Wednesday, September 11, 2013

That's Not What They Mean By "Freeroll"

Everybody knows you have to have chips—you have to buy chips—to play in a live poker room, right?  Or at the very least, have cash in front of you.

This was a weird story from my August Vegas visit.  On the other side of the table from me, a new player came to the table to fill an empty seat.  I didn’t recall if he was escorted to the table by a BSC employee or he found his way over to us by himself.  He was a bit of odd looking dude, and I say that partially because I’ve always found the shaved head/bearded face look a little strange.  I’ve got nothing against beards—I used to wear one myself—but it just seems backwards having a bald dome and furry face.  And this guy was working the shaved head/beard combo.

As he sat down, the dealer was just about to be pushed out.  The dealer asked him if he had chips coming. Now, in the old days, they always used to rely on chip-runners at BSC.  You would always be shown to your table—or have it pointed out to you—and a friendly chip runner (or floor person) would come by and get your money and then bring you your chips.  But sometime back, they got rid of the separate cashier cage and now the front podium—the same place you go to put your name on the list and sign up for the tournaments—will sell you chips (and cash you out).  More often than not, when you’re up there being sent to a table, they sell you your chips before you head to your game.   I still forget sometimes and get to my table without buying chips if they don’t remind me.  And sometimes, if there’s a big crowd at the podium, they’ll tell you to go ahead and they’ll send a chip runner over.
So when the dealer asked if he had chips coming, he said “Yes, $300” and pointed over towards the podium.  Simple enough, right?  The dealer finished his last hand and told the incoming dealer that the guy in seat 6 was a new player and he had $300 in chips coming.
The problem, of course, was that neither dealer had seen the bald/bearded guy give anyone any money.  The new dealer dealt the guy in and told him to just tell her what he wanted to do, betting wise.  I believe he raised on the first hand.  So, to make it easier, the guy in seat 7, a very friendly guy with a big stack of chips, lent the new player a $100 stack of red to play with until his $300 showed up. 
I’m not sure why I was paying that much attention to this, especially since I never got into a hand with the guy.  But for some reason, after about 10 minutes at least, it dawned on me that the guy still hadn’t been brought any chips, and he had been quite active in a bunch of hands playing with the $100 he borrowed and with the understanding he had another $200 on the way. And that, the friendly player next to him had $100 coming to him.  I looked over to the front and there was no crowd there. When it’s very busy and you see a big crowd up front, you can understand why it would be taking so long to get the chips, but there was no obvious explanation for it here.
Since there appeared to be no one on the way to bring this guy his $300 in chips, I said something to the dealer, who I was sitting right next to.  I remembered that the player had sat down just at the push.  I asked her where the guy’s chips were.  She told me he had $300 coming.  “From where?  The guy’s been here for some time and there’s no crowd up front.”
She looked over and noticed that there were about three employees up at the podium and no players there.  So she asked the guy if he had chips coming.  Again, the guy pointed to the podium and said, “Yes, $300.”  The dealer asked who he gave the money to, and he just pointed back to the podium.  “Up front.”  I should point out that he was a man of few words, but the few words he did speak revealed that he had some kind of European accent.
Well it didn’t make any sense that he would give his money to someone at the front—where they keep the chips—and not get them right then and there.  So the dealer looked around and found Susan, who was the only chip runner working this nite.  I’ve mentioned Susan a number of times, most recently here when she told a player to talk to her rack.  The dealer called Susan over and told her that the guy in seat 6 had $300 coming—what happened to it?
The color immediately drained from Susan’s face as she tried to remember what happened with the guy’s $300.  There was only one other person on the floor that could have been responsible for delivering the guy’s chips, a floorperson, and Susan asked the floorperson if she had taken this guy’s money and was assured she had not.  Since Susan had been delivering about 80% of the chips that night, she didn’t really question it. 
Susan went into panic mode trying to remember what happened to the guy’s $300.  The most logical explanation was that she had given the wrong player $300 in chips, a rather scary thought.  I suddenly remembered an incident a few months earlier when something like that happened.  A different chip-runner brought a guy at my table $100 in chips.  After he took off, the player called him back and said that he had given him $200, not $100.  It turned out that the runner had gotten $200 from him and $100 from another player and mixed them up, and gave the guy who had given him $100 cash $200 in chips!  This was quite a mess, and for some reason the guy who got the extra $100 didn’t “notice” that he’d gotten such a gift.  Worse, by the time this chip runner got back to the guy who had gotten the extra hundred, he had lost it in the game!
I had asked about it the next night and I think the guy was actually thinking he gave the chip runner $200—or wasn’t sure.  I believe they actually had to play back the security tapes to get is all straightened out and the guy who got the extra money did pay the extra $100, so all ended well, eventually.
But now Susan was seriously upset trying to reconstruct her movements for the past 15 minutes and trying to remember who she possibly could have given an extra $300 to.  Now, I’m no Pollyanna, but I’d like to think that most people, if given $300 by accident, would say something.  I know I would.  But then, in the story I just finished telling, a guy didn’t notice an extra $100.  But $100 is different than $300, he might have assumed that two $100 bills were stuck together and he did give the guy $200.  With a $300 out of nowhere, it’s a little different.  The thing is, if a person was sleazy enough not to say anything, they’d probably be smart enough to beat a hasty retreat out of the room right away, rather than just sit there.  Because, otherwise, not only is it likely to be discovered, but then this goniff is going to have the embarrassment of having to explain why he didn’t say anything.
She started going over to tables where she remembered bringing chips, and looking at stacks, I’m not sure if she asked any of the players about having any “extra chips.”  But the floorperson did, she went around to other tables and asked if anyone had been brought some extra chips.  No one said they had (big surprise).
I could see that Susan was really upset as she wandered around the room, retracing her steps, trying to remember what happened.  Susan is one of the most conscientious people I know, very competent.  I couldn’t imagine Susan making a mistake like this—especially on a rather quiet night—but then, I have yet to meet the person who hasn’t make a mistake or two in their lives.  I consider Susan a friend, and I was really worried for her.  She looked ill.  And it was just from worry.
I was wondering what would happen if they money didn’t turn up.  Would Susan have to pay it out of her own pocket?  Would she get written up for it?  Would she get fired?  She’s an exemplary employee as far as I know—but casinos take money very seriously.
Finally she went over to the bald/bearded guy, along with the floorperson.  He had been having a grand ol’ time playing with that $100 stack he borrowed.  I think he’d won some money on top of that, so he never really missed that $300.
The floorperson and Susan asked the guy who he gave his $300 to.  He spoke hesitantly.  He pointed to the podium. “Well…..nobody.  The….the girl said I could buy them here.”
The floor immediately stopped the dealer from dealing him any more cards since he had never actually bought into the game. 
He explained, “I told her I wanted to play for $300 and she said I could buy chips at the table.”
Which doesn’t really explain why he made no attempt whatsoever to buy any chips at the table.
I dunno exactly what the floor said in response to his explanation but he said, “Well, it was a language problem.  I don’t speak English that well.”
And exactly what European poker room does he play in where you go to the table, say you’re playing for $300 and never actually have to buy any chips?  Does he expect to play poker on credit and settle up when he leaves?  Please tell me the poker room where they allow that?
The floor stood over him and insisted he produce $300, which he did.  Phew.  At that point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he tried to buy in with Euros or said he left his wallet in his room, or some such bullshit.  But no, he had $300 US on him and coughed it up. 
Poor Susan was relieved, but mostly she was upset.  And furious.  I think this jerk had taken a year off of her life. She didn’t say anything to him.  I saw her talking to the Shift Manager and then I saw her leave the room in a big hurry.  I assumed she had taken an “early out” and had gone home for the night, too upset to work.
But no, about 10-15 minutes she was back, working the room.  I went over to see how she was doing, because that’s the kind of guy I am.  She was ok, finally having cooled off.  She told me she couldn’t believe she could make a mistake like that—which of course, she hadn’t. 
Natuarlly, she was pretty upset at the guy who played without buying in.  We were trying to figure out if the guy was really just confused and really had a language problem or if he was actually running a scam.  We’ll never know.  But neither of us could figure out how anyone could think they could play in a Vegas poker room without buying into the game.  I mean if they told he could buy in at the table—which is highly doubtful since they prefer to sell you chips at the front these days and it was never busy up there—why wouldn’t he have his $300 out and hand it over to the dealer as soon as he sat down?
After I saw she was ok, we started joking about it.  I said I was gonna try to find the poker room where I could play without money and if I found it, I’d let her know so we could both play there. I also told her that I should have known there was something off about the guy as soon as I saw his bald head/beard look.  Never trust a guy with more hair on his face than on his head, I told her. 
I went back to the game and the guy was still there when I left.  I can only hope that, if he had any chips left when he left, when he cashed out, they short-changed him.


  1. Great story. I don't remember ever seeing anything quite like that happen.

    Poker room procedures are supposed to be such that this can't happen. E.g., the dealer isn't supposed to take the word of a player about how much he has bought or will buy; he is supposed to sell chips himself or wait to be told by another employee--somebody who took and counted the money--how much is in play.

    So if this room follows standard protocols, it was the first dealer who screwed up by taking the player's word for what money he had given to somebody to buy in.

    I'm also not a fan of the "borrowing" of chips from another player, and this story is a prime example of the trouble it can cause. Suppose he had lost that $100 on the first hand, then decided to get up and leave. Who would be responsible for reimbursing the player who loaned him the chips? They should either let him play on verbal commitment alone (assuming no more than one hand will transpire before his chips come), or have the dealer issue him a starter stack.

    One of my greatest poker pleasures ever was giving $100 to a chip runner at Venetian, playing my first hand with verbal bets only (no chips yet), and doubling up. When the chip runner came back, he looked at my stack and asked, "Did somebody else bring those to you?" Nope--I won 'em, playing on credit.

    1. Thanks, Grump.

      Yeah, there was definitely some dealer inattention there. I think he was in the middle of a hand when the guy took his seat and thus might have just assumed it was a employee saying "$300"--something like that. Also, the new dealer shouldn't really have waited until I said something to follow up. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't said anything?

      I guess it would have come up not long after tho, because the guy who lent the guy $100 was called for a table change soon after they figured out what happened and would have no doubt demanded his $100 back then.

  2. Something like this happened at Wynn when they first opened, and the story was told on 2+2. A guy sat down and stated he had $500 coming (or some such). He played the first hand and won a lot. He kept playing and kept winning. Finally someone pointed out his buyin was still not at the table and it needed to be looked into.

    At this point, the guy admits he never bought in but says it doesn't matter since he now has plenty of chips to play. No, sir, that's not how this works. They demanded he produce the cash for the original buyin. He didn't have it. He didn't have $20 on him.

    They returned all the money he had won to the losers and ejected the guy. He should have spent the night in jail, but as I recall I don't think they bothered to bring in the Gaming cops.

    1. Wow, that's a great story Apollo and yes, similar to mine. I wonder how long it took to reconstruct everything to give the guy's chips back to the right players.

      Now that I think about it--and I should have mentioned this in my comment to Grump above--its not that unusual for the dealer to ask a new player "do you have chips coming?" or, "Is someone getting you chips?" and then take their word for it. I've never seen anyone basically lie in response to that question before.

      Still not sure about the guy in my story but in your story that's definitely a guy trying to pull a fast one. Would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he lost right away. Would the poker room feel obligated to make good on the guy's losses since it was a dealer error? I'm guessing not.

  3. Hmmmm ... I know what I am trying on my next trip to Las Vegas ...

    1. Next trip? I thought you were still there. I assumed that because Tony is still there and I assumed you were taking him back home with you.

  4. The local casino I played at, the dealers exchange chips for cash at the table. Sometimes they don't have enough chips so the floor becomes a chip runner for both the players and the dealers. Often, but not always, the floor would give the player $100 markers after they take the player's cash and make a run to the cage for chips. This helps reduce any confusion on how much is coming.

    1. Thanks for the comment Mr. Law (I was gonna use your initials, but that would be AOL, which I wasn't sure you'd like).

      That sounds like the way they do it at the cash games at the WSOP venue every year. The chip runners have lammers and they give them to the players when they take their cash. So there's never any confusion. In that case, its such a big room, with so much going on, and a ton of brand new, inexperienced workers there, it's the only way to do it.

  5. your full of shit,the picture you put up is from a mugshot website.why would some guy let you take his picture.

    1. Obviously you're not familiar with my blog. Virtually all the pics I include in my posts are just take from the web, I never claimed that was the guy in the story, just an example of a bald guy with a beard. That's what I do on the blog.

      I wouldn't take a picture of the guy in the story and I wouldn't put in the blog--I use phoney names so people can't be identified, why on earth would I post pictures of people I'm trying to keep anonymous, Anonymous?

  6. So there's a few local bars in Las Vegas that do freeroll poker tournaments. Like rush hour on sunset and pecos has theirs on Wednesday and Thursday. but does anyone else know of any other local bars in Las Vegas that have freeroll poker tournaments any other day of the week besides Wednesday and Thursday? I don't like going to the casinos for free roll and I don't have Wednesday Thursday off. can anybody help?

    1. That's actually news to me, Anthony, thanks.

      I can't help you but I would suggest you go on the AVP forums and pose your question there.