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

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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

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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.

 

 

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.”

 

Los Angeles Poker Explosion

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Bicycle Casino Rendering

The Los Angeles poker scene is undergoing a massive transformation. We keep hearing how poker is on life support, but that is certainly not the case in Los Angeles. There are currently four major expansions and renovations being undertaken in card rooms throughout Southern California.

With over 240 tables, Commerce Casino is the largest card room in the world. Established in 1983, Commerce features a full-service 200-room Crowne Plaza Hotel. Commerce has undergone a major renovation of its hotel rooms and continues to upgrade its facilities. It has recently added to its game mix the Lucky Rabbit Party Pit with Playboy Bunnies as dealers and servers.

The Bicycle Casino is scheduled to open a new hotel and spa at the end of the year. The new expansion will include a seven-story, 100-room hotel. It will feature a sophisticated cocktail lounge, top-notch brewery, an open sundeck with private cabanas and a luxurious spa with a salon, sauna and treatment rooms. I saw the renderings for the new facility, and I have to say it will rival any resort in Las Vegas.

“The Bicycle Casino and Hotel is proud to present our new suites and suite-size hotel rooms beginning this December. With our renovated casino plus new restaurants, we will give our patrons the superb services we have always provided,” says Leo Chu of the Bicycle Casino.

The Gardens Casino located in Hawaiian Gardens, California, is building the largest poker facility in the world with the goal to have over 300 table games in the not-too-distant future. The new project consists of replacing the current temporary tent structure with a two-story 202,111 square foot building.

David Moskowitz, a co-owner of The Garden Casino, told me when all phases are open, the Gardens Casino will become the largest card room in the world. Eric Hoffman, manager of the Gardens Casino, said the VIP poker section in the new casino will double in size from 17 high-limit poker games to over 34.

This brings us to the massive transformation of Hollywood Park. The racetrack may be gone, but Hollywood Park Casino is in the midst of a major revitalization that will transform it into the premier casino and entertainment destination in Southern California. While the complex undergoes a physical overhaul, the management at Hollywood Park is dedicated to making the transition to the new casino as smooth as possible.

Ramy Wahba, Director of Casino Operations at Hollywood Park Casino says, “I am blessed and fortunate for having assembled a great team of managers and employees who are making our journey to success much easier. Likewise, I must recognize our executive members for their progressive vision and the support they are providing for this development. I am confidently driving toward an unmatched level of success for Hollywood Park Casino.”

Hollywood Park Casino will open a new poker room in 2016 that will be the most state-of-the-art poker room in the world. The new Hollywood Park will offer movie theaters, condos, restaurants and a new entertainment complex which should draw huge crowds to the new complex.

Besides opening a new casino, they are building a sports complex that may see future Super Bowls played at Hollywood Park along with bringing over a new Los Angeles NFL team. Nothing will equal the planned Hollywood Park facility. It will rival City Center in Las Vegas when the project is complete. This is in keeping with Ramy Wahba’s motto: “Give more and expect less.”

Los Angeles poker will soon be the center of the poker universe. With so much planned for poker players in Los Angeles, you can see why if you’re a poker player or table games player, you will have over a thousand tables all within 20 minutes of each other in Los Angeles.

With this much competition for their poker dollar, the players will really benefit. If you’re a poker enthusiast or desire to become a professional poker player, you may have to consider Los Angeles as your base. It’s a great time to be a poker player in Los Angeles.

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 New Hollywood Park Casino

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When you hear the name Hollywood Park, it conjures up images of the legendary racetrack founded by studio moguls the Warner Brothers where the biggest Hollywood stars flocked to watch Seabiscuit win the inaugural Hollywood Gold Cup in 1938.

Today the racetrack may be gone, but Hollywood Park Casino is in the midst of a major revitalization that will transform it into the premier casino and entertainment destination in Southern California. While the complex undergoes a physical overhaul, the management at Hollywood Park is committed to making the transition as smooth as possible with some of the best deals in town.

At a time when many Los Angeles-area card rooms are raising their collection rates, Hollywood Park is giving money back to players. For instance, players earn $6.00 per hour in the $8/$16 game. That’s unheard of.

Another unique promotion is the cash spin where you spin a wheel for the chance to win up to $1500 once you reach a qualifying number of hours of play. From No Collection Blackjack and Baccarat to free valet parking, Ramy Wahba, the new Casino Manager, is always thinking of innovative ways to put players first.

With over 25 years of experience at Commerce Casino working his way up from a food server to the management team, Ramy was chosen to lead Hollywood Park Casino into the future by General Manager Deven Kumar. Add Ramy’s experience to a management team that brings over 250 combined years of gaming industry expertise, and you get a deep well of ideas from which to select the best ones to implement.

With a planned state-of-the-art casino and entertainment complex located just minutes from downtown Los Angeles and five minutes from LAX in the city of Inglewood, California, Hollywood Park Casino is situated both to serve its current player base and draw in a new type of patron.

You can play No Limit Texas Hold’em anywhere, but Hollywood Park is focusing on bringing back Seven Card Stud, Mexican Poker and Omaha poker games and building the best $40/80 limit Omaha game in California. In keeping with this new focus, a weekly Omaha tournament has been added to the schedule every Saturday to go along with the No Limit Tournaments offered daily.

Hollywood Park Casino has partnered with the Card Player Poker Tour to present the Westside Poker Championship from October 17 through October 26, which features a $100,000 Guarantee Championship event for a $340 buy-in.

According to Corey Silver, Hollywood Park Casino’s Tournament Director, “The thing that makes us different is we offer players one of the most generous tournament structures. We want to give the players the opportunity to play poker and have a great time.  Tournaments are all about skill; the more chips they have, the more skill they can use.”

A variety of new California games are also offered including Party Craps, which is a Las Vegas style craps game using cards instead of dice. A new addition to the schedule is a Blackjack tournament with a $2500 guarantee.

Another staple at Hollywood Park Casino is a Pai Gow poker tournament held every Sunday with a $2500 guarantee. Hollywood Park Casino is the only place to offer it. According to Redonda Kilpatrick, Floor Supervisor of California games who has been with the casino since it first opened, the tournament is popular and draws an impressive turn-out.

The off-track betting facility draws hundreds of bettors per day to bet horses and play cards. These customers have a management staff that understands what gamblers want and need to enjoy a winning experience.

Ramy is motivated by a philosophy that contributes to the successful operation of a casino. He puts it this way:  “I attribute my success to giving more and taking less.”  It has served him well.

Whether you’re playing cards, betting the horses or watching sports, the management at Hollywood Park Casino wants you to think of Hollywood Park not just as a casino but as an entertainment destination.

One of the biggest challenges for Hollywood Park Casino will be operating optimally while under construction and still being able to provide outstanding customer service. The team is ready.

With innovative and forward-thinking initiatives, Hollywood Park Casino is poised to become a leader in the California gaming industry.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and 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. 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 and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing group.

 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.