Reflections on the 50th WSOP

Poker is alive and well if the numbers for this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) is any indication. The WSOP kicked off with a bang opening weekend with the Big 50 shattering records for the largest live tournament in history with 28,371 entries.

This momentum carried through the entire series culminating with the Main Event drawing the second-largest number of entries in its 50-year history. 8,569 players vied for the title of poker’s world champion. In the early morning hours of July 17, Hossein Ensan beat Dario Sammartino and claimed the gold bracelet and $10 million.

ESPN did an outstanding job broadcasting live poker which can be a challenge to keep both entertaining and educational. You could learn so much from watching poker live and not just an edited version showing the most exciting hands and situations to hold the audience’s attention.

Nick Schulman, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner and well-respected poker commentator, made a comment about this year’s Main Event, which drew some major criticism. When he said don’t watch the Main Event  to learn how to play poker, a Twitter war erupted which may have resulted in Nick being removed from being a guest commentator for the rest of the event. 

Schulman, an excellent game analyst, gave some expert insight into the game, which he plays at the highest levels. He was spot on about the level of play, and I agree with him. Nick did not back down and went on Twitter to defend his opinion: “The tourney is soft with some incredible players battling.”

Nine New Millionaires

The final nine were playing so much small-ball poker it made the game play very slow. 

One young amateur player named Kevin Maahs from Chicago decided to slow the game to a crawl, which really hurt the live broadcast. I am sure the final nine, except the winner, wish they could go back to that table and replay their hands again.

Most said in their exit interviews it was the most exciting time of their lives and thanked their family and friends for the support. I salute every single player who had to navigate through 8,560 players to get the final nine and a guaranteed payout of $1 million.

I think the money, which for most young poker players, was life changing did effect the decisions being made at the final table. Italian poker pro Dario Sammartino, who finished second, was impressively dressed in a tuxedo and had the most experience of any players at the final table. the crowd favorite. All-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, along with my wife, thought he would win it all.

Sammartino made some great reads of other opponents’  hands but also made some big mistakes that will haunt him when he watches the replay of hands after the event. He had friends fly from Italy to root for him as part of a singing cheerleading group of fans that kept us entertained.

New Poker Champion Crowned

At one point Ensan, who also had a loud group of fans on the rail, had to raise his hand to ask Sammartino’s fans to cool it. The final table players seemed to bond as friends and not as rivals which was a pleasure to watch. They were all living the dream.

In what turned out to be the final hand of the Main Event, Ensan had pocket kings, and his opponent had a flush draw and a straight draw, Pocket kings held up, and Sammartino had to “settle” for $6 million.

It was a great end to a historic WSOP. One thing is for sure–for those of us who love poker, we are ready for the 2020 WSOP.

Road to the WSOP: A Long Way from Alabama

I have been playing in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) almost since it began in 1970, and this year there was an excitement in the air I haven’t felt in years.

In 1973, I made my first trip to the WSOP. My good friend Ray Hall told me to call Jack Binion and tell him I was a poker player, and everything will be taken care of. 

Ray was right. Four of us drove out to Las Vegas from Alabama, and I have never missed a series since.

One of the more unusual things I remember was the year there was not enough room for the players to play at The Horseshoe. Eric Drache, the tournament director at the time, went around to the casinos downtown and asked if they would allow players to play the WSOP tournament in their poker rooms.

We were walking back and forth from the Four Queens, Fremont and Golden Nugget  with our tournament chips in hand. What a sight that was.

Chance to Be Champ

For the WSOP’s silver anniversary in 1994, the winner of the Main Event received $1 million and his weight in silver. Jack Binion was a poker marketing genius.

That year the Main Event drew 268 players, which is about how many people were in line in front of me to use the bathroom this year at the Rio 25 years later during the Big 50 tournament.

Back to 1994.

I made the final table of the Main Event that year and could not sleep the night before; I kept thinking, “Could I really win the big one and be part of poker history as a world champion?” I just had to find a way to take my low chip stack and bust the other five.

It was not meant to be. I finished in 6th place and won $50,000. But I was proud of my performance on poker’s biggest stage.

Not in Alabama Anymore

I had come a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama where we played in a tractor shed, and bologna sandwiches or crackers tasted so good. Now I was eating the free steak and shrimp Benny and Jack Binion had waiting for the poker players every night on our dinner break.

What a privilege it is to still be playing in the WSOP. I played in the Big 50, the largest live poker tournament in history. This $500 buy-in event had 28,371 entries creating a prize pool of $13,509,435.

The Saturday morning of the Big 50 there was a traffic jam on the freeway not for a sporting event or concert but for a poker tournament. I have never experienced anything like it.

The buzz on social media promoting the event and all the table talk in the poker rooms contributed to the record-shattering turn out. The city of Las Vegas is the big winner, and they owe a great deal of gratitude to Caesars for bringing this poker convention to town. 

The only suggestion I have concerns relaying information in real time. For example, during the Big 50 they opened up windows for quicker sign ups, but communicating this to players was not easy. My wife was escorted to a registration line 10 deep while hundreds waited in the main line. Some employees were saying sold out, and players were texting friends not to come while other employees were saying everyone will get in.

But none of that takes away from the phenomenal job WSOP Vice President Jack Effel and WSOP Operations Manager Tyler Pipal did putting on the biggest live poker tournament in the world. I predict this summer’s WSOP continues smashing records.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982.

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 is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at for consulting and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner.

Brian Nadell: A Poker Player’s Poker Player by Patricia Chavira


Los Angeles-based poker pro Brian Nadell had a great week at the Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC). On Monday, January 16, he cashed in Event #4: $350 Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better.

Three days later on Thursday, January 19, he made the final table of Event #8: $350 Omaha 8/Stud 8 or Better.

This is no surprise. Nadell has been playing cards since he was a kid, but in his early 20s he would play in a poker game once a week where you could bet up to $3. He says he played every week and never lost.

The first time he stepped into a casino was in August 1987. He was reeling from the loss of his father when a friend asked him to come to the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California.

On that first visit, he played $15/$30 Stud Hi-Low and won $3,300. Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner was responsible for bringing this game to the Bike. Nadell and Turner have been friends ever since.

The First Legends of Poker



Eight years later, Turner created the first Legends of Poker for the Bike in 1995 and made Nadell a Legend of Poker host for the Omaha tournament.

Turner said, “We had an elite group of poker players who were very popular. Nadell was a great host and ambassador for the game of poker because he was such a well-liked individual and a great promoter of the game of Omaha.”

In 1996, Nadell moved back to Las Vegas and played high-limit poker at the Mirage. In Vegas, he found success playing in the WSOP. 1999 was a particularly memorable year.

Nadell at the WSOP


He placed 13th in the $1,500 Seven-Card Razz, 2nd in the $2,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better and 15th in the $1,500 Razz.

He made a dramatic comeback in the Stud event. He was down to one black chip, but went on to capture second place for $85,000. This would become a familiar narrative for Nadell and the WSOP.

Nadell says he has made 11 final tables, and at one time, held the record for making the most final tables at the WSOP without winning a bracelet.

He has made millions playing poker, but he isn’t an ordinary poker player. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. He brings passion to everything he does. He is one to watch this year at the World Series of Poker this summer.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer specializing in poker. She writes the “Poker Scene” column for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.


Wanted: A Poker Ambassador Pays $8 Million by Patricia Chavira


The 47th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship played down to the November Nine on Monday, July 18. The players will return to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on October 30 to begin play to crown this year’s World Champion.

6,737 players from 79 countries entered this year’s Main Event. The November Nine come from five countries—the United States, Canada, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Spain. If past years are any indication, the nine final players are sure to bring family and friends to the Penn & Teller Theater creating an air of excitement unlike any other final table. It truly is the biggest poker stage in the world.

I was lucky enough to watch the November Nine in 2009 when Joe Cada went from the short stack to chipleader after catching miracle card after miracle card. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

Even with poker legend Phil Ivey at the final table, 21-year-old Cada seemed destined to win–which he did–surpassing Peter Eastgate as the youngest world champion ever.

Reigning World Champion Joe McKeehen has caused a bit of controversy this year with some of his antics, such as blaming the media for the earlier start times at the WSOP this year (if only we had that kind of power, Joe) and blocked a number of our Twitter accounts (myself included).

It is my hope the next poker champion will be a uniting force for the game. It may seem trite, but it is important to have an articulate, gracious champion to be an advocate for the game. Becoming poker champion means becoming a poker ambassador. There are worse things to be, like a washed-up poker champion looking for backing.

50-year-old Cliff Josephy, a New York poker pro, seems like he would make a great ambassador of the game. He is currently the chipleader going into the final table with 74.6 million chips. He is a grinder who was a number one ranked online pro at one time. He goes by the screen name “JohnnyBax.”

He has two gold bracelets to his name. Josephy won his first at the 2005 WSOP in the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud event for $192,150. At the 2013 WSOP he won his second bracelet in the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout for $299,486.

He goes into the final table already a millionaire. If he wins it all, I believe we all win.

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.

California State Poker Championship Going Strong at Commerce Casino


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.

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


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

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


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 and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at for consulting and teaching.

Pot-Limit Omaha: Poker’s Next Big Thing


I’ve been teaching my wife Patty how to play Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) this week, and it got me to thinking about the differences between PLO and Omaha High-Low, which I taught her how to play two years ago.

PLO is an entirely different game than Omaha High-Low because you have to manage the betting so as to draw as cheaply as possible or attack the pots aggressively as most European players do. The British have a perfect name for the game–pop it up or fold Omaha.

When you switch to Omaha from Hold’em, you’ll notice it has so much more gamble while at same time it’s a game of the nuts with back door outs which creates a lot of action. Like any poker game, the best players will win the most money.

You must have more discipline in Omaha poker. Just because you have four private cards doesn’t mean you should play more hands.

Starting hand selection is a key feature of any poker game. My friend Greg Gensicki, a specialist in mixed games, puts it this way: “To the unsuspecting, it would seem every hand is playable. ‘How can I miss when I am getting four, count ’em, four cards?!’  Years spent playing seven card stud instilled in me the importance of appropriate starting hand selection.  The same holds true for Omaha.”

Greg continues, “Well coordinated hands (e.g. KQJT, T987) fare much better than uncoordinated ones (e.g. KQT6, T945). Coordinated suited and double suited hands can provide redraws for the win when your less discerning opponent has the same hand. They can be the difference between having a lowly open-ended straight draw or a powerhouse having 20+ outs.”

Secondly, you want to get in the pot as cheaply as possible to see the flop. I like to say No-Limit Hold’em is played before the flop and PLO is played on the flop. Just like any poker game, you can expand your hands selection playing short-handed versus a full game.

Lastly, the real finesse of Omaha begins after the flop. Since it’s usually a multi-way pot, not only are you analyzing multiple hands and players, but you must decide how fast and furious you want to proceed. You must continuously evaluate what to do since so many changes occur in Omaha on every street.

As my friend Greg says, “Whereas Texas Hold’em is often a game of pairs and position, Pot- Limit Omaha is apt to be about straights, flushes and full houses due to each player holding four starting cards. Experienced Hold’em players new to the game quickly learn, to their chagrin, top pair top kicker doesn’t have the same value.”

In the book “Mastering Hold’em & Omaha Poker” by Mike Cappelletti, Mike Caro writes, “It would not be surprising if Omaha surpassed hold’em in popularity sometime within the next 40 years.”

I agree. I predict this is the year that Omaha will explode in popularity, especially at the World Series of Poker this summer, where I believe the cash games will double in number. It took a while, but Omaha is growing on the West Coast faster than any other poker game.

Omaha has really grown in the Southern California. The most popular game played is a mix format of eight hands of Omaha High-Low and eight hands of High only. High only is a much easier transition from Hold’em than Omaha High-Low; it’s Hold’em on steroids.

In Los Angeles, PLO has quadrupled in the past year with more young players stepping up from No Limit Hold’em. It seems they are tired of coin-flip poker and want a better game to protect their money. Mastering Omaha will open lots of opportunities for your poker earning power.

As Mike Cappelletti writes in his book, “For many players, it is much easier to win at Omaha than hold’em simply because few players play Omaha correctly. Even most decent-to-good Omaha players cost themselves money by playing incorrectly both before and after the flop.”

Every game has its learning curve. I recommend you read all you can on the subject then choose games with players entering many pots and raising a lot of hands. To get better, you have to practice.

Over the past three years I had the opportunity to teach my wife not only about Omaha but about poker and the poker life. She made me look at poker through new eyes and fall in love with the game all over again.

I want to dedicate this article to my wife who has helped me take a long look at my poker career and help me put into words the experiences of playing for over 50 years.

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 and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at for consulting and teaching.

Before Poker Was Cool, Part 1: Jack Binion and Steve Wynn


Before Chris Moneymaker and what we know as the modern age of poker, there were several gentlemen who elevated the game before poker was cool. It’s debatable who did the most for poker, but it’s undeniable that it’s close. I was lucky enough to have a personal relationship with four of these legends, and I actually worked for two. My connection with these four men helped shape my career, and I will always be indebted to all of them.

Jack Binion, while president of the Horseshoe Casino, showcased poker twice a year and made it his main marketing tool with the Poker Hall of Fame and the World Series of Poker. He hired Poker Hall of Famer Eric Drache. Drache, in turn, worked with Jack McClellan as his tournament director. Together these three grew poker every year and made the WSOP the premier poker tournament in the world.

In the early days, I found myself short of money. I told my friend Ray Hall I wanted to play a tournament, but I was broke. He said, “Go see Jack Binion, tell him you’re a poker player, and you’re broke.” I thought this was unusual, but what did I have to lose? I went to Jack and explained my situation. He replied, “Go to the cage and tell them I said to give you $2,500.” He took a poker player at his word and gave him a bankroll, no questions asked. That’s how it was in those days. We were like a big family.

When he was trying to grow the WSOP to a hundred players in 1982, there were only 96 players signed up. I had not won a satellite to get in the Main Event that year. Another friend of mine said Jack Binion wants to get it to 100. Tell him you’re not in. I went to Jack, and he said he would put me in the tournament. There were 4 of us he put in to reach his goal. This is a man who put his money where mouth is. How could you not love a guy like this? I like to call these the Golden Days, and it was all because of Jack Binion who continued his father Benny’s legacy.

Jack hired PR firms to promote the WSOP, had professional photographers document it and provided free rooms and food for poker players for years. He surrounded himself with his closest friends who happened to be poker players. His love of the game and the people who played it changed poker forever.

Steve Wynn needs no introduction. I went to work for Steve around 1977 as a poker host at the Golden Nugget. He had just put in the most beautiful poker room in Las Vegas. Before that, card rooms were just an afterthought in most casinos. The two major poker rooms in the late 70’s were the Stardust and the Golden Nugget. The Golden Nugget had a better reputation for poker than the Stardust for two reasons: one was Bill Boyd, a legend in the poker industry, who was the poker room manager at the Golden Nugget and two, the Stardust had an underworld reputation.

In the early 80’s the Stardust expanded poker and hired a tournament director named Bob Thompson who created the Stairway to the Stars and gave Steve a run for the money. Not to be outdone, Steve created the Grand Prix of Poker. This friendly competition caused Steve to create one of the best poker tournaments in the world at the time.

Not only did Steve have to outshine the Stardust, he had to outdo his friend Jack Binion. He decided to give away prizes for the best all-around players. One year he gave away a large boat. The next year he gave away a Corvette.

Steve was the first one to bring poker and Hollywood together. He brought glamor to the game. Like Jack, he surrounded himself with poker players. His president at the time was Bobby Baldwin. Steve did something else no one else had ever done before or since–he put on a fashion show for the wives that was second to none. He spared no cost on the production.

But there is one thing I will never forget. Before the main event of the Grand Prix, he turned off all the lights in the casino. Giant screens came down from the ceiling, and he showed video highlights from the series. Steve is a showman, and he continued this tradition at the Mirage when he put poker dead center in the casino and made it a showplace.

Binion and Wynn had taken poker to the next level. Everyone has been playing catch up ever since. In Part 2 I will write about George Hardie and Lyle Berman who added their own flair to the game.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino and billiard 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 Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002, and he also created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino both in 1995.

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. 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 and managing group.

Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner. Robert Turner can also be reached at for consulting, marketing and teaching.

Finding the Edge in Poker and in Life: Part 1


The movie Casino has a line where the Joe Pesci character says, “I had to earn, didn’t I?” after being barred from the casinos in Las Vegas permanently. Though he resorts to questionable means of making a living, this idea of looking for ways to survive applies to poker. Poker players who want to stand the test of time need to find an edge. This ability to find and exploit an edge is the main factor in who makes it and who doesn’t.

The following story illustrates how you can have both earning power and an edge at the same time. I was heads-up with a player named Mike Harthcock in the last satellite for the World Series of Poker Main Event. I got Mike all-in. We turned our hands over, and Mike showed ace deuce against my ace king. On the flop, an ace hit. Mike was dead to a deuce with two cards to come.

Mike spoke up and said, “Robert, if I don’t win this satellite, I can’t play. What do you want to do?” I said, “Mike, if a deuce comes, I get 20 percent of you. If not, you get 5 percent of me.” He said, “Thanks, Robert. You have a deal.”

The satellite was worth $10,000, so I could potentially earn $2,000 in value if a deuce comes. If not, Mike earns $500 in value.

The river was a deuce. That was a bad beat, but my consolation prize was I now had 20 percent of Mike for my earn.

I could sell that 20 percent, or I could gamble. Mike was a very good player, so why not keep the 20 percent? As it turned out, Mike finished second in the WSOP Main Event that year for $300,000. I earned $60,000 for that dam, I mean, golden deuce.

Let’s talk about tournaments in today’s changing landscape. Nowadays many tournaments have multiple starting days and rebuys. Some of these tournaments are a bad value. Even though I was partially responsible for creating this new landscape, I realize it is not a good deal if you are trying to get an edge and earn.

Deals are made all the time in tournaments, but you first have to cash to earn. The large fields and high variance of these multiple starting day tournaments make cashing extremely difficult. The cardinal rule of tournaments is cash first and win second. Cashing always come first. There are tournaments running every day, so while a thousand dollars in prize money may not seem like a lot at the table, it is a lot in your pocket the next morning.

You must treat your poker playing like a business, not just a game. I cannot emphasize this point enough. You must calculate all the costs of running your poker business. Let’s say your expenses to travel to a tournament where you play a few events are $1,800. On the other hand, if you could stay and play tournaments closer to home, or even play online, that decision may be a way to earn using that $1,800 you saved to play another tournament or two.

One of the best articles I have ever read on the difficulties of becoming a live tournament specialist nowadays is called “Why You’ll Never Make a Living Playing Live Poker Tournaments” by Darrel Plant. I highly recommend reading it if you are serious about becoming a poker pro. In my case, I was fortunate that when tournaments were introduced in the early 70’s, I was able to parlay tournament wins into buy-ins into bigger tournaments, and I did well enough to be able to retire at 36.

I remember the early days of my poker career when getting an edge was the furthest thing from my mind; I just wanted to play. In those days I would go to Las Vegas on junkets several times a year. The routine was the same. I would check-in, leave my bags at the bell desk, take a taxi to the Stardust and play poker for three straight days and nights until my plane was scheduled to depart. I remember always thinking there may never be a game like this one again.

I destroyed any possible edge by my lack of discipline, but experience is the best teacher. Getting your ass kicked until you decide you can’t take it anymore makes you re-evaluate your game and habits, and when you conquer those demons, you’re well on your way to making money at poker.

In Part 2, I will discuss specific strategies, such as choosing the best games and taking advantage of casino promotions, which give you an edge in your game. Every time you sit down at a poker table, remember the immortal words of Joe Pesci: “I had to earn, didn’t I?”

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 and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino both in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. 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.

Follow Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner. Robert Turner can also be reached at for consulting, marketing and teaching.