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.

California State Poker Championship Going Strong at Commerce Casino

CSPC

The California State Poker Championship is currently running at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California. The series kicked off on Friday, April 29 with a $175 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Double Stack tournament featuring a $50,000 guarantee.

Matt Savage

Tournament Director Matt Savage always runs tournaments that feature a mix of games that appeal both to the professional and recreational player. Savage says, “The Commerce California State Poker Championship is an annual series with 20 events and guarantees in excess of $1,000,000 with great structures you’ve come to expect at the Commerce.”

Savage continues, “The Cal State series is a great way for you not only to build your summer bankroll but to play many of the games you don’t see in other venues.”

The California State Poker Championship is also a great lead up to the World Series of Poker. It’s always interesting to follow the winners of the California Championship and see how they do at the World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas this summer.

Paul Vinci

One such player to look out for is Paul Vinci, a familiar face on the Los Angeles poker scene. He won Event #8: $350 Pot Limit Omaha 8 or Better on May 3rd.  In 2014 he came in 5th in the same event.

Vinci is off to a great start in 2016. Back in January, he cashed in back-to-back tournaments at the prestigious Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC) at Commerce Casino. On January 20, he placed 7th in the $350 Stud 8 or Better, then came in 12th in the $350 Omaha 8 or Better/Stud8 or Better on January 21st.

His biggest score to date came in Event #19: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha at the 2005 WSOP where Vinci’s second place win was good for $70,680. Barry Greenstein won his second gold bracelet in that event.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Vinci started dealer school across the street from the Bicycle Club in 1993. He burst on the poker scene in 1995 with his first cash in the LAPC IV when he placed 6th in a $330 Lowball tournament.

That year he continued to cash in tournaments in a variety of poker variants from Seven-Card Stud to Omaha Hi/Lo leaving dealing behind forever. The fact that he is still winning and cashing in tournaments twenty years later is a testament to his skill. He is definitely one to watch.

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.

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.

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.

 

The New Hollywood Park Casino

HPC

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.