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Miscellaneous Poker Odds and Ends

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Apr 26, 2017


2017 TDA Summit VIII: Every two years, the Tournament Directors Association hosts a Summit providing poker tournament directors from around the world with an opportunity to meet and discuss important tournament issues/problems affecting our poker industry. This year the Summit will be held Friday and Saturday, June 30-July 1 at the fabulous Aria Resort and Casino. Attendance is free for TDA members thanks to the generous support from sponsors Aria, World Poker Tour, Genesis Gaming and Bravo Poker.

If you are a poker room manager or a poker tournament director, you can get news updates, a copy of the agenda/schedule, and information on room reservations and registration by going to I encourage every cardroom to send at least one representative so you have a voice in the rules. At the Summit, tournament directors will have the opportunity to review and amend current TDA rules, provide input and adopt new regulations, and network with other poker room executives.

Nevada Poker Room Closures: The demand for poker in Las Vegas has been decreasing over the past few years resulting in fewer cardrooms and fewer poker tables. I was dismayed to learn that 21 poker rooms have closed in Las Vegas in the past five years: Silverton, Fitzgeralds, O’Sheas, Tropicana, Ellis Island, Jokers Wild, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, Riviera, M Resort, Circus Circus, El Cortez, Palms, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Hooters, Westgate, Aliante, Union Plaza, The Linq, the Hard Rock, and most recently in April, 2017, the Monte Carlo. The Las Vegas Strip has dropped about 25 percent of the number of poker tables it had 10 years ago.

Poker cutbacks aren’t just happening in Las Vegas; they are occurring around the entire state of Nevada. According to an article I recently read, poker reached its peak about ten years ago when Nevada’s 907 poker tables netted about $168 million. In 2016, Nevada was down to 661 tables that took in $118 million.

Personally, I think that no-limit poker has been bad for our industry. I know that the large majority of players love the game, but bankrolls are lost so quickly in no-limit compared to limit poker. Recreational players used to be able to sit down in a low-limit hold’em game and have $100 last for several hours or more. With no-limit, that same $100 can be gone on the first hand. Other factors that hurt poker are the costs associated with running poker rooms. A conservative estimate is that it takes more than 10 times as many employees to run a 10-table cardroom as it does to operate a few rows of slot machines. The poker tables also take up a lot more valuable room on the casino floor.

Obviously we need to put our heads together and figure out how to grow the poker market. I would advise poker rooms to offer free poker lessons at a designated time each week. On Card Player Cruises, Jan Fisher and I give free lessons on the second morning of the cruise. We advise everyone that “these lessons really are for beginners” and we make sure that the novices have a good time. We go over key instruction multiple times and we add humor to the lessons. We cover a wide variety of information including which types of hands to stay with before the flop, how the blinds and button work, hand rankings, proper betting/raising procedures, some basic strategy, poker terminology, etc.

After about an hour lesson, we start a live $2-$4 limit hold’em game with a $20 buy-in for the people who were in the lessons. I stay with them for a while to make them feel comfortable in the game. The lesson usually yields at least one $2-$4 game that runs the entire week for the beginners as well as those who are relatively new to poker and those who want to play low-limit. Over the past 25 years, I estimate that we have introduced at least 3,000 new players to the game through our beginners’ lessons.

A Social Experiment: Depending on when you read this issue of Card Player, you may have time to play in Commerce Casino’s “Social Experiment” tournament scheduled for Saturday, April 29, as part of the California State Poker Championship series. It will be interesting to see if the $350 buy-in tournament will meet its $100,000 guarantee. It is being called the Social Experiment because cellular phones, headphones, sunglasses, and hoods will be banned from the poker tournament.

Tournament director extraordinaire Matt Savage explained that the idea is to bring back the social and fun aspect of poker by encouraging people to talk to each other and interact. Medical assistant aids such as service dogs, hearing aids, prescription glasses, and hats will obviously still be allowed to be used during the tournament.

New itineraries set for Card Player Cruises: The entire 2017 and most of the 2018 itineraries have just been posted on the website. Please check out our schedule and give us a call at 888-999-4880 with questions or to sign up. Card Player Cruises is celebrating our 25th anniversary on the Oct. 14, 2017, cruise with a $340 buy-in, $25,000 guaranteed tournament on the largest ship in the world, the Harmony of the Seas. I will be hosting each cruise, so please join me for the vacation of a lifetime! ♠

Linda JohnsonLinda is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. She is available to host poker seminars, corporate poker events, and charity tournaments. You can contact her through her at