I've been reading the Lee Child book Never Go Back, which features Child's quasi-detective tough-guy Jack Reacher as the main character. It is set mostly in California and Virginia, both states I have lived in, as well as West Virginia, which is both a beautiful state, and one of the states in the US with commercial casinos. Reacher doesn't go in for any casino gambling, I mean the guy only travels with the clothes on his back and a toothbrush, so you can't expect him to hit the slots.
However, the book's descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, close to some of the casinos in West Virginia, was a pleasant reminder of the mountains, the moist weather, and the greenery of the area. West Virginia had racinos early on, but now Maryland and Ohio have joined with Pennsylvania to offer casinos surrounding the state, so they aren't exactly booming with new business, but a couple of them are very large. And, the Mardi Gras has 40 poker tables, so that's a big draw.
As for Lee Child's Reacher, in Never Go Back he keeps calling his options 50-50 propositions, simply because they will either happen, or they won't. Obviously that's a simplification, and he called them all a flip of the coin. If he had any money I'd want to get him in a poker game myself! As for real poker (kind of), I never mentioned the final table of the 2013 WSOP! Whoops.
If you missed it, Ryan Riess, a 23-year old poker pro (aren't they all these days?) from Waterford, MI picked up the totally sick amount of $8.4 million by beating a field of 6,352 in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Texas Hold'em Championship. Jay Farber took second place for $5.2 million and Amir Lehavot pocketed $3.7 million. Previous gold metal winner JC Tran landed in fifth for $2.1 million in prize money. Wow.
Choosing your spots to gamble may be one of the most important things a winning player ever learns. As the football season heads into December with a few more weeks of bets before the playoffs, I take heart in the fact that I've got a winning season going. I don't always do that great at the NFL, and while I was telling a friend that 57% is a good number for choosing winners in the NFL, he showed me some stats that tend to obliterate my puny percentage: he hit 75% for more than a year. Wow.
Now I'm not likely to do that, but I do like to bet the NFL playoffs, because I find them to be much easier than the regular season. In fact, there has been more than one year where I entered the playoffs in the hole and went 5-1, 6-1, 7-1 at the end to wind up with a nice year. You can too, but first, a story:
When I was in third grade I lost all my marbles (my wife can attest to this), and couldn't play anymore (we always played for keeps) until I found a broken shooter on the playground. I took it home, glued it back together, and challenged the kid I figured was the worst marble player in school to a match-up. When my shooter hit his, it broke again, but I got to keep his marble and we kept playing until I had several new marbles and I was on my way.
Now I have no defense for the fact that I was cheating, because if he won, he would have gotten a cracked marble, but I had to be very careful and really choose my spot to gamble. I had one (well, almost one) marble and I had to win. Think of the playoffs like that. Every team knows they have to win, they should all be at a seasonal peak, playing to win and win big. Obviously the best team usually wins in the playoffs. Start with that idea before you bet any NFL playoff games this year, and start figuring who will be playing now, so you're ready when the NFL's second season starts!
Bally Technologies has finished their $1.3 billion acquisition of Shuffle Master with a $23.25 per share stock purchase and assumption of additional debt. Bally, of course, has been around for years (since 1932) and was an early manufacturer of pinball machines before moving into slot machines. The Bally Money Honey slot machine of the 1960's introduced the world to a sleek, streamlined electro-mechanical slot machine with a hopper capable of making payouts in a manner different that traditional slot machines and enabled Bally to become the largest slot manufacturer in the world.
Shuffle Master, which became SHFL Entertainment last year, was started in 1983 by John Breeding who developed an automatic shuffle machine and then marketed "Let it Ride" to force the use of his shufflers. The company had revenues of just under $250 million last year. Gavin Isaacs, a former Bally Technologies executive, was named CEO in March 2011
Bally has a track record of purchasing competing and new-innovation gaming-related companies and had revenues of just over $1 billion last year. Both companies have their home offices in Las Vegas. Shares of Bally Technologies are on a serious upward trend, up 60 percent for the year and currently trading at $72.25 per share. FWIW, I own no shares of either company. Bummer.
On the casino front, the casinos in Downtown Las Vegas continue to be the training ground for new "field trial" games. The D had Double Up recently, one of two new table games called Double Up, each played with a single deck. One is more like traditional blackjack, aptly called Double Up Blackjack, and the other is simply a point-total game. Check them out and you may find you like the progress new games are making.
Seriously. What's a good or appropriate age to gamble? I will admit that I started early. I was pitching pennies, flipping baseball cards, and playing marbles for "keeps" when I was 8 years old. Was that too early? I had friends over to play in my own little casino when I was 9 years old. Then I learned to play poker, and we always played for real money. My view of this "age" thing may be warped, so I'm really curious. Is 13 years old too young to pay cash for chips and play slots and table games?
I ask this because there is so much online gaming today I wonder what is appropriate. Sure, it's tough for a youngster to gamble real cash, but is playing at a place like IGT's Double Down casino different than real gaming if a fee is paid to play? Now you don't really play for cash at Double Down, and I'm actually a fan of the software, but if you want to play poker you need more than a few thousand dollars in virtual chips, and that's where the rub comes in.
So really, you can be 13 and spend $99 on virtual chips and have a go. That is of course if you are a "natural person," whatever the heck that means. Is 13 years old a reasonable age? Regardless of my background, that seems really young to hook a kid on gaming. Any thoughts?
If you grew up in the western United States after about 1950, there is a good chance you saw some strange billboards along the highway as a kid. Road signs were big business for a long time, and places like Harold's Club put a lot of stock in using them for their advertising. I can recall seeing those signs even in the 1970's and early '80's promoting something in Reno that was fun. What, wasn't exactly spelled out, because our government wouldn't let the casinos say "gambling," but the signs were fun. They usually had a cartoon character riding a horse or driving a stagecoach and saying "Harold's Club or Bust." Of course I also saw signs in Southern California that said "Barstow or Bust," so that was confusing.
Anyway, I miss Harold's Club in Reno, which was around for about 60-years from the 1930's to the 1990's. The casino was fun, it had character (oh, boy, so did Harold Smith, Sr. the owner), it had things on display like guns, gaming items, pictures with stories, things to do besides gamble. And, they still had meals for under $5 (I know, that was 1995). They also had the first Red Dog game I ever say, although I much preferred the home version of In-between. In many ways, Harold's Club was the bridge in Reno from casino ownership by a small Mob of criminals, over the Mafia-controlled casinos, to family/corporate owned casinos.
As told in the book, Mob City: Reno Connection, Harold and his father, Raymond "Pappy" Smith came to town when clubs were controlled or dictated to by George Wingfield and Bill Graham, but Harold's Club went its own way (as Harrah's did), and did great business, becoming the most popular casino in the World in the 1950's. Although there may have been some questionable accounting going on as Harold Smith took bags of coins from his own club to gamble in other casinos, there were never any scandals over "skim" at Harold's Club, and in 1970 it was purchased by Howard Hughes, who is credited for bringing corporate ownership to casinos. I'm still iffy on that being a good thing, but at least the rumors were small at the club. Pity it's been closed for twenty years. So many people don't know what they missed!
How social are you? Would you prefer to play poker online, or live, with actual living breathing people right in front of you? Of course that doesn't imply that the people you are gaming with online aren't real, living beings, but there were some sites in the past that had "dummy" players who simply took up space like a shill does in a live game. Anyway, the question remains.
Playing poker online is happening in Nevada right now, New Jersey isn't far behind, but so far the games aren't nearly as fun (read: profitable) as when I could play on Poker Stars, Party Poker, or my favorite back in the day, 888 Casino. At 888 the poker tables (my own guess) were filled with people who were "gamblers" and liked the casino, and wandered the digital portal to the poker tables. That all means they weren't that good, so I thought I was.
Poker games online that a found only in one state are bound to be much tougher, which means I can't beat them while playing Monopoly with the kids and talking on the phone with the TV going. Bummer. With all that in mind, I think I might as well be down at the casino playing in the poker room. I played thousands of hours of online poker way back when, but now when I'm home it doesn't seem as much fun. Maybe I miss the live company now. I'm not sure. I'll let you know if I start winning big again, because maybe I just need weaker competition.
Any comments? What is your experience with Nevada online so far?
After watching several people freaking out about a hand of blackjack yesterday I thought about how much different those players are from poker players. Then, a couple poker players across the way started jawing back and forth, and I decided it's not the game, or the players, it's out lives. Gambling should be recreation, not aggravation, but if you arrive at the casino all tied in knots, I don't think playing a game where you might lose your money is going to help much.
If you still find yourself at the casino, use some gaming anger management techniques to cool down after a bad beat or a bad run. I know, I know, you can't help it. The guy should never have been in the hand. It was a one-outer. Yup. So what? Let it go. If you can't, take a walk around between hands. You are not tied to that game or slot machine with a ball and chain! Play later!
Since I pick on Atlantic City a lot, here's a plug for their late-night poker tournaments. And, it points out that you can take a break, and maybe play later. If you are in AC and want poker action, it's available even way after dark! This is a tournament schedule for Monday, November 11, 2013:
- 11:00 AM - $65 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Showboat
- 11:00 AM - $100 "Yellow Chip Bounty" NLH $5K Guarantee w/Re-Entry Borgata
- 11:15 AM - $62 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Tropicana
- 11:15 AM - $65 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Trump Taj Mahal
- 12:15 PM - $60 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Harrah's Atlantic City
- 1:00 PM - $55 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Bally's AC
- 1:15 PM - $70 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Caesars AC
- 2:00 PM - $65 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Showboat
- 3:15 PM - $50 Survivor No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Trump Taj Mahal
- 6:15 PM - $70 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Caesars AC
- 7:00 PM - $120 "Big Stack" NLH Poker Tournament Borgata
- 7:00 PM - $65 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Showboat
- 7:00 PM - $55 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Bally's AC
- 7:15 PM - $62 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Tropicana
- 7:15 PM - $65 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Trump Taj Mahal
- 8:15 PM - $60 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Harrah's Atlantic City
- 11:00 PM - $60 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Showboat
- Midnight - $60 Turbo No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Harrah's Atlantic City
- Midnight - $65 No-Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Trump Taj Mahal
Yes,you can curb your anger, take a break, and play late. Try it!
A long time ago, Stealers Wheel did a song called Stuck in the Middle with You, and I was thinking about that at the poker table the other day. The guy to my left was having a great time. He was pretty hammered. The two guys to my right were also drunk and telling stories and having fun too. It made for a pretty good game with the fun and the loose bets and the raises on apparently not an ounce of information ("But I'm lucky when I raise blind, mate"). I'm not sure whether drunk players attract more drunk players or not, but the next two guys to join the game had drinks with them and seemed to be in a hurry to "catch up" with the other drinkers. Alright then!
Maybe that's why the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania leads the state in alcohol purchases. It's a big place with 3,300 slots and 183 table games, and they spent $2 million buying 116,000 bottles of liquor and wine for their players. Drinks are free if you are playing. That total was 80% more than second-place Pennsylvania Harrah's Casino in Chester. Unfortunately, according to The Morning Call, "drunken driving arrests in the city up nearly 80 percent since the casino opened," so there could be a correlation there.
There could also be a correlation with the players on my game, since four of the five drunk players had a great time, had wild swings in their bankrolls, and eventually tapped out (wow, 80% also). I wasn't drinking, but I didn't make any big hands, either.
Fortunately I did much better at Crazy 4 Poker, which is a table game that does not require drinking or much strategy. You start with 5 cards and then use just 4 (hmm, 80%) and the game plays very much like Three-Card-Poker. It's worth a try.
As for the drinking and playing, it rarely goes well, even if you like the group Stealers Wheel, are from Pennsylvania, and are a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. If you are, you know they took a thumping on Sunday. You're likely to have the same results if you drink too much. Have fun, but go easy on the drinks. They may be free, but they will cost you in the end!
Caesars Entertainment announced that their third-quarter revenue (2013) was essentially flat at $2.18 Billion. Yeah, that's a big "B" and you'd think that would be enough to make everybody happy, but Caesars is heavily saddled with debts of over $23 Billion. You know how much debt that is? I've watched as it went to $12 Billion, then $17 Billion, and now nearly twice that number from just a few years ago. Sure, the company got sold, but didn't the buyer's pay anything in cash? I missed the transaction, and it's in the past, so let's just look at today's numbers. What to do? How do you service a debt that costs $550 million a year in interest?
Vegas properties were up in revenues, but the rest of the US properties from Philadelphia to Atlantic City and everywhere else were down. Can even a substantial increase in the economy pull this debt load? No. When Bill Harrah first bought a property in Lake Tahoe with profits from his casino in Reno, he was so happy to have expanded his gambling domain, even if it was in a snowy, seasonal place like Tahoe. He pushed for better winter road clean-up and in a few years the South Shore club was open year-round.
Other properties at the lake, like the North Shore Club, never went year-round. Was that a bad thing? Maybe, because Harrah's is still around, the North Shore is gone, but when is a gaming conglomerate too big to operate efficiently? In my humble opinion, for Harrah's - now Caesars, it was about 10 years ago, but what do I know. The expansion to new gaming locations is necessary to improve revenues, but not if you are cannibalizing old property revenues and taking on more debt that can't be paid (sound like our government?).
Best of luck to Caesars, I'm sure they will figure things out because they have plenty of experienced MBA types in charge, but it doesn't take an MBA to know you have to occasionally prune back the dead branches to make a tree blossom in springtime and sometimes there just isn't enough water to grow another dozen fruit trees, especially if you want them to be the size of a city block.
I know I'm dense, especially after all those years strolling casinos, but is the only attraction of Zynga slots the play? I'll admit I don't play games on my phone, I'm not striving to move up in the ratings on Candy Crush, and I don't play Zynga poker, so who am I to say, but I don't get it. Zynga charges you for coins, but when you win, you can't do anything with them!
According to the site on Facebook, the best deal is 8,000,000 coins for $212. Yup, two-hundred and twelve bucks. And although there is a prompt to "earn cash," you earn it by applying for credit cards and giving-up your email address. This is the only place I ever saw that has a link that says "Buy Cash," where you can use real money to buy fake money to buy fake coins to play fake slot machines, and if you try to cash them out they'll say "Faked you out," cause you can't cash them back for cash. Bummer!
If you didn't know it, you can join most any online casino (even where online gaming is illegal, mostly) and use the "play for free" section and get access to slots, video poker, even table games. You can play blackjack or learn new rules for craps. For Free. Of course you can't cash out there either, but you won't be prompted to buy a logo or avatar, or send chips to your friends. Well, you decide.