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.

 

 

Playing Poker with a Little Help from My Friends by Patricia Chavira

Playing Poker With Friends

After the World Series of Poker concludes in mid-July, the next series I always look forward to is the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino which starts in late July. My husband and Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner wrote about its history last week, and it is still favorite on the poker after 20 years.

I was fortunate to play Event 3: $200,000 guarantee No-Limit Hold’em. For once, my husband railed me as I played late into the night on Day 1B on July 30. I made Day 2, but the problem was it was on Monday, August 1 at 1 p.m.

I have a job across town, and with L.A. traffic, was not able to get to the Bike until nearly 4 p.m. But I was happy to get a call from Robert as I was stuck in a traffic jam that I had made the money without even being there!

I had less than 10,000 chips when I finally sat down, so I decided to gamble on my third hand as I was going to be blinded out anyways and beat Ace-King with my Queen-Three when I called out for a three, and the poker gods obliged by putting a three on the flop.

The next hand I had King-Eight and went all in and made a full house but was beaten by a bigger full house. But I had a great time getting to that point. My table on Saturday was so much fun; I haven’t had that much fun at the poker table in a long, long time, which got me to thinking—what happened to the excitement of this game I love so much?

We can debate what happened to poker, but as I only have one hundred words left, I will say this. My brother, who works in a hospital, sparked my love of poker with his lively home games. He would have a mix of players who came to his house to play, and for a $20 buy-in, I made $200 and thought, this is easy, and just like that, I was bitten by the poker bug.

Of course, as anyone who has played for any length of time will tell you, that was simply beginners luck, but I look forward to a lifetime of playing poker with my friends. How about you?

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.

 

Best Poker Tournaments in the West: Summer 2015 by Patricia Chavira

WPTDS Reno

As summer winds down, it’s a great time to play poker tournaments in California and Nevada. These events feature buy-ins that will appeal both to professional and recreational players. At the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, California, the World Poker Tour’s Legends of Poker Main Event will consist of three starting days beginning on Saturday, August 29 through Monday, August 31. The $3,700 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament final table with 6 players will be filmed on Friday, September 4 at 4 p.m. The winner will receive a seat into the WPT World Championship. Last year’s winner, Harry Arutyunyan, topped a field of 593 entrants and collected $576,369. Previous winners of this prestigious tournament include Mel Judah and Dan Harrington.

The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada is currently hosting the WPT’s DeepStacks tour, which runs through Sunday, August 30. The 11th stop on the DeepStacks’ 16-stop schedule features both No-Limit Hold’em and Omaha events with buy-ins to suit every budget. On Wednesday, August 26 there are two No-Limit Hold’em tournaments—one is a two-day, $550 buy-in event with a $40,000 guarantee, the other is a $150 buy-in tournament with a $5,000 guarantee.

The three-day $1,100 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event begins on Friday, August 28 and runs through Sunday, August 30. The last event of the series is a $150 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo at 6 p.m. on Sunday. If you get knocked out, you can play in the Atlantis’ poker room which spreads a variety of poker games including $6/$12 Omaha and $1/$2 Mixed Pot Limit while earning $2/hour comps. Call the poker room at 775-954-4142 for more information.

If you like to plan ahead, the next California stop on the WPT DeepStacks tour will be held at the Ocean’s 11 Casino in Oceanside, California just north of San Diego and will run from October 17-26.

The Commerce Poker Series at Commerce Casino starts Wednesday, September 2 and runs through September 20. The Series kicks off with a $350 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament with $200,000 guaranteed. There will be four starting days held from Wednesday, September 2 to Saturday, September 5 with 2 flights on Friday and Saturday at 1p.m. and 5 p.m. The $1,650 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event will begin on Friday, September 18 with a $500,000 guarantee. For more details and structure sheets, visit commercecasino.com.

 

World Poker Tour/Legends of Poker by Patricia Chavira

2015_wpt_legends_of_poker_header

The Bicycle Hotel and Casino will be hosting the World Poker Tour/Legends of Poker tournament series starting Tuesday, July 28th and running through September 4th.  The series kicks off with Event No. 1: a $235 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament with a $200,000 guarantee.

This event will employ the unique Quantum-Reload concept. Mo Fathipour, the tournament director at the Bicycle Hotel and Casino and inventor of the Quantum Reload, explains the structure as a way for players to enter the tournament at the time and buy-in level that suits them.

Fathipour says players can “come into the tournament on different days, pay different buy-ins and get different starting stacks.” This format accommodates players’ schedules and bankrolls.

For example, Days 1A, 1B and 1C have two sessions each, one starting at 12 p.m. and the other at 5 p.m., all with a $235 buy-in and 25,000 starting chips. 10% of the field qualifies for Day 2.

For players with a bigger bankroll who do not have the time to play over three days, they can directly buy into Day 2 on Friday for $2,400, receive 250,000 chips and are guaranteed to be in the money for $400.

Legends of Poker was created by Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner in 1995. George Hardie had the rights to one the most prestigious tournaments at that time called The Diamond Jim Brady tournament which had a long history of success. When George Hardie’s contract with the Bicycle Casino was not renewed, Turner was asked to create a tournament that could match the prestige of the Diamond Jim Brady.

He came up with the idea to have 25 top poker pros each host an event. He gathered the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Ted Forrest, Cyndy Violette, Barbara Enright and 20 other poker superstars to launch Legends of Poker, which remains one of the most highly-anticipated poker tournaments every year.

Legends of Poker has been part of the World Poker Tour schedule since 2002. The tournament series will include a variety of events and buy-ins. From the return of the Mega Millions with a $1,000,000 guarantee to H.O.R.S.E and a variety of satellites, there is an event to suit every player.

With an estimated $6,000,000 prize pool, this is a series not to be missed. The complete schedule can be found at:

http://www.thebike.com/poker/tournament_yearly_wpt_legends_of_poker_2015.php

Follow tournament updates here: http://thebicyclecasino.blogspot.com/

Before Poker Was Cool, Part 2: Lyle Berman

Lyle Berman

It’s hard to write in a single article about all the contributions Lyle Berman has made to the gaming industry. Lyle, like Jack Binion and Steve Wynn before him, had a great passion and respect for poker and its players. Lyle was not just a lover of poker but one of the most successful entrepreneurs the gaming world has ever seen. He has headed such diverse operations from the Rainforest Café restaurant chain to Grand Casinos, Inc., and he was instrumental in the development of the World Poker Tour. His name has become synonymous with gaming in the last two decades.

What is unique about Lyle is not only is he a successful businessman, but he is also an accomplished poker player. Lyle has three World Series of Poker bracelets to his name and based on these contributions to the game he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002.

After I had retired from poker in my 30’s, my friend Billy Thomas called me and said, “Robert, how can you not go to California? They have legalized hold’em, and there will be thousands of players who will switch from low ball and draw to hold’em.” I explained to Billy we needed at least $15,000 each for us to go and that I was retired and had promised my wife I wouldn’t use any of the money I had won to go back on the road to play.

He said Lyle Berman will give us a bankroll–all you have to do is call him. I did just that, and Lyle sent around $15,000 each right into the cage at the Bicycle Casino. Lyle helped many poker players in the 80’s and 90’s (more than anyone I know), which turned out to be great investments. But he didn’t do it for the money; he did it because they were his friends. Players from Stu Ungar, Jack Keller and T.J. Cloutier all benefitted from his generosity.

I remember when I called Mike Sexton to tell him I wanted to roast him at the Bicycle Casino. Mike said, “Robert, I am not the one who should be honored with a roast. No one has done more for poker than Lyle Berman.” So the Bicycle had a big party to honor Lyle.

Lyle wanted me to help him turn around the Stratosphere after it had failed. Lyle invited me to meet him for breakfast at the casino. There was a newspaper lying on the table with a headline shouting, “Stratosphere Fails.” Lyle said to me that he had replaced the president yesterday and was meeting with the new president in a few hours. I was wondering how Lyle could handle all the stress.

As we started to eat, Lyle noticed the cream cheese. He couldn’t believe that they were using the wrong brand. He asked to speak to his food and beverage director. Lyle proceeded to tell him that this particular brand of cream cheese was unacceptable. I knew that with this streak of perfectionism Lyle could handle the stress of the casino transition. I wish I could remember the brand of cream cheese that he hated to see if the company is still in business.

Another legendary story involved Doyle, Chip and Bobby Baldwin. We were all at Bob Stupak’s Vegas World during a poker tournament before Lyle bought it. There was a rumor going around that a big Omaha game was being planned, and Lyle was the main attraction. The sharks waited on Lyle to start the game, and after a few hours the buzz around the room was how big a game it turned out to be.

All of sudden it broke up, and everyone wondered what happened. Lyle had busted Doyle, Chip and Bobby out of $400,000 and had quit to go to a dinner or a meeting. The look on their faces was priceless. That was classic Lyle.

From then on Lyle was not the main attraction. He became one of the best Omaha players in the world. He continued to play some of the highest stakes cash games in the world, but no matter how successful Lyle became in business, he never gave up on his friends or the poker world.

Lyle would visit the Bicycle Casino to play in the Legends of Poker and became friends with George Hardie. George had an ambition to build the largest poker room in the world in Mississippi and purchased a piece of property called Buck Lake around Tunica. George had lobbied to have the nearest casino to Memphis, Tennessee. He would later sell that property to Lyle, who built the Grand Casino in Tunica, which helped established poker in Mississippi.

In my next article I will talk about how George Hardie changed 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.