Hollywood Park Casino’s Grand Opening Celebration by Patricia Chavira

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Hollywood Park Casino’s Grand Opening Celebration kicked off on Friday, October 21 with a red carpet event for dignitaries and poker executives from other casinos.

Ramy Wahba, Director of Casino Operations, and his management team did an outstanding job during all phases of the transition—from the construction phase to grand opening. They have much to be proud of.

Los Angeles now has a poker showplace to rival any in the world, and this weekend Hollywood Park Casino firmly established itself at the top of the list of the best places to play poker in L.A. or anywhere for that matter.

Its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport in addition to being part of the first the part of the first phase of the City of Champions Revitalization Project means Hollywood Park Casino is poised to become the leader in California gaming. Not only is it beautiful, but I predict it will become the best place to play poker in California, if not the country.

As I have written before, the property is simply breathtaking. Designed by San Diego-based JCJ Architecture, the new casino spans 110,000 square feet with 125 gaming tables, a 20,000-square foot simulcast wagering facility with a private bar called the Turf Club and a luxurious high-limit room for Cal Games called the Golden Dragon.

Not only will you be playing in the most beautiful card room in the country, you will most likely find your favorite poker game as Hollywood Park Casino is experimenting with a mix of games that will appeal both to the recreational player and poker pro.

On Friday, you could play $20/$40 Hold’em, $20/$40 PLO and a $6/$12 mix of Big O and E.O. Stud 8 or Better. I have just started playing mixed games, and the $6/$12 is a perfect game to sit in if you are a beginner like me.

$50,000 Celebrity Bounty Tournament

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Robert Turner with Scotty Wayne,  co-founder of Rounders Poker

My husband Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner played the $50,000 Celebrity Bounty Tournament on Saturday, October 22. He said, “The entertainment world came to support Rock the Vote at the Grand Opening of Hollywood Park Casino. The pros had a hard time as some of the celebrities had fun beating up the pros!”

The players chopped the prize pool 18 ways for $2,500 each with actor Peter Mackenzie from black-ish winning the tournament.

Leave all your preconceived notions about the old Hollywood Park Casino at the door. As their tagline says, “Raise your expectations.”

 

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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.

 

 

 

Gardena: Poker Capital of the World

facebook_1461345592678 (1)Robert Turner as part of Larry Flynt’s  Original Hustler Casino Management Team

The Normandie Casino has been rumored to be an acquisition of the Hustler Casino by Larry Flynt. If this happens, the Gardena poker legacy will be gone, and all that will be left is one corporation controlling the remaining two.

Poker was started in Gardena in 1936 by legendary card club owners Ernie Primm and Russ Miller, the patriarch of the Miller family who owns the Normandie Casino.

The six clubs of poker that made up the Gardena landscape are now just a memory, and if Larry Flynt takes over the Normandie Casino, the last of the original six, a poker era will varnish forever.

As I reflect back, it has occurred to me that I managed four of the six casinos in Gardena, a small city ten miles outside Downtown Los Angeles. When poker boomed in California with the legalization of Hold’em around 1986, many characters came out to play in Gardena, including myself.

A Storied History: The Horseshoe Club

Horseshoe Club Gardena

Some were very famous for their play while others were notorious for having a shady past like Shoeshine Nick. Legendary poker author Mike Caro was also part of Gardena history.

Caro recalls of that time, “Old Gardena was a poker garden where money grew, but there was also treachery, and you had to avoid the cheating. You dealt your own cards, which was fine, but so did they, and there was always danger.”

Caro continues, “The producer — weak players who provided you profit — came, and many went broke or disappeared. But along came new producers, so you survived. It was five-card draw, high or low, and the draw could determine your fate for now. But there was always tomorrow. So, we won.”

“Gardena called itself the Poker Capital of the World. And it really was,” Caro concludes.

I agree with him. When I was General Manager of the Horseshoe Club in 1986, I had many problems to solve including rampant cheating, which I solved with stationary dealers. Before that, each player took turns dealing, which led to mechanics and teams plying their trade at the expense of the producers.

Some of the problems I had to deal with at the Horseshoe not only had to do with the players but also involved the owners. One day I discovered a security guard in the count room area taking chips out of the drop boxes.

After an investigation, it was determined that one of the owners had given him the key. That particular owner was the general partner of the casino; I knew my days were numbered there. The casino was sold, and my contract was bought out. It was closed for remodeling, and it never reopened.

Poker Legends in Gardena

Huck Seed

1996 WSOP Main Event Winner Huck Seed

 

But while I worked there, I added new games, such as seven-card stud and Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO), which was spread in California for the first time at the Horseshoe. These games attracted the best poker players in the world. Regulars in these games were Freddie Deeb, Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan.

Hellmuth would fly into Los Angeles, take a taxi to Gardena to play PLO and sometimes he would go broke and turn right around. The first time I met World Series of Poker Main Event winner Huck Seed was in Gardena. He was playing $15/$30 Limit Hold’em and was a consistent winner, who showed greatness even at that time.

The first World Championship of Omaha was played in Gardena at the Horseshoe. It featured a $500 buy-in, and people came from all over the country to play.

I left Gardena for nine years while I managed other clubs, such as the Regency, the Bicycle Club and Hollywood Park Casino. I returned to Gardena in 2000 to open Hustler Casino with Larry Flynt as his executive host in charge of the house players and, of course, promoting Omaha.

Eric Drache and Yosh Nakano created a huge stud game hosted by Larry Flynt himself at the Hustler with great players from all over the world. Regulars in that game included a who’s who of poker royalty—Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Thor Hansen and Danny Robison.

In 2006, I was hired as the poker manager of Normandie Casino. I remember Mike Sexton roasting me for my sixtieth birthday and referring to my Horseshoe days in 1986. He said, “Robert Turner came a long way in his poker career—right across the street.”

At one time, the Horseshoe was located right across the street from the Normandie Casino. It is pretty funny that after twenty years I had come right back to where I started, the other side of the street.

Today the Normandie is facing some serious fines and legal issues, so passing the torch to Larry Flynt may be their best opportunity.

Only time will tell where Larry Flynt takes Gardena, the former poker capital of the world. He owns it all now.

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.

Friday Poker Tournaments in Los Angeles

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One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is the non-stop poker action. On weekends I like to play the Quantum Reload tournaments at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino, but with the World Series of Poker Circuit running there all month, these tournaments have been suspended.

Hollywood Park Casino

Corey Silver

Corey Silver, Tournament Director for Hollywood Park Casino

On my quest to find a new Friday night tournament, I discovered some great poker values around town. Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood has two tournaments on Friday. At noon is a $60 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament with a $10,000 guarantee. At 7 p.m. there is another $60 buy-in tournament with a $12,000 guarantee.

Both tournaments feature 20 minute levels, 10,000 starting chips and one $60 re-buy for 15,000 chips. In my experience, Tournament Director Corey Silver runs some of the best tournaments in town.

Commerce Casino

Commerce Casino

Commerce Casino, the world’s largest poker casino with over 240 tables, runs two tournaments on Friday. At noon is the $65 buy-in Deepstack Turbo, which features 10,000 starting chips, 15 minute levels and a $2,500 guarantee.

At 6 p.m. Commerce runs the $150 No-Limit Hold’em Megastack with 15,000 starting chips and 15 minute levels. There are no rebuys or add-ons in this tournament, and registration closes at 8:15 p.m. giving you plenty of time to make the tournament even if you get caught in L.A.’s traffic.

Gardena

Hustler

Across town in Gardena, the Normandie and Hustler Casino host Friday night tournaments at 7 p.m. Normandie’s No-Limit Hold’em tournament features a $40 buy-in, 6,000 starting chips and a $3,000 guarantee.

Players registered by 6:45 p.m. receive 500 bonus chips. Registration is open until 8:30 p.m. There are no rebuys or add-ons.

Hustler Casino’s $100 Super Friday tournament starts with 10,000 chips and features a $5,000 guarantee. There is one $70 add-on for 15,000 chips. The levels are 20 minutes with the exception of Level 5, which is 60 minutes. Players may re-enter during the first five levels. Late registration lasts until 9:20 p.m.

Hawaiian Gardens

Gardens Casino

The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens hosts a $15,000 guarantee No-Limit Hold’em tournament at 6:45 p.m. Players receive 7,000 starting chips for their $115 buy-in. Players can purchase 3,000 bonus chips for $10.

There is one $50 rebuy for 7,000 chips. Levels last 30 minutes for the first three levels and 25 minutes for the remainder of the tournament. Registration closes at the end of the 15-minute break after the third level.

Visit http://www.thegardenscasino.com for more information.

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