Time to Change the Game

Mike Sexton

I have been defending poker my whole career. When I was an executive host for MGM, I booked a well-known poker player, who got drunk and knocked a female security guard across a gaming table. I was called because he was escorted off the property, and they asked me what to do about him.

He had a high-end sports car in valet, his things still in the room, and they wanted to know how to move forward. I have always been an advocate for my players. In a board meeting, I was able to convince them to give him a second chance.

Now that I reflect back on that, I think it was the wrong decision.

This customer was an elite poker player, and instead of being an ambassador for the game, he was the exact opposite. Rather than promote the game that he made millions playing, he gave it a black eye.

But I wasn’t blameless either. Because he was also a table games player, it was in my best interest to keep him as a customer. At the time, I earned my living off players that I would bring into the MGM.

Knowing what I know now, I probably should have allowed the lifetime ban to stand. The message I was sending was that money was more important than doing the right thing.

Speaking of bad ambassadors of poker, this next player takes the cake. I was playing at a card room in Los Angeles in a major tournament when a young player with a Team PokerStars patch walked in late with a small entourage. I didn’t know who he was, but the floor staff was shaking his hand.

He sat down at my table and immediately started criticizing people’s play. He knocked the tournament and the structure and was just a complete jerk. I went over to the tournament director, and said, “Surely, this guy can’t represent PokerStars.” He said yes he does.

This was the exact opposite of what an ambassador for poker should be. Instead of shaking hands with the players, he berated them. He acted like this tournament was below him.
Watching that was a disgrace. It’s time for the pros to be the protectors of the game.

We Need More Poker Ambassadors

TDA

Of course there are many icons of the game who are outstanding individuals. Mike Sexton is a perfect example of a poker ambassador. He is someone who has helped grow and protect the game. He is also a gentleman; when he sits at the table, you know you’re dealing with a class act.

Linda Johnson is another poker personality who has spent her career protecting the game. Matt Savage, along with Jan Fisher and David Lamb, co-founded the Tournament Directors Association.

The TEA has done great job of standardizing poker tournament rules worldwide. It’s now time for that same body to come up with a code of conduct and set of disciplinary standards to stop abuse at the poker table.

Some tournaments have done such things as penalizing players for using bad language. But we need to take it further.

It won’t be easy, but it is necessary to grow the poker industry by bringing in more recreational players. It may not be obvious to most, but I believe that a contributing factor to closing some poker rooms is the problems at the tables.

Too many professional players have taken a lot from the game without giving anything back. If you are going to call yourself a professional poker player, you also need to be a protector of the game.

Poker is out of the back room now and on the world stage on television and digital platforms. People watch poker all over the world. What they see, they emulate.

The world is watching. It’s time to change the game now.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player 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.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience 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.

Advertisements

A Passion for Poker: Meet Hollywood Park Casino’s Ginger Lee by Patricia Chavira

imagejpeg_0_1477845702309

As I have written about before, women are underrepresented both at the poker tables and on the casino floor, so when I meet a woman who has both played poker and worked in a casino, I know I am talking to a very rare person indeed, and that special woman is Ginger Lee.

Ginger ended up in a card room like many women do—she tagged along with a friend. When she was a college student, she was asked if she would like to go to the Bike. She said yes thinking she was going to a bicycle shop.

Much to her surprise, she ended up at the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California, one of the largest card rooms in the world. Little did she know that fateful decision would change her life.

When she was a waitress at a sushi bar, a customer who worked at Commerce Casino convinced her to apply for a job at the card room. In 1990, she learned to deal and passed her auditioned. She began working as a dealer but realized that to be a better dealer, she had to learn how to play poker, so she began playing after work.

Working With Poker Legends

linda-johnson

Linda Johnson, the First Lady of Poker

Ginger rose through the ranks being promoted to the tournament staff by her mentor Cheri Dokken, Commerce Casino’s tournament director for many years. She also had the privilege of working tournaments with legendary tournament directors Jack McClelland and Matt Savage.

Ginger began playing tournaments herself even meeting her future husband at the L.A. Poker Classic in 1992. She tells a funny story about registering another player for a tournament who never showed up. She didn’t want to be stuck for the buy-in, so she decided to play herself. It was her first No-Limit tournament. She ended up chopping it. Ginger is also a skilled 7-Card Stud player who has cashed in several stud tournaments.

In 2003, she dealt during the first season of the World Poker Tour to such poker luminaries as Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen. But the best part for her was working with her idol Linda Johnson, “The First Lady of Poker.”

After working at Commerce for 25 years, Ginger now works at Hollywood Park Casino as a shift manager with Director of Casino Operations Ramy Wahba. They worked together at Commerce for over 20 years.

Over her career, Ginger has learned that a casino’s success depends on customer service. As she says, “We are here because of the customer; we have to listen.”

With her passion for poker, you can be sure any casino that Ginger Lee works at is a place you want to play.

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.

 

 

Announcing the Poker Industry Hall of Fame

classic-vegas

The poker industry is over a hundred years old, and many individuals have never been recognized for their contributions to the industry. Many pioneers of poker need to be honored, and what better place than the new Poker Industry Hall of Fame.

The time has come for the creation of the Poker Industry Hall of Fame to preserve and honor those individuals that built the game of poker and established a framework for the players to achieve their dreams.

Today poker is accepted around the world, and I want to preserve its past for future generations by honoring those individuals who built and managed poker rooms, brought innovations to the industry or wrote about the game we all love.

Founders of Los Angeles Poker Industry

GeorgeHardie

George Hardie

When you think of what group of industry leaders who should be inducted into the Poker Industry Hall of Fame, the first ten or so are no brainers. We can start in Los Angeles with the founders of the poker industry:

Russell Miller, original owner of the Normandie Casino in Gardena, California.

George Hardie, founder of the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, which at one time was the largest card club in the world.

George Tumanjan, one of the most loved and respected men in poker history, who  founded the Commerce Casino.

Larry Flynt, defender of the First Amendment, who loved poker so much that he built his own poker club, the Hustler Casino, in Gardena, California.

Visionaries of the Las Vegas Poker Industry

bill-boyd

Bill Boyd

In Las Vegas, you have Benny Binion and his son Jack Binion, the owners of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas who created the World Series of Poker, the largest and most prestigious poker tournament in the world.

Bill Boyd, the father of Las Vegas poker and legendary poker room manager of the Golden Nugget and the person who gave me my first casino job.

Steve Wynn, the visionary casino owner who took poker to the next level with his love of the game and its players.

Bobby Baldwin, a world-class poker player and gaming industry leader who never forgot the game that launch his career and who ensured poker was always showcased in Steve Wynn’s casinos.

Lyle Berman, the successful businessman who loved poker so much he built a gaming company around it and financed the World Poker Tour.

There are so many other deserving individuals that need to be honored and inducted in the new Poker Industry Hall of Fame:

Industry leaders like John Sutton of the Bicycle Casino and Jerry Stensrud of the Commerce Casino.

Mike Caro, poker teacher and writer.

Phyllis Caro Yazbek, the first female Vice President of Poker Operations.

Linda Johnson, the First Lady of Poker who has dedicated her life to spreading her love of poker all over the world.

So many other people who deserve to be in the first Poker Industry Hall of Fame, such as writers Nolan Dalla and David Sklansky; Bruno Fitoussi, founder of the Aviation Club, who established poker in France; Jim Albrecht, who was the tournament director of the WSOP for over a decade; Doug Dalton, who managed the best poker rooms in the world; and Eric Drache, the first poker executive host.

We can’t forget casino owners Leo Chu, who owned three casinos in Los Angeles, and Haig Kelegian, who owns numerous casinos throughout California. The often-forgotten people of the media would also be honored. June Field, the founder of Card Player magazine; Barry Shulman, current owner of Card Player; the late gaming media pioneer Stan Sludikoff; and Eileen DiRocco, who carried on her husband Chuck DiRocco’s legacy by continuing to publish Gaming Today.

The first Poker Industry Hall of Fame has much work ahead of it to preserve the history of the game of poker and honor those who created it.

I look forward to hearing from people in the poker industry with your input.

Email me at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com. All suggestions greatly appreciated.

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 be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.