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This feature is an adaptation of material and interviews that are included in a chapter of Ms. Eolis’ book in progress, Power Poker Dame.

In Mississippi the Livin’ is Easy at the Grand Casinos

Player-funded jackpots are part of the Mississippi landscape, and Tony Collins, vice president of poker operations at the Mississippi Grand Casino properties explains, “The Commission has approved player-funded jackpots, and they are very popular throughout our room.”

The Gulfport property, where Collins is based, has a room full of tables at which players eagerly await the screams of a winning bad-beat jackpot hand. Unlike California, Mississippi puts no constraints on the casinos with respect to a “no-purchase-necessary” feature, eliminating the potential (rare) annoyance of watching a nonplayer pick up all the jackpot dough. Collins says that he expects the jackpot games to remain a crowd pleaser in the year ahead but points out that it appeals mostly to players in the lower-limit games.

Hollywood Park Plans Jackpot (and other) Parties

At Hollywood Park Casino, near Los Angeles’ (LAX) airport and the Hollywood Park Racetrack, the player-funded jackpot is high on the radar screen for 2002.

According to Phyllis Caro, director of poker operations at Hollywood Park Casino (HPC), she expects “to adopt a player-funded jackpot with a chance of winning large prizes that will be accessible to lower- and middle-limit players” as of January 1.

At the same time, Caro, who regularly gets out of her office and onto the playing floor, makes clear that HPC’s success results from more than just jackpots. She says, “There is year-round action at HPC and it will continue because of the highly favorable access to the airport as well as the attraction of the horseracing meets and bet-running service for players right at the tables.”

The upstairs health club is the perfect getaway between the poker tables and gala party tables that poker players are frequently invited to attend. “Despite the 9/11 events, poker will continue to expand, especially in California, which is clearly the poker center of the universe,” she says. “It doesn’t take a lot of planning or travel to get to one of your favorite rooms.”

California Assembly Bill 54(AB54) Changes the Way of the World

HPC and its competitors around the state will also be adjusting to new legislation known as AB54, which allows collections to be taken before or during a hand. This collection process won’t require the game to halt for collection, thereby allowing more deals per hour. As is currently the case, the collection may be paid from the winner’s pot rather than individually or rotationally. This method of collection is a less intrusive process in the Situs Judi Online24Jam Terpercaya 2021 game.

The change in the law may also affect the expenses of prop players—those who are paid an hourly rate by the house to help get games started and to keep them rolling along. Now that the winner of a pot may pay the collection, some California cardroom executives who plan to adopt that option say that they are considering adjustments in the hourly rates that are paid to props, since these players no longer incur a fixed collection charge. It is easy to read the tea leaves: cardrooms will look aggressively for cost savings associated with the payroll expense for props.

Flynt’s Music Rocks

In California, which is home to hundreds of cardrooms and more poker tables than the rest of the country combined, competition for players is keen and the behemoths of the business are in a never-ending scramble to maintain and expand the customer base against a backdrop of Internet poker sites that offer tournaments and cash games with all the comforts of home.

Brisk competition is sweet music to Larry Flynt, whose tenant, the Hustler Casino, is showing it can more than hold its own. The casino “whale” and owner of Hustler magazine challenges all comers—from World Series Champion and Rounder star Johnny Chan to The Donald—to play against him in the biggest games in town (seven-card stud) in the posh room he calls his poker home.

In the meantime, Hustler’s General Manager Craig Kaufman crows about longtime high-stakes player Yosh Nakano, who has come on board to “develop the high-limit section.” He says that big games are becoming routine in the room. Nakano’s new job requires getting out there to spread the word and welcome high-stakes players from all over the world. Nakano’s contacts are legion and are already paying off.

With Nakano’s help, Hoffman expects to reap the rewards of a rocking poker room in 2002. He justifiably boasts, “Right now, there is a $75-$150 game and a $300-$600 game in progress”—and it’s only the middle of the afternoon. Hoffman’s ambitions for the room in the coming year include a seven- to eight-day tournament with a $5,000 buy-in. The odds are that the game will be stud in honor of Flynt, the Big Man in residence.

The World Series of Poker Rises Higher Again

While California counts the largest number of cardrooms, Binion’s Horseshoe is where all serious poker players will land for more than a month-long stretch this spring. The Binion-Behnen family will be pulling out all the stops, with the tournament slated to award a $2,000,000 first-place prize to the winner of the final event at the 2002 World Series of Poker, if the field is large enough. Recent growth patterns suggest this shouldn’t be hard to attain.

Who Will Win the World Series of Poker in 2002?

Ask any regular on the tournament circuit who will win next year’s World Series of Poker and the likely answer you’ll get is, “I could win it.” So, I try an alternate tack, by inquiring, “Who is likely to be at the final table of the $10,000 Buy-In WSOP World Championship with you?”

The smart money is on proven tournament players with names like T. J. Cloutier, the perennial “bridesmaid” at the WSOP, but hardly a slouch; he is the second-leading money winner at the Series, right behind Phil Hellmuth, who holds seven WSOP Championship bracelets, including one for the Big One. Hellmuth has said he likes his chances to repeat his 1989 WSOP performance sooner or later and there are a lot of nodding heads in his direction.

Of course there are other former champions that are always a threat in the Big One, too, but it is New Yorker Jay Heimowitz, who has yet to win it, that this reporter (a student of the Heimowitz game) includes among the very top picks. Heimowitz, the highly successful businessman who started up the gambling ladder in pool halls, has racked up six WSOP bracelets and consistent winnings in the high-stakes cash games for more than 30 years. He has proven discipline, desire and determination and attracts a lot of “ayes” as most likely to succeed at next year’s final festivities.

Benny Binion BehnenHas it All

In an hourlong conversation with Benny Binion, it becomes clear this under-30, poker-loving charmer has big long-term plans for Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas, going even beyond the internationally famous World Series of Poker.

Benny explains proudly that he wants to continue his grandfather’s and family’s unrelenting efforts “to take poker out of back rooms and bring it into the living room” as a highly enjoyed and respected sport. For now, he tells me that he will stick mostly to the subject of the upcoming 2002 WSOP. This year, for the first time, it will span five weeks in April and May.

The fearless Benny jumps right into the topic of the 6 percent cut off the top of the total prize pool; he confirms it will be taken by Binion’s and will ensure profits like never before. Benny, the businessman with judgment beyond his years, says that when Grandpa Benny Binion Behnengave a free ride to players in a vig-free $10,000 final event, “the poker world was a much smaller family and business costs were a whole lot different.”

The anticipated $300,000 plus in additional income is part of a business plan that Benny tells Poker Digest will “give the casino and the poker player the biggest and best tournament in its history.”

This year, the tournament is going to be managed entirely in-house with Benny Binion Behnenat the helm and Tom McEvoy as his poker advisor planning the show. Benny fairly raves about his respect for McEvoy, crediting him with the savvy to develop the tournament structure for the events (the TEARS system with refinements and variations) as well as the tournament schedule, which is already available on the Web.

No Ands, Ifs or Butts Exist Anymore

Benny Binion Behnensays, “No smoking, please.” Pushed by a groundswell of player support and persistent whispers in his ear from McEvoy, Benny, who has occasionally been seen with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, has decided to banish the dense clouds of smoke from every corner of the 2002 tournament room. The breathing will be easy in the tournaments and satellites and cash games in the Tournament Room and beyond to every super-satellite, no matter where it is located on the property.

Binion’s Horseshoe has always taken special care of players with health challenges, even before there were laws that required them to do so, but Benny insists that the decision to go nonsmoking for the 2002 tournament is “the biggest step we have ever taken, and I support it completely.” He says that, as he has gotten more involved in the poker operations, he has concluded, “It’s not only the way of the future because of all the pressure, I really believe myself that it is the right way to go.” A selection of nonsmoking games year-round may not be far behind.

The Tobacco Country of Tunica, Mississippi, Gets With the Program

As the World Poker Situs Judi Online24Jam Terpercaya 2021 Open in Tunica, MS, is about to get underway, Ken Lambert, manager of the Horseshoe Casino poker room, confirms that the tournament organizers have decided to ban smoking entirely in their tournament room, too. This will include the cash games as well as the competitions that draw players from cigar smoking dens of Europe and the heart of Mississippi tobacco country. Congratulatory wishes to Jack Binion at the Horseshoe, Bill Hicks at the Goldstrike Casino, and tournament honchos Jim Albrecht and Jack McClelland are heard from the ever-escalating chorus in the crusade to turn poker rooms away from the smoke.

The WPO decision to take this step cannot be overstated for its guts. And Lambert will be addressing the smoking issue beyond the tournament arena rails in his plans to “start designating specific nonsmoking seats” in his lively year-round poker room.

Conflicting Dates Go Down the Tournament Trail—WPC, WPO, WPF and USPC

In 2002, are conflicts likely to surface again as Lambert has made the decision to keep this year’s dates for the future as well? Says Lambert, “We have changed our Jack Binion World Poker Open dates, from March and April, to January.”

The tournament trail has become logjammed and the logjam troubles are likely to get worse with player interest in tournaments continuing to grow. There are circuit pros who have played upward of 300 tournaments in 2001, and for those who travel far and wide, there is a competition at most every door. Sponsors and hosts are necessarily stepping on each other’s toes. This reality is partly due to the need for hotel room availability—an essential ingredient in the successful tournament mix.

If the Reno Hilton’s World Poker Challenge, under the well-respected stewardship of Mike Gainey and David Lamb, keeps to its established January schedule, the WPO dates will either produce an annoying conflict or a healthy choice. I want to bet on an embarrassment of riches, with highly successful tournaments at both venues. Early counts indicate hundreds of reservations in place at both sites for next month’s duels.

Meanwhile, back East, Foxwoods yielded again to the Taj Mahal in resetting its dates for the yearly World Poker Finals, and did such a bang-up job two years in a row that they’ll likely keep their current slot. Kathy Raymond, poker operations director at Foxwoods, is all smiles as she confirms, “We have enjoyed the most successful World Poker Finals in our history, and our live action has been better than ever.

The Empire State Sends Stellar Tournament Players to Foxwoods and Elsewhere

Unless the laws or the law enforcement agencies change their tune in 2002, most New York City-based poker aficionados will be traveling regularly to Ms. Raymond’s cardroom and the Mohegan Sun down the road or the Taj Mahal or Tropicana at the New Jersey shore, because legal poker is not available near home.

Despite the limitations on poker in New York, (upstaters can conveniently get their poker kicks in Rome at Turning Stone Casino), resilient New York City alumni and diehard New Yorkers continue to make their mark on the tournament fairgrounds throughout the year. In 2001, New York Mayfair Club alums, from the first generation of no-limit players, dominated the World Series of Poker with championship performances by Seidel, Lederer, Zolotow and Heimowitz, every one of whom could do it again. And Dan Harrington has hardly retired from his 1995 WSOP World Champion perch.

But in 2002, a bunch of talented young Turks are likely to make an imprint and rise conspicuously on the totem pole behind the seniors who have blazed the trail. Fellows like Scott Byron, who made headway earlier than the others in this younger crowd, is joined by Michael Dix, Mike May, Levi Rothman, Adam Schoenfeld, and Satish Vitha, in a penchant to finish in the money, and the hot-as-a-pistol Melissa Hayden says she has had 11 final-table finishes in an estimated 200 starts for the current year.

New York is short on legal poker but long on talent that has been developed in the continuing discreet bastions of poker camaraderie.

The CPR Approach is Gaining Favor

Camaraderie, Professionalism and Respect—the “CPR” approach—is on the rise in poker rooms on both coasts and everywhere in between. Tournaments have long since established penalties for infractions; foul language and use of cards as Frisbees are among them, but cardroom personnel are taking increasingly pro-active steps to ensure the comfort of personnel, players and other guests of their rooms.

No Abuse, Please

Kathy Raymond, the poker chief at Foxwoods, has a big something to say about curing abuse in poker rooms around the nation: “I have traveled around the country and visited many cardrooms. I realize that patron abuse is still a major problem at many casinos. As a cardroom executive and as a player, I recognize this to be an enormous deterrent to the expansion of the industry’s player base as well as the legitimacy of poker as a ‘recognized game of skill’ in the corporate world.”

Ms. Raymond makes clear that “at Foxwoods, we have and enforce a strong patron abuse policy. I urge all cardrooms across the country to join together to eliminate the abuse that taints the great game of poker.” Foxwoods means business when it asks players to observe their rules of conduct, which stand out prominently for their details on signs that hang within their room.

Down by the Jersey shore, the Taj Mahal’s Poker Room Manager Tom Gitto makes his room’s “no abuse policy” crystal clear in a short and explicit message printed on metallic signs and placed on the walls around the poker room: “Attention, anyone found being abusive to customers or employees will be barred from this property.”

Gitto and his boss Vince Mascio confer with me together, by phone, to emphasize their common concern and serious dedication to providing a gracious environment for their games. Says Gitto, “We must take good care of our large base of very faithful regular customers. We also pay close attention to the broad spectrum of occasional and recreational players who rightfully expect us to be just as dedicated to giving them complete experience at our tables. We have seniors, women, a multitude of nationalities and every customer is our priority.”

While Mascio is rarely seen in the poker room, he strongly backs Gitto’s commitment and echoes his sentiments.

Audiocasts: A Marketing Tool and a Conduit for Extending the Camaraderie of the Game

Mark Seif, a tournament and high-stakes player from Lake Tahoe who participated as part of an audio broadcast team at the Taj USPC Tournament, says that increased camaraderie is critical to the growth of poker beyond its current boundaries. He comments, “It’s definitely the current trend. As poker becomes more popular it will become an absolute requirement in light of the public’s desire to play in a safe, fun, and relaxed atmosphere.”

In 2002, part of the camaraderie at the WPO in Tunica will be the connection between the action at the final table of the $10,000 event and Internet-based audiences from home. Tournament Director Jim Albrecht reports that the WPO is the first in the country to make an official part of its marketing plan for the proceedings in 2002 an audiocast of the final table. The WPO has contracted for these services with PokerPages.com, and Albrecht predicts that audiocasts will be a part of the marketing program for cardrooms around the country in the very near future.

Lyle Berman: World-Class Poker Player, a Mogul and the Quintessential Gentleman

In Mississippi, where camaraderie is a strong component of the Grand Casino’s poker rooms, staff take their cue from VP of Poker Operations Tony Collins, who was hired and trained at the Grand under former CEO Lyle Berman, the gifted poker player and high-powered businessman.

Collins waxes poetic about customer satisfaction and says that intolerance of abuse in a poker room correlates to the casino’s numbers at the bottom line. Collins says pointedly, “When you buy checks [chips] you do not buy entitlement to be abusive to another.”

The Poker Table Mosaic

The Taj poker room sees its share of moguls and mavens (predominantly males), but Manager Gitto addresses the opportunity to draw more women and seniors into poker rooms by focusing on the need for players to stay away from frisky locker room talk and foul language and other conduct that might otherwise fall under the category of “boys will be boys.” There is a very fertile market of female players to be expanded all over the country and Collins says he is also mindful that poker rooms need to keep up the pressure on good conduct in 2002, noting that “the number of female players also increases as proper behavior and sociability is enhanced.”

Jim Barbro at Commerce Says “Civil Conduct Makes Poker More Popular”

No matter how much competition the California cardrooms have, the savviest managers are seeing results from requiring civility at the tables. Commerce’s Jim Barbro says he strongly supports camaraderie, professionalism and respect in the poker room and sees that the “increasing efforts to gain cooperation from all facets of the community is paying off with big dividends” that can only help to expand the market the Commerce has the room to grow.

Integrity of the Game is the Foundation on which Customer Service is Built

In 2001, the poker world was fraught with “insider” chatter over who among us qualifies as Mr./Ms. Clean—especially in the world of high-stakes poker and major poker tournaments. Allegations flew around in circles but never stuck to the wall—at least not in the minds of expert investigators for 60 Minutes, which shelved hours of detailed tapes that never adequately proved their claimants’ points on current poker affairs.

Judging from the sheer numbers of players in casinos and public cardrooms, the vast majority of the poker-playing population has confidence in the overall security of their poker games. Millions of players in thousands upon thousands of poker games see dealers, floorpeople, managers, security officers and surveillance cameras as their protectors, and player confidence is critical to the continued growth of poker. That confidence must be warranted and assured for every player whether it be a peon or a pro, a $10-$20 player or a tournament player, for poker rooms to expand their market and prosper long-term.

There is a Line Between Healthy Skepticism and Terrorist Tactics

During the past several days, the issue of integrity has been addressed in hundreds of messages that have appeared on rec.gambling.poker (RGP), a popular but controversial newsgroup site. The site is known equally for posts that make sense and nonsense. The recent messages began with steamy attacks against a top-achieving player. Responses quickly poured onto the newsgroup—on both sides of the equation—in defense of the player and in praise of the attacks.

The messages have since branched out into a more philosophical discussion about the responsibilities and opportunities for players to get involved by peer pressure as well as by articulated demands to cardroom management to take inquiries seriously when they arise. No matter how rare the occurrence of improprieties or irregularities, any such incidents thwart a casino manager’s eloquently stated goals of customer service and satisfaction—not to mention the objectives of the entire poker industry—to bring more recreational players into tournaments and cash games in the coming years.

Players are Divided on Philosophy but Remain High-Spirited About the Game

Players around the country, who are posting their opinions on the RGP newsgroup site, want careful scrutiny and direct confrontation of suspicious conduct, believing that it is in the interest of ensuring fair play. Bi-coastal winning tournament player Hayden sums up her views: “My hope is that all players will join together to make the effort to improve the environment of tournament poker, resulting in safe and secure conditions for all tournament players, be it a seasoned pro or a newbie.”

There is, however, another issue that is highlighted in the messages that find their way onto the RGP forum. Personal accusations that reflect conclusions from hearsay, axes to grind, and cliquish gang-bang tactics against anyone are foul play, not fair game.

Poker Management Has a Vested Interest in Protecting Every Player

Mr. Albrecht, a 14-year veteran of poker room management and perhaps the single most experienced tournament director in the country, speaks forcefully to Poker Digest about the perspective of poker management in modern public cardrooms. He says, “At almost any level of play, a 40-hour-a-week player is worth at least $10,000 to a cardroom, and over the course of a year, thousands of recreational players support the regulars; the room needs both categories to keep their poker games alive.

“Once you accept this reality you begin to understand the high value the individual customer has to poker room management. This translates to a deep commitment by poker room management to faithfully protect the integrity of their games.” He goes on to state, “The poker room is not a good place for a paranoid person. There are all sorts of scenarios that can be imagined but rarely is there any substance to wild claims of wrongdoing in today’s public poker rooms, where cash games and tournaments have never been safer.”

Poker is Alive and Well

Blips on the screen notwithstanding, poker has never been more popular than it is today.

In kitchens and country clubs, in virtual cardrooms and tournament tents, in palatial casinos and underground clubs, I predict that over the horizon rises another year that will be remembered as poker’s heyday.