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Ocean’s 11 Celebrates 20 Years Of Being Top Spot To Play

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jan 04, 2017


In January 1997, Ocean’s 11 opened with its feet barely beneath it. Like a new-born colt, it wasn’t sure which direction it was headed. Renting less than half of a converted bowling alley, it had no idea where it would find itself in a year, much less 20 years later.

Even its leader, Haig Kelegian Sr., aka: The King of Clubs, always the optimist, could not have imagined the poker explosion that would propel the club into the future. Despite the early uncertainty, as soon as the boom hit, Haig and his partners Bob Carter, Dan Dreger, and Walter Lack knew Ocean’s 11 would be in it for the long haul and cemented its position in San Diego by purchasing the property and doubling the size of the operation.

Reflecting on the last 20 years, Haig Kelegian recognizes the unique position that Ocean’s 11 has been in for two decades. Located in North San Diego County, Ocean’s 11 has always been the perfect spot for players from neighboring Orange and Riverside counties, as well as all of San Diego. As Haig explains, “We are smack in the middle of great people who enjoy a great game, customer service and outstanding food.”

When asked why Ocean’s 11 has remained the number one spot to play for 20 years running, Haig is quick to mention the employees. “No matter how far ahead you are in offering new games or promotions, eventually others will try to copy you. However, the one thing they can’t duplicate is our amazing staff. I have owned casinos all over the state and played all over the country, and no one compares to the friendliest group of people we have at Ocean’s 11. People call us a family for a reason.”

Get Ready For Ocean’s 11 20th Anniversary weekend celebration
Ocean’s 11 knows how to party! Ocean’s marks this milestone with a trifecta of like no other.

The party starts early on Thursday, Jan. 26 with its second Card Player Poker Tour series running through Sunday, Jan. 29, featuring a $150,000 estimated prize pool, with a $200 buy-in, $40 entry fee, and a $10 staff add-on. Best yet, it has six day 1 starting times at 10 am and 6 pm Thursday through Saturday with day 2 on Sunday, January 29.

As a bonus, Ocean’s offers a Quantum Reload day 2B buy-in option for those who do not want to fight their way through day 1 qualifiers. As always, don’t let the $150,000 estimate fool you, as Zaven Esmaili expects the prize pool to exceed $200,000. So be sure to check both websites for prize pool updates throughout the weekend. Lastly, Ocean’s 11 is planning three Card Player Poker Tour tournaments this year so watch for future dates!

Ocean’s 11 is really pulling out all the stops by overhauling its hallmark $500,000 Racing For Dollars promotion for the first time in over 10 years. Its new $100,000 MONTHLY Racing For Dollars now pays out more often and pays more per hour!

Players can cash out their rebates any time during the month to receive $2 an hour for every 20 hours of play, $3 an hour for 100 hours of play, $4 an hour for 150 hours of play or $5 for 200 hours of play. Regular players are ecstatic and others are vowing to start playing every day. Ocean’s expects to run the promotion for years to come.

Finally, what’s an anniversary without a party? Since it’s a milestone, one day is not enough. On Saturday, January 28, Ocean’s will be giving away $10,000 in cash along with milestone souvenirs and a cake-cutting ceremony. The party continues on Sunday with amazing prize giveaways nearly all day long. Don’t miss out on the party, cash and prizes!

Ocean’s 11 Team

If Haig Kelegian Sr. is Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra, not George Clooney) then these 11 people complete the team that operates the best casino in San Diego. No one knows better than Haig that without them Ocean’s would just be another room with tables. Accordingly, we take this opportunity to hear from them directly.

Zaven Esmaili (Casino Manager)

“Although I have worked with Haig Kelegian Sr. and his family for over 20 years at his other casinos, I was new to Ocean’s 11 in 2015. Working at Oceans has been a great experience. All the staff and players are friendly and laid back. I have already made lifelong friends and look forward to doing my best to make the team even stronger in the years to come.”

Kathy Poelke (Controller)

“I have been on the team since 1999. There is never a dull moment here at Ocean’s. I think that is why I have made it here so long. Players and employees always manage to do something new to put a smile on my face.”

Tanya Mendoza (Food & Beverage Manager)

“I began at Ocean’s 11 about six months after it opened. I started out as a server and after five years worked my way up to food and beverage manager. Although I never worked in the military I fully understand the expression that an army runs on its stomach. Feeding nearly 1,000 players a day is both a challenge and fun. It is very rewarding to constantly hear players say we have the best food at great prices.”

Steve Gallagher (Poker Lead Floor)

“Ocean’s 11 has been home to my family for 20 years. It has been one of best entertainment and gambling venues in San Diego to countless locals, travelers and first-time enthusiasts. Oceans, as we call it, is the place where friendships, comradery, and teamwork are second to none. Thanks for the first 20 and we look forward to meeting new friends in the next 20.”

Ed Briggs (Poker Lead Floor)

“I’ve been in the business for over 30 years, spending the last 28 consecutive years at Ocean’s 11 and a former competitor in the city. I love seeing and talking to the same players every day. I’m proudest of being instrumental in establishing Ocean’s NO ABUSE policy toward employees and players.”

Lonnie Overall (Poker Lead Floor)

“I will always be grateful for the opportunity Ocean’s 11 has offered me to provide for my family, work with amazing people, and to serve our awesome customers. Management has always treated me like family through all the ups and downs life throws at you. Thank you Ocean’s 11.”

Rachel Kinney (Casino Administrator)

“I joined the team in 2007. I loved the place so much that I wanted to learn everything and soon had done a variety of jobs including poker board, podium, dealing, and floor. In 2010 new management offered me the chance to run the administrative side of the gaming operations. I accepted wholeheartedly and have never regretted my decision. I love the people so much that I even got married here with customers and employees in attendance. Ocean’s knows how I feel about it!”

Richelle Pittman-Kiyabu (Cage Manager)

“It has been my honor and pleasure to serve at Ocean’s 11 for 11 years. I’m proud to be a part of such a dedicated team that strives to be the best casino family in San Diego. I hope to remain a part of the team for the next 20 years.”

Sarah Lotito (Human Resources)

“I started working at Ocean’s 11 in 2004 as a food server. Over the years I have gone to school to improve my education. I began in administration in 2015. I love working in human resources because it gives me the chance to work directly to improve the lives of the employees that I have worked alongside for over 10 years and who have become my family. I couldn’t ask for a better company or team to work with.”

Michael Banks (Table Games Floor)

“I could not be happier working anywhere else. I love all the customers and enjoy every day at work. I enjoy watching players have fun and especially when they win big. Ocean’s 11 has the friendliest atmosphere and the best games. I hope to be at Ocean’s 11 for life!”

Stephen Vuong (Table Games Floor)

“I have been with Ocean’s for over 10 years starting as a dealer. Since that time the staff and players have become a second family. When I got married earlier this year I looked around and smiled when I realized how my personal family and Oceans family had merged seamlessly into my life. I take pride in ensuring both customer and employee satisfaction. I could not be happier.” ♠