Casinos Report Small Traffic Increase After Black Friday
With Money Still Tied Up, Players Have Yet To Flock To Casinos For Poker Action
The official numbers have yet to be released, but there has been a modest reported increase in poker room traffic thanks to the recent Department of Justice indictment on the major online sites last Friday.
With online assets frozen, it could be awhile before poker rooms experience any substantial customer gains and the availability of those withdrawals will certainly have an impact on the success of the upcoming World Series of Poker.
Card Player reached out to several major card rooms across the country to find out what, if anything, they’ve experienced since Black Friday and what they are planning to do to accommodate the influx of online poker players to their casinos.
Friday’s shutdown of the major internet poker sites has brought a full range of effects, in terms of traffic, to some of Las Vegas’ major cards rooms.
The Aria poker room has been one of the most affected by the inability to play internet cards. According to shift manager Danielle Hackney, they have been “wire-to-wire full of 24 tables since Friday,” which is unusual. In addition, Aria’s $125 twice-daily poker tournament has had a field size increase of about 50 percent (each running) since the news broke last week.
Also according to Hackney, many pros from the high stakes community have come out to Aria in the absence of online poker — a pleasant result of the DoJ’s indictments, which has been a sentiment shared on Twitter.
Shaun Deeb, a frequent player at Aria, wrote: No online poker means all the greats come to Aria. It’s amazing how busy this room is and how great the main game is. Michael Binger also Tweeted: Games have been hopping lately, and with this online fiasco they are only going to get better until the WSOP.
Over at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, which offers 22 tables of primarily limit and no-limit hold’em, the poker room saw an increase of about three tables of no-limit hold’em action throughout the weekend, according to shift manager Jen Saperstein. She also noted that the increase has been a mixture of ages — and not exclusively an influx of young online grinders.
However, Saperstein said some of the players were talking: “Quite a few were telling us the reason why they were here was because they couldn’t play online.”
Over at the 39-table Venetian poker room, tournament director Tim Mix said that their $225 no-limit hold’em event on Tuesday, which was part of the casino’s ongoing deep-stack series, had about a 20 percent attendance increase (to 255 players registered) from the same event on the previous Tuesday. Mix also said he visited the poker rooms at Caesars and Bellagio and that things looked a little busier.
Poker players in California have the best selection of live poker cash games and tournaments available to them anywhere in the country outside of Las Vegas. This is in large part thanks to a multitude of card rooms in the major population bases of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, but there is also a large system of Indian Casinos operating throughout the state. California poker players have more than 1,000 tables to keep them busy during the indefinite stretch that online poker offerings will be diminished.
The largest card room in the United States is Commerce Casino located in the Los Angeles area and with more than 200 tables on the premises there are a lot of options for players.
“People that are in Montana who were playing online, it is probably tough for them to find a game now," said John Griffo, Director of Casino Development at Commerce Casino. "If you live here in L.A. it is a little bit easier because we have so many tables and so many limits going all the time. We offer a wide variety to everybody. We have 243 tables so we are able to accommodate more people than anyone.”
“We saw a slight increase in traffic over the weekend," Griffo added. “I mostly noticed it in our daily tournaments. We are sure the new players are all online players because they’re asking about our tournament structures because they are a little bit different than online tournaments. In tournaments we have seen a 15 percent increase in entries.”
Commerce Casino will offer the best litmus test for live tournament poker in California in this new era when cards get into the air for its California State Poker Championship tournament series that begins on May 4. The tournament series will run for 19 days and it all leads up to the $2,575 California State Poker Championship main event on May 20. There will be a total of 17 events for players to participate in during the tournament series. “I think the California State Poker Championship tournament series is going to be bigger than initially anticipated. It’s going to be our first big series that has big guarantees since this happened,” said Griffo.
Some of the other large card rooms in the L.A. area have noticed increased traffic as well, but nothing huge just yet. Floor supervisors at the Bicycle Casino reported that the poker room has been busy, but there has not been a significant increase just yet. There were 70 live cash games running at the 90 cash game tables they had available this weekend.
The Bike will also have a much clearer picture of how big a difference the lack of online card room options makes in their bottom line when they run their next big tournament series. The Mega Million Series will offer 20 tournaments at the Bicycle Casino and it will run from May 23-June 1.
The Hustler Casino in Gardena, California reported a slight increase in attendance since Black Friday. “We saw a 10 percent increase over the weekend. People want to gamble. It’s been good for us,” said Patti McGuire from the Hustler Casino. “Most players who have come out were looking to play no-limit hold’em poker.” The Hustler Casino has 50 tables available on their premises.
Poker rooms from as far south as the 15-table Pala Casino and the 45-table Ocean’s Eleven Casino near San Diego to the 60-table Lucky Chances Casino just outside of San Francisco have reported that new faces have been popping up in their cards rooms since last week.
The tournament director at Ocean’s Eleven Casino Erin Thompson stated that she had to add tables to her tournaments during last weekend to accommodate a 20 percent increase in tournament sizes. Matt Savage and poker room staff at the 49-table Bay 101 Casino in San Jose also confirmed a slight increase in poker room traffic this week and they are currently discussing new tournament plans to accommodate a future increase in players.
It may take some time to see just how many players turn to California card rooms during this stretch of limited online offerings, but upcoming tournament series and a large number of cash game tables mean that players in the Golden State have somewhere to ply their trade during this difficult time.
The Rest of the Country
Much like Nevada and California, some of the bigger cardrooms across the country are reporting modest traffic increases due to the decrease of online poker options in the United States.
Over in Tunica, Mississippi, the Horseshoe Casino has confirmed a slight increase in their younger clientele. The 16-table room has yet to give out any official numbers, but was happy to see some additional games running, especially late at night.
“We haven’t seen a huge increase, but I have noticed some new faces among the younger players,” said Poker Room Manager Lisa Crompton. “Our graveyard and night shift managers have reported a small jump in action.”
Florida’s largest poker room is the Palm Beach Kennel Club with 60 tables and has seen a 5 to 10 percent increase in action since Black Friday.
“I saw a lot of new faces in the last week and we’ve had some additional tables fill up,” said supervisor Louis DeGuzman. “We have our usual monthly promotions, but if the players demand higher stakes, we’ll be happy to run whatever they want, whether it’s tournaments or cash games.”
Perhaps hit the hardest by the recession, Atlantic City card rooms are hoping to see a nice spike in room traffic following the DoJ’s indictments. At Harrah’s, the 40-table poker room has experienced a small bump, but Director of Poker John Arthur has noticed more online players comparing each room’s player loyalty programs.
“I’ve seen a number of players stop by and ask about our various promotions,” said Arthur. “These guys are used to being rewarded for their online play and now they are looking for whatever edge they can find in the live setting. Whatever they decide, we are more than ready for their business.”
Brian Pempus, Ryan Lucchesi and Julio Rodriguez contributed to this article.
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