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Poker Rooms Good For Husbands While ‘Wife Is Blowing Her Brains Out At The Slot Machine’

Industry Says Game Used As A Way To Bring People Into The Casino


Despite being profitable components of a casino, the value of a poker room isn’t in collecting rake, said a panel at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas this week that was addressing the question: “Poker Rooms: Peaked or Still Valuable?”

The real reason why casinos want poker rooms? It’s to use them as a marketing tool, said Kathy Raymond, executive director of poker operations at the Venetian.

The Venetian is home to the Las Vegas’ largest poker room.

Adam Altwies, director of poker at Aria, a MGM owned property, said that the demographic coming to poker rooms tends to be increasingly younger. That’s a good thing for him.

“When [young people] come to your casino they spend money,” he said. “You can cross-sell the heck out of the property.”

Poker as a vehicle to lure people to a property in this way goes in line with web poker as the gateway game to such things as online slots, which has greater popularity and profitability. Unskilled games are cash cows for casinos, while poker, widely considered a game where the better player wins over time, doesn’t have as strong of an appeal or reach. Some of the most lucrative games involve the patron thinking as little as possible and mashing buttons.

Gaming consultant Bill Bruce, who was moderating the panel, put it this way: Poker is a way for husbands to be entertained while the “wife is blowing her brains out at the slot machine.”

The panel admitted that some portion of the poker playing population is intelligent, perhaps making a living on the felt and thus generally being solid money managers. In other words, they don’t blow their bankrolls on other games that have zero edges. However, not all poker players are like this. Bruce said that there are “some extremely bad [poker] players you can market to.”

While these rooms and players are exploited to the benefit of the rest of the property, not all poker rooms are run well. Altwies said that there are problems when casinos put a former pit manager in charge of a new poker room. He said that he travels all over the country to look at how other places are operated. Sometimes he’s disappointed with what he sees.

Despite their success, even the best rooms screw up sometimes. According to Raymond, the jackpot system at casinos that attract a lot of tourists is a dreadful idea. When locals pay money into the jackpot fund and then a tourist wins and takes it away from the local economy, everyone loses, except the tourist, according to this logic. The casino prefers a local regular wins, not only so that they are compensated for the extra rake they have paid over a considerable amount of time, but also because they are likely to spend that jackpot money at the property.

Altwies was critical of poker room promotions that he thinks start and end with little long-term benefit. “The only time I run promotions is to capture players for life,” he said of his business.

As for the so-called “poker boom,” which occurred during the early-to-middle part of the last decade: The panel had mixed feelings and predictions for another one.

“The boom in land-based poker is over,” Bruce remarked.

“I don’t see it as over, I see it as a stall,” Altwies replied.

Photo of Aria’s poker room, via the casino’s website.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus

Tags: Poker,   Nevada,   Aria,   Venetian