Pioneering Women in Poker: Phyllis Caro, Part 1 by Patricia Chavira

phyllis-caro-photo

In the poker world, the name Caro represents integrity in poker. But before Phyllis Caro became the well-respected casino executive she is known as today, she worked her way up the ranks starting as a dealer.

She played 7-card stud in the 70’s at Caesars Palace. At the time, poker was a small community where everyone knew each other. She was going back and forth between Las Vegas and New York, where she is originally from.

While she was in Vegas in 1979, she had a neighbor who was a box man at the El Cortez, which just opened a poker room in Downtown Las Vegas. She was asked to shill for a few days, and so began Phyllis’ first foray into the poker business.

The next day the room had four tables, and they still needed help, so she sat in the box. The room was very successful from the beginning. Over the years, she dealt at the Las Vegas Club, Aladdin and Golden Nugget.

She was dealing at the Golden Nugget in 1982 when Bill Boyd replaced Pineapple with a new game called Nugget Hold’em. This game would become Omaha, which Robert Turner brought to Boyd.

Not only was Phyllis there at the start of Omaha, she would also meet someone at the Golden Nugget who would take her life in a new direction. That person was Mike Caro.

They married in 1983, and Phyllis quit dealing and helped Mike write books. During that time, Mike was invited to a seminar in Redding, California, where George Hardie was also in attendance.

He told them he was going to open the biggest poker room in California and asked Mike to be involved. Hardie wanted to run a clean, honest poker room, and the Caros were the perfect people to help him.

Before the Bicycle Club opened, Phyllis helped interview and audition dealers and set up the casino staffing. She was offered any job she wanted. She became dealer coordinator.

Hardie had a new vision for California gaming, and it was different from the rampant cheating that defined Gardena at the time. It was so bad, Mike said, “I didn’t know poker was a team sport.” They had their work cut out for them.

In Part 2, read about how Phyllis helped shape the future of poker in California.

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

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The Rise of Big O Omaha Poker by Patricia Chavira

Big O Hand

It is no surprise No-Limit Hold’em is the most popular game in card rooms. With its popularity on television and in home games, No-Limit Hold’em is the first game that many players learn.

But after you have been playing for a while, it’s important to expand your horizons, and Omaha poker is a great way to do that. As I have written before, I played my first hand of Omaha at Pechanga Resort & Casino.

When I discovered they were spreading five-card Omaha, also known as Big O, I would make the 90-minute drive to Temecula just to play $3/$6 Big O.

Big O Big at Hollywood Park Casino

Hollywood Park Casino

Lately, however, Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles has been spreading $3/$6 Big O, so I can play much closer to home, and on Saturdays, I play the Big O tournament, which draws around 30 Omaha players.

Corey Silver, Hollywood Park Casino’s Tournament Director, explains the details of the tournament, “Our Big O tournament held every Saturday at 3 p.m. is the only one in town! The buy-in is $60 for 10,000 chips with an optional $60 rebuy for 15,000 chips before the second break. Players that sign up for the Big O tournament are rewarded with a food voucher and a Double Jackpot slip for cash game play.”

Hollywood Park Casino is catering to Big O players. As Silver says, “Big O is becoming very popular in Southern California. Players really enjoy getting 5 cards to play with to make a high and a low hand instead of the regular 4 cards in traditional Omaha.”

You can usually find three $3/$6 Big O and one $6/$12 Big O games on any given night at Hollywood Park. These games are a great way for beginners to get acquainted with Omaha poker.

Hollywood Park Casino is paying Omaha players $2/hour, which can be used for food or cashed out. The $3/$6 Big O features a $6/$12 kill that leads to monster pots.

Road to WSOP Promotion

Road to WSOP

For those players with dreams of playing on poker’s biggest stage, Hollywood Park Casino is also sending players to the World Series of Poker via the “Road to WSOP” promotion.

On Saturday May 21 and May 28 at 12 p.m., the $6,000 guarantee $60 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament will send the top two finishers to the $565 Colossus event. A 3-night’s hotel stay in Las Vegas from June 4-June 6 is also included in the prize package.

With the Colossus paying $1 million for first place, this will be a great chance to turn a $60 buy-in into a nice 7-figure payday.

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.

It’s Time to Legalize Sports Betting

Sports Betting

There is a tendency to use euphemisms when talking about gambling. Being in the business for nearly fifty years, I have seen almost everything, but lately some have been trying to say some activities are not gambling when they clearly are. I like to call a spade a spade. I will dissect a couple of myths about gambling below.

Daily Fantasy Sports IS Gambling

DFS Is Gambling

The first myth is Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is not gambling. Let me start by saying it is gambling, and in reality there is about as much skill involved as there is in a lottery. When nine things have to line up just right for you to win, it’s no different than a parlay or lottery.

You can study all you want and call it skill if that makes regulators and the major sports leagues feel better, but it is still gambling. And if DFS is going to be legalized, then all sports betting should legal.

I’m going to come right out and say it: The time has come to legalize sports betting.

If skill is going to be the standard by which you legalize an activity, I can confidently state that when sports betting is done properly, it has more skill than DFS. An article from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) called “Should Sports Gambling Be Legal?” begins with the following lines that capture the essence of the debate:

“Few things are as American as laying down a few dollars on a football game. But oddly enough, sports gambling is illegal in all but four states—Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.”

Why is that?

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

Christie

In 1992 the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), also known as the “Bradley Act,” was passed which outlawed sports betting nationwide with a few exceptions for the licensed sports books in Nevada and the sports lotteries conducted in Oregon, Delaware and Montana. Congress provided one year from the act’s effective date of January 1, 1993 for states which operated licensed casino gaming for the previous ten years to pass laws permitting sports wagering.

In the February 2013 the New Yorker ran a piece called “A Call to Action” by James Surowiecki about New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting. He starts the article by stating the obvious: billions of dollars are being waged in states where sports gambling is against the law.

Surowiecki then goes on to detail New Jersey’s battle with the federal government and major professional sports leagues to change the law. The first step was New Jersey voters approving an amendment to the state constitution legalizing sports betting in 2011.

In his article, Surowiecki quotes I. Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling law at Whittier Law School, describing the law as arbitrary. “It’s as if in 1929 Congress had decreed that a dozen states would be allowed to have sound in the their movie theatres and all the other states would only be allowed to show only silent films,” Rose says.

Surowiecki notes that though “all the states except Utah and Hawaii have commercial gambling in some form,” sports betting which involves more skill than a lottery, is restricted to only four states.

A major obstacle to the legalization of sports betting is that the major professional sports leagues state that wagering on sports harms their brands while at the same endorsing daily fantasy sports. It seems they want it both ways, but I believe the tide is turning.

In November 2014 NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote a New York Times op-ed called “Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting.” He calls a spade a spade and acknowledges that sports betting is “a thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight.”

We all know what is going on. As Silver states, though “there is no solid data on the volume of illegal sports betting activity in the United States…some estimate that nearly $400 billion is illegally wagered on sports each year.”

Silver continues, “Times have changed since PAPSA was enacted. Gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

The time is now to legalize sports betting. And the same arguments can be used to legalize online gambling. With proper regulation and consumer protections, Americans can be free to spend their entertainment dollars as they choose.

In August 2015 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia denied New Jersey’s bid to legalize sports betting saying it violated the PASPA, which came as no surprise. What did surprise me however was New Jersey’s tenacity.

On February 17 New Jersey appealed the decision of the three-judge panel and argued its case to the full court. They face formidable foes—the professional sports leagues—but I think we will see sports betting legalized throughout the country.

I never thought I’d live to see the day.

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 http://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. Subscribe to Robert’s blog “Beyond the Numbers” to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Modern Poker Pioneers: Steve Wynn and Bobby Baldwin

Bobby Baldwin WSOP 

Steve Wynn and Bobby Baldwin deserve credit for the poker explosion in Las Vegas. Bobby Baldwin, under Steve Wynn, opened three rooms as President of the Mirage and controlled a third of the poker revenue in Nevada. Baldwin is one of those rare breed of people in the gambling world who has achieved great success both as a legendary poker player and as a successful casino executive.

Poker Hall of Famer Baldwin won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1978 at the age of 28 becoming the youngest winner in its history at the time. The record was broken in 1980 when Stu Ungar became the Main Event champion. Joe Cada currently holds the record for youngest WSOP Main Event winner ever when he won the event in 2009 at the age of 21. Baldwin went on to win 4 WSOP gold bracelets all between 1977-1979, an impressive record for any poker player.

In the 80s Baldwin transitioned to the casino business when he became a consultant for the Golden Nugget and was named its president in 1984. In 1987 he was selected to head the Mirage, which opened on November 22, 1989 on the site of the former Castaways, which was owned by Howard Hughes. All the way back in 1980, Steve Wynn envisioned building the first major resort in Las Vegas in 25 years at a time when tourism in Las Vegas was in decline.

He used the working nameGolden Nugget on the Strip” for this project. This ultimately became the Mirage, which was the most expensive hotel-casino at the time and set the stage for the implosion of the old casinos and the rise of the mega-resorts that dot the Las Vegas Strip today. Baldwin would help lead this march into the modern gaming era. In 2000, he was named Chief Financial Officer of Mirage Resorts under Steve Wynn and upon the merger of Mirage Resort and MGM Grand, Baldwin became CEO of the Mirage Resorts subsidiary of MGM Mirage.

A major part of this dream team on the poker side was Doug Dalton. Dalton got his start in poker operations in 1978 helping his friend Chip Reese run the poker room at the Dunes. Dalton was hired by Baldwin to work in the Golden Nugget Poker Room, where he worked until 1988. He was poker manager of the Mirage in its golden years from 1994-1998 until he became the Director of Poker Operations at the Bellagio until 2012.

When Steve Wynn opened the billion-dollar Bellagio in 1998 on the site of the legendary Dunes casino, it ushered in a new standard of luxury in Las Vegas. A poker room had to be built that would match Wynn’s high standards. Separated from the main floor by two glass doors, Bobby’s Room offers privacy for its high-stakes players, but always has one glass door open as Nevada law prohibits private games in casinos.

Dalton tells the story of how they originally were going to call Bobby’s Room Chip’s Room, but Reese personally nixed that idea by saying people would rather play with Bobby than him. It was decided to make the game in Bobby’s Room a $20,000 buy-in, and the idea really took off. Crowds would gather to catch a glimpse of their favorite poker stars playing in the “Big Game” and get their pictures taken with the legend of poker. Pots in this game have reportedly exceeded $1 million. Bobby’s Room added glamour to poker that it had never seen before.

Dalton says they decided to open the room the same day Steve Wynn was opening his new Wynn resort. He got a call from a Wynn executive who told him, “Doug, some day you will be retired on a beach somewhere and regret this day.”

With Wynn as the visionary, Baldwin was a poker icon who had the power to make sure poker stayed front and center in Las Vegas. These modern poker pioneers helped set the stage for the poker boom that was about to come. Poker was poised to become a global phenomenon in the new millennium, and the rest is history.

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.

Tribute to Paul “Eskimo” Clark

Eskimo

My friend Paul “Eskimo” Clark recently passed away. Poker has lost a real legend of the game. A few articles have been written about him that focused on some of the more unfortunate aspects of his life. I have a little different take on Eskimo.

Eskimo was hard to miss. When I first laid eyes on the big guy, he looked like an Eskimo just left Alaska to play poker. I remember he always wanted a piece of my tournament play, and many times he would say let’s go parlay some money on blackjack to play the tournament.  He always had a plan.

Eskimo would say, “I am going to bet $200 and let ride 4 times. If I win, we are both in the tournament.”  It rarely worked.  What I never understood was he would have $100,000 in his pocket at the time, but he would always want to win his or my way into the tournament.

Another time I remember he was staying at the Lady Luck or one of those hotels near the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. On one of our blackjack trips, he said, “Robert did you know I can sing like Elvis Presley?” I said no, and he started singing walking down Fremont Street.  After about five songs, I said, “OK, I believe you!”

Eskimo always had business ideas. Once he invested over $200,000 to build his own online poker site. After running into problems, he asked me how he could find the guy who had run off with his money. I told him you can’t. He really was a trusting soul. 

Another time he had just bought a new Lincoln Town car and he walked me outside the Horseshoe and showed me $500,000 in a paper bag, and told me, “These poker players play so badly. They think they can beat me.”

I never knew if Eskimo had $20 to his name or $1 million. He really had a big heart. He helped many poker players and played both sides of the staking game.

In 1999 he wanted to go to Atlantic City to play a $500 buy-in tournament. On Tuesday, he offered to drive a few guys from Los Angles. I saw them six days later. I said, “I thought you guys went to the East coast.” They said, “We did.”

I could not believe Eskimo could drive to Atlantic City, play and be back in less than a week, so I asked one of the guys what happened. He said Eskimo drove non-stop, chain-smoking the entire time. Eskimo got knocked out of the tournament in less than 3 hours. And he said, “Let’s go back.” They never even checked into a room. Imagine riding in a smoke-filled car across the country and back in six days. That had to be the most miserable poker trip in history.

I would see Eskimo playing $6/$12 poker at 2:00, win $300 and move to $20/$40, win $1,000 and move right into a $100/$200 game and win $40,000 not once, but many times. He was a true gambler and did it his way.

One time he called me outside of the Bicycle Casino and said he needed to borrow $100 and could I hold his bicycle until Friday. I asked if he rode this bicycle to the Bicycle Casino, and he said, “Yes, it is a good bike.” I could hardly hold back my laughter, but he was he serious.

I gave him $100 and told him to keep the little red bicycle.  Now the story gets crazy.

A few days later he said, “Robert, come outside. I need to sell my boat. Do you know anyone that would give me $50,000 for it?” As we are walking outside to the parking lot at the Bicycle Casino, I thought about the red bicycle and now here is a 50-foot yacht on a trailer.  It was the biggest boat I have ever seen out of water.

He said, “Robert, I paid $250,000 for it new, but I will take $50,000 for it. I need to go the WSOP.” I have no clue where the boat or the little red bicycle came from but I knew never to judge a book by its cover.

Eskimo was a 3-time WSOP bracelet winner with over $2,700,000 in earnings over his career. His 20 cashes at the WSOP account for $632,005 of those winnings. He won bracelets in 7-card Stud, Razz and 7-card Stud Hi/Lo winning his last bracelet in 2002. He was a master of all games.

Eskimo died this past April in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was 67. Eskimo was a true legend of game, and I will miss all the laughter he gave me over the years. I will never forget him.

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.

Omaha Poker: Best Places to Play in the West

Omaha

If you’re traveling to the western part of the United States and are ready to practice playing the game of Omaha in a live setting, here is a rundown of the action and where to play.

Many consider Los Angeles to be the center of the poker universe, and Commerce Casino, located about 30 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport, features the largest card room in the world and the best range of Omaha games and limits from which to choose.

Beginning with $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Lo (O8) games and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) with a $100-$300 buy-in all the way up to a $2,500 buy-in PLO game that is spread every day in the high limit section, the non-stop action at Commerce Casino makes it one of the top spots to play in the world.

Other Los Angeles-area casinos also spread Omaha daily. The Bicycle Casino located in Bell Gardens also features a $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Lo game and a mix game of Stud Hi/Lo and Omaha with a $20/$40 limit. A Pot Limit Omaha game is also offered on certain days. They also have a weekly Omaha tournament on Mondays.

The Garden Casino in Hawaiian Gardens offers a variety of games including $4/$8, $6/$12 Limit Omaha and also a Pot Limit Omaha game with a $100 to $300 buy-in. They have also added a Seven-Card Stud 8-or-Better mix game and will join Hollywood Park Casino and Commerce Casino in offering  a mix game at the $6/$12 limit.

My favorite place to play Omaha in Southern California is the Hollywood Park Casino located just minutes from the Los Angeles Airport. Their offerings include $4/$8 Omaha Hi/Lo, $6/$12 Big O (5-card Omaha), $40/$80 Omaha Hi/Lo and a $20/$40 mix Omaha and Stud Hi/Lo.

Hollywood Park also has added a high stakes PLO game. Hollywood Park Casino hosts a $60 buy-in $2,500 guarantee Big O tournament every Saturday at 3 p.m.

Several Native American casinos in Southern California offer limit Omaha. Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest casino in California in Temecula, spreads a $3/$6 Big O game daily. Agua Caliente Casino near Palm Springs spreads a great $6/$12 Omaha Hi/Lo game.

Just outside Los Angeles, The Players Club in Ventura, California, offers small limit and pot limit Omaha games full of great action. Omaha on the West Coast is growing, and I predict the amount of games will double in the near future.

Las Vegas is a great place to play Omaha and has some legendary spots like the Orleans Hotel and Casino, which is famous for its low-limit Omaha games and large jackpots. If you need to build a bankroll, one of the best places to play is Boulder Station which features a $4/$8 limit Omaha high only game with some of the best action in Las Vegas. It seems like there are always six people going to the river.

For bigger action, the most consistent place to find it is at the Venetian Las Vegas, which features $4/$8 Omaha and $8/$16 Omaha along with $15/$30 and Pot Limit Omaha. Aria spreads Pot Limit Omaha daily, and Bellagio has some middle limit Omaha if requested.

As far as tournaments go, the LA Poker Classic running now through March 3, 2016, at Commerce Casino is a great place to try your hand at playing mixed games in a tournament setting. Tournament Director Matt Savage and his staff, including tournament coordinator Jeffrey King, have done a great job creating a new tournament schedule with less rebuy and less re-entry events.

The LAPC has a great mix of events that will appeal to both recreational and professional players. Several Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit H.O.R.S.E and other mixed games are featured. I was fortunate to play in several of these events.

Matt explained his philosophy this way: “I have always believed that there is much more to poker than just No Limit Hold’em, and I think it’s important to keep mixed games available not only to play but to introduce to the next generation of poker players.”

He continues, “The last thing I want as a player that loves mixed games is to see Limit Hold’em, Omaha/8, Stud/8, and Razz go the way of Lowball and Draw. I feel really fortunate to be the Tournament Director for a series like the LA Poker Classic where I can be creative with the schedule and even try new variations and games like No Limit H.O.R.S.E., Crazy Pineapple, and Triple Stud.”

I really like when casinos do things that put customers first like Commerce does, such as the Player of the Series with $25,000 added money and food vouchers for all tournament players.

The bottom line is Omaha and mixed games are becoming more mainstream in the Southern California poker scene. If you want to become a professional poker player, it’s time to master these games.

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 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.