Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Lump of Coal in My Christmas Stocking

Been in Vegas for just over a week as I write this, and indeed I have a few stories to tell.  For now, I am going to start with my what happened this past Saturday, which was Christmas Eve.  It's a story I can do fresh from memory without listening to my voice notes, so let's go.

This was my first full Saturday in Vegas, and it was more than time to play my first tournament of the trip.  As you know, I like to play in a "big" tournament on Saturdays, one that could go long into the evening if I run well.  I had arrived in Vegas the previous Saturday, too late to play a tournament. Reasons due to my recent surgeries prevented me from arriving the day before, on Friday, which I would have preferred of course.

But even if I had arrived that Friday, I probably wouldn't have played a big tournament the day after.  I really felt it was better to spend some time just playing more flexible cash games for at least a few days to see how I held up.  I can leave or take a break from a cash game any time I want.  If I start to feel exhausted in a tournament, I'd be out of luck.

But after playing a bunch of cash sessions for a week, I knew I was ready for a tournament, hopefully one that lasted 10-12 hours ending with me taking home first place money.

The obvious choice was Binion's, the tournament I love to play on Saturdays.  Or used to. It has actually been a year since I played in it. That is partly due to the fact that I haven't been to Vegas that much this year.  But also due to the fact that they changed the starting time from 2PM to 1PM at the beginning of this year.

But my other viable option—the Aria 1PM—also changed its starting time.  It's now 11AM (and a higher buy-in but that's not a factor for me).  That just doesn’t work for me, although maybe one day I will be willing to go thru the hoops necessary to play in it.

For now, the Binion's option looked good, even with the earlier starting time (1PM downtown is worse than 1PM at Aria, as I've explained before).  And this particular Saturday was really the only chance I had to play in it.  As I said, I was in town too late the Saturday before, and the next Saturday would be New Year's Eve, and if I'm still in town there is no way I'm playing in a tournament (downtown, or anywhere else) on NY's Eve.

Late in the week, another option developed. I was informed that the Stratosphere was holding one of its "Stratstack" $110 events on Saturday.  It was a last minute addition, as it usual is (not the poker room manager's fault—blame the suits).  I found out on Wednesday and briefly considered it, but decided I really wanted to see how things were at Binion's.

You see, Binion's has fallen on hard times.  The switch in starting times was the result of a change in management.  Paul, the previous boss (technically just the Tournament Director), moved over to Aria.  But even before that happened, Binion's was having more and more difficulty getting cash games going.

Finally, a few months ago, I heard from Binion's that they were closing their poker room and moving into the pit, near the sports book.  They'd just have four tables there.  They would use the old room only for the Saturday tournament.  The old tournament area became a big empty.

Plus I heard through my sources that virtually all of my favorite dealers were no longer working there. This included Audrey and Denise, sources for some of my best blogging material (see here, for example).  I was wondering if I'd recognize anybody.  But even tho I knew I'd miss all my pals, I felt like I had to see it for myself.

So I woke up early (actually really early for me when in Vegas), had both breakfast and an early lunch, and headed downtown. I valet parked (as I usually do downtown) and headed over to Binion's.  I walked first to the new poker area and it was dead, a dealer and a floor man waiting for a game to start.  So I walked over to the old poker room, where the tournament was supposed to take place, and it was deserted.  That didn't concern me as it was still at least 10 minutes before noon, the time when registration opens.

But as I got to the podium, I saw a rather small sign indicating that the $10K guaranteed tournament was cancelled for the day (but would resume next Saturday, New Year's Eve) and that instead, they would be running their normal daily $100 tournament in the new poker area.  That tournament has no guarantee, 20-minute levels and would probably be two tables, tops. I had zero interest in a tournament like that and if I had, I could find one like it without going to downtown.  Grrr…

To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.  Aside from screwing me personally, this unreported cancellation was embarrassing to me professionally.  It is my responsibility to have the tournament listings on PokerAtlas show the correct tournament for Vegas (and several other territories).  And because I wasn't informed of the cancellation at all, PokerAtlas was incorrect regarding this tournament change. 

Binion's isn't on Bravo, so they couldn't list the change there (although, to be honest, most rooms wouldn't bother to list a last-minute change there). And they don't have a poker room twitter account that could be used to announce the change. They could have one, and it would cost them nothing, but hey, that's their choice.

But they could have damn sure at least told me so I could have updated PokerAtlas.  It's not like I am not in regular communication with them.  They have been keeping me up-to-date with all the changes that have been going on with the room all along.  And I made a special point to introduce myself last year to the new person in charge when Paul left (as I recall, I went down to play in the tournament that day just so I could find out who was running things and make sure they had my contact info—and I theirs).

But they didn't do it, and not only did I have the wrong info on PokerAtlas, I was personally affected by it.  I could have gone to Stratosphere and played in their tournament, or found another one, but instead I was stuck downtown with no good tournament options.

Oh, and by the way, as it happens, I was downtown just a few evenings earlier.  You may have heard of my session with Tony at Golden Nugget.  Before dinner, I walked over to Binion's to check the new location for the first time.  Then I walked over to the old poker room.  And there was no sign in either place saying anything about that Saturday's tournament.

So, I thought about it for a few minutes, looked at the clock, and saw it was just about Noon.  I knew that late reg for the Stratstack ended at 2.  Since the Stratosphere isn't that far from downtown, it wouldn't take me that long to get there.  I hate late-regging for a tournament, but at the moment, this seemed like my best option.

It was certainly weird getting my car out of valet just minutes after dropping it off, but fortunately it didn’t take too long to get the car, and to drive to the Stratosphere.

When I arrived in the poker room, the first level was still going, so I hadn't missed that much.  Unfortunately, there were only two tournament tables going and less than 20 players signed up.  And this tournament had no guarantee.  I know they usually get much bigger fields when they run this (usually twice a month), but it was Christmas Eve and no doubt that made a big impact on turnout.

Well, I didn't really want to play in a $110 tournament with that small a turnout, but this was already attempt #2 at playing at a tourney this day.  I didn't want to try for strike three!  I figured there would be latecomers and maybe I could tweet about it and help get some players in.  Besides, if nothing else, Mark, the manager of the Strat, is a really good guy and has been very good to me over the years, so I figured I would help him out by playing.

I did tweet that I was playing in the tournament, but just a few more latecomers showed.  Note: I always tweeted about the Binion's cancellation, but on my own twitter account.  I have no ability to tweet on the PokerAtlas account.

Well, the tournament itself was a total bust for me.  Not worth writing about.  I did last almost four hours, made it to the final table (out of two, total) and of course, did not cash. 

There was an unusual incident early on when a woman, who was either a tourist or a homeless person, I'm not sure, walked by, stopped at our table, leaned in and shouted, "What do you guys all think of gold diggers?"  And then walked away.  I guess that's not so weird for Vegas.

But I managed to get more annoyed at Binion's while there than I was originally, if that's possible.  I noticed that a guy I see every time I play Binion's playing at the other table.  I was sure he was only there because of Binion's cancelling their tournament.  So I went over to him during the first break and asked him when he found out about the cancellation.  Was it mentioned the last week (I'm sure this guy was there).  Or did he find out like I did, just by showing up today and seeing it then?

I said hi and asked, "When did you find out about Binion's not having the $10k today?  Did they give any notice?"

Apparently the question got him angry.  "No, not at all.  And that damn PokerAtlas, it said it was running today.  They never update that shit!"

Whoa!  That got me really, really pissed.  Fortunately, I knew he was a nice guy, we'd had friendly banter of the poker table many a time.  Even so, it was difficult for me to not get agitated.

I said, "I'm PokerAtlas!  And I contact them all the time, do updates all the time, that's my job.  But they didn't tell me they were cancelling today, and I can't read minds."  I was a little heated, to say the least.  But it would have been worse if I didn't consider him at least a poker buddy.

"Well you should have called them."

"I can't call every day," I said.

Then he said, "Well, I tried calling them all day yesterday and they didn't answer the phone."

So they would have answered my phone call?

Then he said that they said last Saturday that there was a possibility that they would run the tournament Christmas Eve without the guarantee, but they were definitely planning on running the normal tournament.  He said that would be ok with him….as long as they had at least four or five tables.

But there was no mention the week before that they wouldn't run it at all. 

Then, realizing he had ticked me off (and insulted me), he added, "Well, I blame Binion's more than anyone else, they should have announced it earlier."

Ya think?

Actually telling me would have helped a lot, but it wouldn't have been good enough, because they don't have a twitter account to use, as I mentioned.  Note: Binion's casino has a twitter account, but I've never seen them use it for poker, and I doubt poker players follow it.

The tournament resumed, and I was now freshly annoyed.  I don't like someone questioning my professional performance, I take pride in my work.

Being distracted and upset by all this didn't help me in the tournament.  Perhaps that contributed to my lack of success.

All-in-all, I want to express my thanks to Binion's for ruining my Christmas Eve.

Bah Humbug.


  1. Pretty sad that the one last good thing about poker in the downtown at Binion's (the saturday tournament) has been neglected to the point angst is generated by players expecting to play that tournament. Have a happy new year Rob!

    1. Yeah, a real public relations nightmare. Terrible

      Yesterday, just after posting this, I got an email from the Wynn saying they were canceling their big Saturday tournament this week since it's NY's Eve and the Strip will be closed. So now I've got it accurately on PokerAtlas. Simple. And they knew to contact me about it.

  2. Hi Rob Yeah its a bitch about the tournaments but I am happy to hear your are recovering nicely. Its been a hell of a year so I am glad to start over. I did not win this year but I will start at zero and go after it. Hope you cash some big tournaments next year.

    1. Thanks, Ed, I appreciate it. Let's hope that 2017 will be better for all of us.

  3. Tournaments will come and go. You got something better than a lump of coal...you have better health! When you get a chance, I'd like to hear your opinion on what the proper ruling would have be if I had called the floor in the post Unethical Poker Hand on my blog.

    1. Thanks, Ace...I do remember that post, and I meant to comment, I will try to get back to it soon.