the stage for Los Angeles becoming the poker capital of the world. Several new casinos will open in 2016. The Garden in Hawaiian Gardens, California, will open its brand-new casino in late December or early January. According to David Moskowitz, CEO of the Gardens Casino, it will feature the largest event center for tournaments in Los Angeles. The new Hollywood Park casino is slated to open in September 2016 with an entertainment complex that will be a showplace for both poker and football. The NFL plans to build a new stadium at Hollywood Park that will host future Super Bowls. It’s a very exciting time for gaming in Los Angeles.

In 2015 we saw daily fantasy sports (DFS) explode on the gaming scene and will meet court challenges moving forward. DFS is gambling. It’s time to make sports betting legal like they have done in Europe and regulate and tax it. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver admitted it’s time to legalize it. Speaking of the NBA, fans are seeing a great show in MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who are currently undefeated and are on track for a record-breaking season. Curry is currently the best basketball player on the planet and is changing the game. He may be the best ever in NBA history if he can stay healthy.

The new millennials are the future of gaming and are changing the way casinos market themselves. The millennials grew up with social media and playing video games. Traditional gambling does not appeal to them as much as it did to their parents. They are used to a more fast-paced, finger-tipped technology, and e-sports fits them perfectly. The e-sports industry is moving at warp speed and could provide players for Las Vegas for the next twenty years.

It’s time for casinos to rethink their marketing budgets and allocate more dollars to e-sports and poker. My hope for the upcoming year is that Las Vegas takes another look at how valuable poker players are to their property and use poker as a marketing tool. It’s time they look beyond the numbers and not worry so much about the bottom line.

In closing, as someone who has been in gaming for almost fifty years, I have seen a lot of exciting things this year. Watching American Pharoah win the Triple Crown was the best adrenaline rush I have had in years. I am also fortunate to watch the game of Omaha continue to grow in popularity. I will continue to promote it as I have for 45 years.

2016 will be an exciting year with casinos being planned across America. The future of gaming has never looked brighter. I’m proud and fortunate to still be a part of it. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

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.