Pioneering Women in Poker: Phyllis Caro, Part 2

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Last week I wrote about how Phyllis Caro got her start in poker and how she ended up working with her husband at the time, Mike Caro, and founder of the Bicycle Club, George Hardie, to clean up poker in California.

People like myself who have been playing poker since the boom times have no idea how bad it was, especially for the dealers. As a dealer herself at one time, Phyllis can tell you some horror stories, but as she says, it was an accepted part of poker.

Players acted out and blamed the dealers for everything. She says players were not only verbally abusive towards dealers, but physically as well.  My husband Robert Turner described a horrific incident where a player actually got out a lighter and tried to burn a dealer.

It did not happen overnight, but Phyllis was instrumental in helping stop dealer abuse. Players were given warnings and then time out (yes, like children). Poker was changed forever once management took a stance against dealer abuse.

Phyllis continued to rise through the ranks from Dealer Coordinator to Vice President of Casino Operations of the Bicycle Club. In between, she worked tournaments becoming the first female Tournament Director making such innovations as starting the first non-smoking tournaments.

Always an advocate for women in poker, she started the annual Queen of Hearts tournament, which runs to this day; in fact, it was just held this Sunday at the Bike.

As Tournament Director of the Bike, she also ran the second largest tournament in the industry at the time, the Diamond Jim Brady. In 1993, when Phyllis became the Vice President of Casino Operations, she was the first female to hold that position in the industry.

In April 1990, the Bicycle Club was seized by federal authorities making federal government part owner of the most valuable asset ever seized at that time under federal racketeering laws.

The government appointed a trustee named Harry Richard to oversee operations at the Bike. Under the trusteeship, Phyllis fought to keep poker honest. As Phyllis says, “Mike ingrained the fact that all games should be honest.”

In 1995, Phyllis was hired as Casino Manager at Hollywood Park Casino and eventually became Director of Poker Operations where she continued making history.

Phyllis may be retired from poker now, but she will always stand for integrity in poker; she has committed her life to it.

Listen to me and Robert discussing Phyllis’ career on High Roller Radio here: https://youtu.be/bmhuFvCUw38

 

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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.

Pioneering Women in Poker: Terry King by Patricia Chavira

Terry King

Photo of Terry King from “Poker For Women” by Mike Caro

 

My husband Robert Turner has been playing poker for over fifty years and has met many characters of the game. He directed me to his friend Madison Kopp’s post on Facebook about poker player Terry King. Robert also spoke of Terry in such high regard that it inspired me to write this article.

 

Terry King is one of the trailblazing women in poker. This is her story told in her own words.

Terry says, “I got to Vegas in 1972, right after graduation from high school. My friend played poker, and I sat behind her watching at least ten times before I got the nerve to play.”

Terry continues, “My friend Natalie and her husband really helped me learn how to play better, and in 1978 I won the WSOP Ladies’ event. I was also was one of the first women to deal the $10,000 Main Event.”

Tales of the Legends of Poker

Chip and Stu

Photos of Chip Reese and Stu Ungar Courtesy of Sextonscorner.com

 

Terry crossed paths with poker legend David “Chip” Reese, an event which changed her life forever.

Terry explains, “In 1979, Chip Reese asked me to play in the mixed doubles event. Not long after that, Chip took over the poker room at the Dunes and asked me to play for him to keep games going. Our first date was going to Lake Tahoe to play blackjack.”

“Stuey Ungar owed some rather unsavory people $70,000, and Chip couldn’t play in Vegas, so we helped him get his money back in Reno and Tahoe.”

The couple were together five years and engaged the last year, but they split amicably, and Terry eventually moved to California and went to work at the Bicycle Club. She also helped open Hollywood Park Casino and was a shift manager for 5 years.

Phyllis Yazbek, one of the most respected female executives in the casino industry says of Terry, “Many years ago Terry and my paths first crossed at the 1978 Ladies WSOP Stud tournament final table where she claimed first place and the bracelet. I was just one of the victims of her poker-playing prowess.”

Robert Turner adds, “Terry has played poker at the highest limits, managed the largest card clubs in the world and dedicated her life to poker. She’s a perfect candidate for the Poker Hall of Fame.”

With the World Series of Poker kicking off in Las Vegas in a month, what a fitting time to shine the spotlight on one of the pioneering women in poker.

Visit Madison Kopp’s blog at http://www.madisonkopp.wordpress.com.

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.