Wednesday April 23, 2014
The city of Glendale, part of the Phoenix (Arizona) Valley, has been trying for several years to keep a new casino from opening within what it considers city limits, or an area that it annexed in 2001. Now, as the city finds itself with dwindling taxes and a financial hole that keeps spreading, it has given up the fight and admits the casino would be good for the city - at least financially.
For those of you who haven't followed the progress of this fight over the past five years, it boils down to a few main points: In 1960, large tracts of land owned by the Tohono O'odham Nation outside of Tucson were flooded by Federal dam projects. To compensate the Tribe for its lost land, Congress enacted the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act in 1986. In 2003, the Tribe purchased 135 acres of "replacement" land within Glendale city limits that the city once annexed, then abandoned (maybe, according to their side of the story). In 2009, after successfully operating three casinos in Tucson, Why, and Sahuarita, the Tribe announced its plan for a new casino at their Glendale site. The city fought the plan, lost, won, lost, won, and then lost local and Federal cases to stop the casino. Now, they agree to allow the building. Draw your own conclusions.
Regardless of how or why the casino may arrive, it is most likely that it will..........and the Phoenix area will absorb the new casino without much fuss when all is said and done. After all, it's not like its a small area, altough Glendale isn't the highest population density in the US either, not even close. In fact, that title goes to Chicago, with a population of 2.7 million and a density of over 11,000 people per square mile. Philadelphia is close, with half the population and a density almost the same, but there's only one casino right in Philly. For a real comparison, the casinos of Los Angeles, where there are 8,000 people per square mile is closest. Of course you can't even play real craps in California, you have to play craps with cards!
On the other hand, craps hasn't even been legalized in Arizona, and you have to play a video variety for your kicks, but the population is strong in the Phoenix Valley as a whole. In fact, Phoenix has almost the same population as Philly, and the Valley itself is nearly 7 million. That's a lot of gamblers! And, the casinos do great in the Valley of the Sun. Will a new casino hurt the others? Not much, and the players may benefit from the increased competition. We'll see.
Saturday April 19, 2014
When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike about five miles to get to a little variety store in Pleasant Hill, California to buy baseball cards. It was the only place that carried them in my neck of the woods, but the weather in Northern California is great and the ride was fun. Sometimes a friend rode with me and while we never had more than enough money for one or two packs of cards, we didn't care. Sometimes we got shut out and they had no cards left. It was a gamble, but we didn't mind.
Sometimes we bought a pack and it had cards we already had! Bummer. A losing gamble, but it was still worth the ride. How far did you walk or ride to buy candy, a soda, or some baseball cards when you were a kid? Was it worth the trek? Was it worth the gamble? I lived in Japan for two years and never saw a baseball card, so when the family got back to California I remember borrowing my uncle's bike and riding seven or eight miles to a 7-Eleven (there's that craps number, hmmm) and since they had no baseball cards I bought a Slurpee with a baseball player on it. Two days later I did it again. Still worth the trip.
Not everyone gambles for the same reason, but the high and excitement is often worth a bit of a drive. Now I wouldn't drive all the way from Seattle to check out the casinos of Alaska, because it's just too far. Heck, it's almost 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Sitka just to play bingo, but I digress.
I have traveled 550 miles by car for a single evening of gambling. Is that crazy? How far would you go to gamble? How far do you travel on a regular basis? I'm just saying...............it might be a long way, and it's probably worth it, right?
Sunday April 13, 2014
Photo Courtesy (Getty Images)
Poker pro Phil Ivey is neck-deep in another casino baccarat dispute, this time involving a $9.6 million win at the Borgata in Atlantic City. After having more than $10 million withheld by a London casino in a similar dispute, the player's use of all available information again comes into question. According to the Borgata, Ivey took advantage of the poorly-cut playing cards, some of which had full-circles at the end of the card (on the back) and some only had a quarter or a half, and those cuts were on specific card values. This type of scam has been going-on for 100 years, with many Nevada stories where blackjack players took similar advantage and either high-lowed decks, or were able to guess the value of the next card when the dealer exposed too much of the back of the deck.
There are two major things that jump out at me with this story. The first, if it is true that Ivey and his accomplice did actually have input on the arrangement of the cards (it is alleged they told the dealer which way to turn cards so they could see the top of the small circles and may have influenced their arrangement), then they are out and out cheats in my book - but of course that's for the court of law and public opinion to decide. The second issue is that if this is indeed what happened in London, what the heck is wrong with the Borgata? You know the issue is possible and you keep using playing cards with the potential for theft? OMG.
As for poker play and the use of all available information, that's what makes a player great. Whether you are reading your opponent to guess their hand, or just figuring pot odds to decide on a call, raise or fold, that's what it's all about. Phil Ivey has shown he is one of the best poker players in the world because he takes in all information and uses it to his advantage. If the casino offers a game where he can see the defects and profit - well shame on them. If he steered the cards to increase that advantage - shame on him, and wow, is that disappointing!
Friday April 11, 2014
I took my kids to a carnival recently and was surprised to see a version of Crown and Anchor, which is a popular three-dice game played in some casinos, especially in the Bahamas. It's virtually the same as Hoo Hey How, which is played in China, Malaysia, and Thailand, but you don't see it very much in the US.
The game reminded me of a carnival way back in my mind, way back when I was a kid in Ohio, and a field my buddies and I played baseball on was turned into a field full of rides, ring-tosses, and some very questionable games nobody seemed to win at. However, there was also one game that caught my interest (yeah, big surprise, right?) because it was an out-right gambling game. The game had two big dice sitting at the top of a slide and players bet on the number being low, medium, or high (for an even-money payoff), or on 7. As if the hold on the total number wasn't bad enough, the payout on a roll of 7 was just 4 to 1. I had dimes. I had no idea how the odds worked. I had youth and inexperience on my side. Yup, I was the rube they were looking for, and I decided to use my own system of just betting more and more until 7 rolled.
After playing for a while my system clearly wasn't working. So I kept playing. The guy in charge even said, "Kid, why don't you try the dart game, this isn't a very good game for you," but I persisted, and then the dice gods smiled on me. After that, 7 rolled almost continually. I bet more and more, until my original carnival stake of $2.60 was over $10. Then, unlike so many casino gamblers before me, I quit. I took my bucks, bought snacks and soda, lucked into a big stuffed animal, and walked home when my money dwindled down to $5.20 - double my starting cash.
Is there a moral there? Sure. When you have no clue about a game but get lucky, do yourself a favor and get out when you make some money, then learn the rules!.