Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Luxor improves to mediocre

I hated the old Luxor poker room. It was noisy and smoky, poorly run (for example, you could stand at the front desk for a l-o-n-g time being ignored the employees, who had better things to do than tend to a customer), and their main no-limit game was an insane structure: $1/$1/$3 blinds with a $50 minimum and maximum buy-in. It was just an all-in fest, with half of the game time spent trying to get the pot right and dealing with missed-blind buttons because of that stupid structure. I hadn't bothered with the place since November of 2006.

Recently I read that they moved the room and changed the game, so I decided to give them another chance. I've played three sessions there in the past seven days.

The first thing to note is that it has been highly profitable, with three wins in three tries, net uptick $628 in 7.8 hours, or about $80/hour. That's well above my overall average, and indicative of how soft the games have been. Despite my gripes about some aspects of the room, this will keep me coming back at least occasionally.

The poker room is now the very first thing you see upon entering from the main parking garage. The Luxor also confers the advantage of being nestled between Mandalay Bay and the Excalibur. Either one is a quick indoor walk from the Luxor, making it unusually easy to do a "two-fer" poker hit, locking up a nice little profit from one room and then hitting another, without having to get back in the car and drive somewhere.

It has the sports book on one side, slot machines on the other side of a half-wall, and is roped off from the main pedestrian thoroughfare on a third side. Unfortunately, two of the tables are right up against these ropes, and inconsiderate boobs walking by will stop with their cigars and cigarettes and blow smoke at the table from about three feet away. This is a very loose definition of a "non-smoking" room. Still, it's an improvement from the way things were before.

I heard one of the dealers say that they're planning to enclose this room with real walls. That would be nice, but I'll believe it when I see it. I have no idea whether this "plan" is "construction starts tomorrow" or "somebody said that they'd like to see that happen someday," or somewhere in between.

On all three visits, I've been greeted instantly, seated immediately, and treated very well overall. I can lodge no complaints whatsoever in the service department.

Restrooms are close--right across the hall.

They don't track player hours for comps, so forget about building up enough credits to take your out-of-town visiting family to a nice dinner someday.

The no-limit game structure has finally yielded to something more normal: $1-$2 blinds, with a $50-$200 buy-in. If you drop below $200 (say, by paying the big blind), you can purchase another $200 in chips, so the buy-in is effectively capped at $398. It's pretty silly not to just call it a $400 max. For people who want to start with the most chips possible, what, exactly, is the point in making them buy $200, play one hand, then buy another $200?

There's a nice array of big televisions, easily visible from most seats.

They have no interesting souvenir chips. They just have the standard-issue chips, plus a whole bunch of the creepy "Criss Angel Mindfreak" chips pictured above. They kind of weird me out, if ya know what I mean. When I get them, I make sure they stay buried in my stacks underneath the regular chips, so that Criss is not giving me the stinkeye while I play.

There's a terminology problem at the Luxor. They have a few single-table tournaments during the day. The problem is that they refer to them as, e.g., "the 10:00 p.m. sit-'n'-go." If the problem with that isn't obvious, a bit of background history may help. The single-table tournament was originally conceived by Jack Binion as a satellite system for entry into the World Series of Poker. With Internet poker sites, it's one of the most popular formats (and my personal favorite). Online they are called "sit 'n' go" tables, because they are not scheduled; you sign up, and as soon as there are enough players to fill a table, the thing starts. In fact, there are now multi-table sit-'n'-go tournaments, with the highest I've seen seating 180 players. But however many players and tables are involved, what makes it a "sit-'n'-go" is that it starts whenever enough people have signed up. The Luxor staff has confused "sit-'n'-go" with "single-table tournament." They are not interchangeable terms. If they run this tournament at 10:00 p.m., even if the table isn't filled, then it is a scheduled single-table tournament, not a "sit-'n'-go." For it to be that, they would need to keep an open roster and start the game whenever enough players are enrolled. No, this isn't a huge deal, and only pedants like me will complain about it, but I find it peculiar that a whole room staff of poker professionals don't understand common poker terminology.

They have a unique way of doling out high-hand jackpots. It's done on an hourly basis: $150 to the best hand each hour (with a minimum requirement of, I believe, aces full). During my first session, the dealer explicitly told us that only one of the player's hole cards has to play in order to qualify for the jackpot. I was surprised at this, because that's far from the norm. In fact, I can't think of any room in Vegas that gives high-hand or bad-beat jackpots without both of a player's hole cards being used. In my next session, however, a new player was asking about the jackpot rules, and the dealer said that both hole cards had to play. I checked the small print on the sign to resolve the discrepancy, and the second dealer was correct. Hey, Luxor, here's an idea: Don't have your dealers tell the players incorrect information about the house rules.

Speaking of the dealers, that brings me to the most alarming thing about the Luxor poker room that I've encountered so far: way more dealer problems than I would usually expect. Enough, in fact, that it's worth listing each separately. I should note, in advance, that I'm really very tolerant of ordinary dealer errors. People make mistakes, and it's no big deal. It's unreasonable to expect people to make no errors; all you can reasonably ask is that they (1) know what constitutes an error, and (2) handle the errors correctly when they occur. If those two elements are there, I'll never grouse about the kind of mistakes that are inevitably just part of the game.

Dealer #1

One of the most unprofessional things I've ever witnessed in a dealer was during my last visit to the old Luxor poker room. My table was at the edge of the room, with just a half-wall separating it from the main casino floor. One dealer was completely shameless in openly ogling attractive young women that walked by, would frequently make lurid comments about them to the players, and once even made a "Hey, Baby" call-out to a woman passing. It was unbelieveable. So why do I mention that in a post about the new poker room? Because that dealer is still working there. No, I didn't hear any such things from him this week, but I have no reason to think that this pig will be any better behaved now than he was then.

Dealer #2

First, this is the same guy who gave us wrong information about the jackpots.

Second, he came to work sick. I was sitting in seat 1, right next to him, and he was coughing and sniffling and sneezing and blowing his nose the whole time. It was revolting. I couldn't believe the shift supervisor wouldn't just send him home. Thanks, Luxor, for caring about your patrons so much that you'll expose them all to vacation-ruining cold viruses from your employees.

Third, he made one of the worst mistakes I've seen. I was involved in a huge pot, raised before the flop with multiple players in, and three of us each putting in another $50 on the flop. I made a full house on the river. I was pretty sure that one of my two opponents had a flush, and the other less than that, and this pot was going to be mine. The first guy checked. I bet $75. The big-stacked maniac on my left in seat 2 (who I was confident had the flush) said "raise." Then he pushed forward one stack of $100. Then he pushed forward another stack of $100. Then he pushed forward a third stack of $100. The dealer was just watching him do this. I wasn't really opposed to him putting me all-in; in fact, it's exactly what I wanted. But once he announced "raise," my ideal scenario was a minimum raise, inviting the other player in, before I drop the hammer on them. So I turned to the dealer and asked, "How many trips does he get to make?" Only then did the dealer say, "Oh yeah," and jump into action. He correctly limited the raise to the minimum, $150. The other player folded.

I pretended for a moment that this gave me a difficult decision to make, then said, "I'm all-in." I stacked up the rest of my chips and pushed them forward, joining the $75 I had previously put in. My opponent immediately said "Call," without pushing more chips in. I showed him my full house (pocket 6s, made a set on the flop, and the board paired on the river). My opponent grimly showed me the nut flush that he had made on the turn and had unwisely slow-played. Before I could react, the dealer pushed the huge pot toward me, toppling and merging with my chip stacks. The problem was that the dealer hadn't counted out the remainder of my stacks and taken a matching amount from my opponent. Now we couldn't determine how much I had started with.

He should have immediately called over the floor, but he didn't--probably because he didn't want to have his mistake known--even after I asked him to. (He did the second time I asked, though.) We started the cumbersome process of trying to reconstruct what had been in the pot before the final round of betting, when my opponent came up with an alternative solution. He had eyeballed my stack before putting in his raise. He thought that I had about $35 more than the $150 he had put in. I thought back to what my stacks had looked like, and realized that this was pretty close, certainly within $20 or so. He asked if I would accept $185 as the amount, rather than try to sort it out exactly, and I agreed. He was very gracious and reasonable about the whole thing, especially given how sick he must have felt upon seeing that he misplayed himself out of that much money.

How did the dealer make such an egregious error? Here's a hint: The Super Bowl was on at the time. Here's another hint: Any time a player missed seeing a play because of being involved in a hand, and asked what happened, the dealer gave him a recap. In other words, this idiot dealer was paying a hell of a lot more attention to the football than to the poker. Even as he was pushing me the pot prematurely, he was commenting on a play that had just taken place. His mind was anywhere except where it needed to be. When there's an unsually large pot, with an all-in and a call, every dealer should know that that's the time when he needs to be most scrupulously attentive to getting things right, lest a major mess ensue.

Dealer #3

I was under the gun, that is, just left of the big blind. What was to be my first card was face up on top of the deck in the dealer's hand after she dealt the first card to each of the blinds. This is called a "boxed card" (for reasons that I've never been able to grasp). The standard way of handling this is to show it to all of the players, then put it aside, as if it hadn't been there. That is, it's as if a stray piece of paper had accidentally found its way into the deck; it is just disregarded, and the hand goes on unaffected. (See for another boxed card mishandled by the dealer.) This may not be absolutely universal, but I've never known of any card room that employed a different procedure. It is what I was taught in dealer school and is prescribed the same way in every rule book I've checked.

This dealer, though, called a misdeal, and gathered the cards back in. I didn't feel like challenging her, because as long as I get two random cards I'm satisfied. I meant to ask the supervisor before I left whether that is the room's standard procedure, but then I forgot to do so. So it's possible, but unlikely, that the Luxor's protocol for this situation is different from every other poker room in the world. More likely is that this dealer had just made up her own way of handling it.

To make matters stranger still, she just gave the deck a single riffle shuffle and a cut, then started dealing. It was very strange, I thought, for her not to do a full, standard shuffling procedure (two riffles, one "box" or "strip" shuffle, then another riffle and cut) after declaring a misdeal. That, I'm highly confident, is not the Luxor's prescribed method. Not that this dealer appeared to care....

Dealer #4

I was not involved with this hand, but watched it play out. The final board was 6-7-8-9-10. There were three cards of one suit, so a flush was possible, but on the last round of betting the first player checked, and the second tapped the table and said, "I'll play the board." The first guy said, "Me, too." Then, strangely, they both pushed their hole cards forward face down.

The dealer at this point needs to say something like "I have to see the hands in order to award the pot." It does not matter that a player's best five cards are the five community cards; every poker rule book agrees that the hole cards still must be exposed in order for any player to claim a share of the pot.

Well, not when you've got Dealer #4 in the box. She pulled in the unexposed cards, then split the pot between the two players, without a word being spoken. Apparently, nobody but me found anything out of the ordinary here.

Dealer #5

I noticed that he was wearing a lapel pin that appeared to be in the shape of a carrot. I thought this was pretty strange, and he would surely expect it to provoke questions, so I asked its significance. He said, "I just like to have the ladies ask me about my big carrot," then laughed as if he had made the funniest joke ever.

When he stopped laughing, he said that the real reason was a little promotion for Carrot Top's comedy show at the Luxor. He said he was given the choice between wearing a big button with the promo on it, or the smaller lapel pin, and chose the latter. Then he added, "Besides, it gives me the chance to say, 'I like having the ladies ask me about my big carrot.'" And he laughed again.

The guy needs some serious professional help.

Dealer #6

Again, I wasn't involved in this hand, but three other players were. The final board had a fairly obvious possible straight; any player holding a 10 would have the nuts. On the river, the first player to act moved all-in. The dealer said, "He is all-in with his straight." As it turned out, the guy did indeed have the straight, as did the other player who called him (and the one who didn't have it folded). It didn't take great poker insight to guess that that's what the first player was holding, but for the dealer to say that out loud is, frankly, shocking. It's horribly unprofessional, and has all kinds of potential for queering the action, in the event that one of the players hadn't noticed what was going on.

For example, it's fairly common for a player to be looking for a flush draw to hit, and when he doesn't see the suit he's looking for, he basically tunes out the ranks of the cards and may not notice the straight possibility, sometimes overlooking the fact that he himself has made the straight! It is inexcusable for the dealer to step in and alert him to what he might have missed on his own.

I've commented several times in the past about dealers who inappropriately insert themselves into the action--see and the other posts linked therein. I can only conclude that these dealers are either so resentful that they're dealing rather than playing, or so bored, that they just can't resist openly commenting on what's happening. It's terribly unprofessional, and should be grounds for discipline.


This is a highly aberrant number of significant dealer problems to have noted in just a few hours of play--more, in fact, than I can recall from a similar number of hours spent anyplace else. Luxor, you have a serious problem with dealers not knowing their jobs. Of course there are fine ones there, too; I don't mean to tar them all with the same brush. But it's a disturbing array of unprofessional conduct. The Luxor's poker room management really needs to take this problem seriously and start getting a handle on it. I'm not yet ready to shift the "worst dealers in town" label from the Sahara to the Luxor (see, but a couple of more such examples, and I'll be willing to declare it at least a tie.

Still, with plenty of action going on at the times I want to play, soft games, and easy access to two other card rooms, I will certainly be hitting the Luxor more often than I have in the past. If they really do improve the room physically by walling it in, and start keeping track of comp hours, they will go a long way toward making it one of my favorite places to play.


Pete said...

In regard to the playing the board issue. Though i have never seen a room which allowed a player to play the board without showing his cards, you are incorrect in asserting that every rulebook has this requirement. Robert's Rules specifies:

9. You must declare that you are playing the board before you throw your cards away; otherwise you relinquish all claim to the pot. (The rule for tournament play is you must retain your hand and show it if asked, in order to win part of the pot.)

Rakewell said...

Thanks. I should have been more careful and said "every rule book that I checked"--which would have been true, because I stopped after checking two of them, and Robert's Rules wasn't among them! I think he should change that to conform with the norm, though (as if anybody cared what my opinion was).

Poker_Guy said...

It would be a real shame if the poker room managers did not read the room reviews you put together. In having read all of your blogs and reviews, I believe them to be a non-biased and honest opinion of the poker room you have actually played in and observed. You often offer opinions for improvements that could be made along with observations regarding dealers that I would definetely find helpful if I were running that room.

Maybe you should start a publication making it available to the rooms. Of course then this would lead to your new poker room consulting job..

Ian said...

I used to be a regular at the Luxor, but haven't played there in several months.

When the Luxor first opened their new room they claimed they would build a wall along the bank of slot machines, and build a rail along the other two sides of the room that are currently roped off. If it hasn't happened by now, I don't think it's going to happen.

I agree that the Luxor poker room has more than its share of bad employees. Has Ina dealt to you yet? That said, I think you are being a little too hard on some of them. The dealer with the carrot pin is a really nice guy who is able to keep the game moving fast while engaging the players with jokes and whatever. Most people like him.

TheVegasFlea said...

I may have said something to the floor when I was leaving concerning Dealer #6, with him blurting out the possible winning hand with an all-in. That's just unacceptable.