Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Orlando is not blooming

Last night I started at the Flamingo before heading to Bill's. Across the table from me was an older man named Don, obviously well known to the Flamingo poker room staff, since everybody addressed him by name without introduction. He is not a slouch as a player, obviously having tons of poker experience. He even claimed to have been playing hold'em for 40 years.

He has an ugly habit of announcing what he thinks other players have while the hand is in progress. For example, a tight player open-raises to $22 in a $1-2 game, and Don says, "Big pair," while there are four people yet to act on the raise. Now, this isn't exactly an astounding leap of logic, but it's still completely improper and against the rules. In the first 30 minutes of play (we had started a new game), he does such things four times, with the dealer saying nothing about it.

In none of these four cases was the play obviously affected, but it's hard to know. For example, in one case he was not involved in the hand, and when Player A bet and Player B made a substantial raise, Don turned to A and said, "You're beat--give it up." Player A did so. Would he have done the same without the coaching? It's impossible to know. In another case, there were four parts of a straight on the board; anybody holding a 6 would have the straight. On the river, somebody bet, and Don said, "He has the 6 for sure." The last remaining opponent folded. Again, we can't know whether the outcome would have been the same anyway. But it's always possible that that player hadn't even noticed the possible straight until Don made his remark, or had noticed it but didn't believe the bettor had the straight and would have called with, say, two pairs.

None of his chatter had affected hands that I had been in, but I wanted his talk to stop before a situation arose in which it cost me money. So I resorted to my usual approach when this sort of thing is going on. Immediately after Don's latest violation, I asked the dealer, "Are players allowed to speculate out loud about what other people are holding when there is still action pending?" I know perfectly well that the answer is no, but I think that phrasing it as a question, and one posed to the dealer rather than to the offending player, is the least confrontational way I can get the issue addressed. Virtually every time I have done this, the dealer has been prompted (finally) to speak up and remind players not to do it.

Not this time. This dealer, a guy named Orlando, hesitated a moment (which I interpret to mean that he knew exactly what was going on and what his response should be, but he didn't want to do anything about it), then said, "It's OK." I don't think he literally meant that what was happening was not against the rules; he was just trying to get me to drop the matter. No chance, pal. So I asked more directly: "Really? It's OK by your house rules for somebody not in the hand to say what he thinks other players have when there are still decisions to be made?"

Orlando's face clouded. He was obviously unhappy to be challenged. Through nearly gritted teeth he snarled, "Everything is fine, sir."

OK, so for whatever reason this guy isn't going to do his job. Fine. Next up the chain, then. "Would you call the floor, please?"

Orlando's response: "Oh, you're one of those guys, huh?" Then, louder, to the whole table, "Watch out, folks, we have one of those guys at the table."

So I repeated more firmly, "Would you call the floor, please?" He finally did.

Now the floor man comes over, a guy named Charlie. I tell him, "We have a player who is repeatedly commenting out loud on what he thinks other players' cards are, and the dealer says that that's perfectly OK under your rules."

Orlando chimes in, "It's only Don."

Aha! That tells me pretty clearly that this is a recurring issue, and that the dealers have decided to just ignore it for this particular player. Don is, I have to admit, a generous tipper. I suspect that that is more than a small part of why things are the way they are.

But ignoring Orlando's interjection, I ask Charlie, "Is it true that players are allowed to speculate out loud about other players' hand while there is still action pending?"

Before Charlie can answer, Orlando pipes up again: "It was heads-up, Don and just one other player."

Well, this is the very definition of a half-truth. It was certainly true that Don was very free to talk about what he thought his opponent had when it was just two of them left to contest a pot. But I know perfectly well that this isn't against the rules, and it doesn't bother me. When I mentioned above that Don had done this four times, I wasn't including such instances--wasn't even trying to keep track of them.

The game has continued during this discussion, and I turn my attention briefly to the cards I have just been dealt--pocket aces! Ick. What rotten timing. I turn back, and see that Charlie is walking away! Another dealer has called him to the next table for something. I say, "Excuse me...." Charlie says, "Just a minute, I'll be right back." OK, so I'll play my aces.

I win a small pot when nobody calls my raise. Charlie doesn't return. It seems apparent to me that, just like Orlando, he would rather not have to address the issue at all.

But at least the discussion has caught Don's attention, and he mostly stops the infractions. There is one more, about 45 minutes later. Four players in the hand. First to act makes a $40 bet. Don is second. He says, "I think you have pocket queens. I call." There are still two players left to act. We have a new dealer at this point, of course. Just like Orlando, he says not a word about it.

When I finally decide to leave, I corner Charlie and again ask the question he never answered. First he tries to duck it by saying, "The dealer says that it was heads up." I'm aware that Charlie is disadvantaged, not having witnessed the events in question. Still, I'm highly suspicious that he knows that this has been going on with this particular player for a long time. But I give him the benefit of the doubt, and ask him to address it as a hypothetical, assuming that the offender is not in the hand, or he is in the hand but there are multiple other players yet to act. Charlie agrees that in such cases, it is not acceptable.

So why do your dealers let it go on without saying anything? Charlie's first excuse is that Don was drunk. I ask, "So it's not against your rules to talk about the hand in progress if the player involved is drunk?" Charlie says no, that's not the case. (Hard to figure why Charlie mentioned that as a defense, then.) He speculates that the dealers didn't suspect any collusion between Don and other players. I point out that I don't think that formal collusion is the chief concern; inadvertant helping of another player is, in my view, a far more frequent problem. Charlie agrees that for both reasons, such conduct should be stopped. We also agree that it's commonly an innocent violation made by a player new to casino poker, with bad habits developed in casual home games. Such players, in my experience, are highly amenable to a gentle explanation of why they can't make comments like that in a public poker room. They apologize, quickly grasp the potential problems, and stop doing it. Don does not fall into this category. He has tons more experience than the greenie who just doesn't realize it's against the rules. Charlie is thus left, finally, without any good excuse for why his dealers ignore repeated, flagrant violations. "I would need to speak to them to find out why they let it go on," he says. I leave it at that.

I do not consider it a negative reflection on the Flamingo that Don, or other people like him, do what they do. But it is a negative reflection on the Flamingo that the dealers ignore it. Worse, in my view, is that they appear to selectively enforce the rule, as suggested by Orlando's explanation: "It's only Don"--as if that actually justifies the whole situation, somehow. This is also clearly suggested in Charlie's explanation that the player involved was drunk. He seems to think it's OK not to enforce rules against drunk customers, though the reasoning behind this decision escapes me.

But in my opinion, the most shameful part of the whole episode was how my concern was addressed. Orlando clearly knew what was going on. He had heard the improper comments and decided to ignore them, and openly resented being called on it. But the way I addressed the problem initially was so non-confrontational that he need not have lost face in the least. Just saying something like, "That's a good point. Players, please remember not to talk about the hand while it's in progress," would likely have solved the problem without getting anybody upset. Instead, he chose to lie about what the rule is, then just try to get me to shut up, in order to avoid having to deal with it. To make matters worse, when I saw that he wasn't going to do his job and asked for the floor, he mocked me for it. I can't remember ever being treated with such rudeness and overt hostility by a dealer.

Then, to top it off, we had a poker room supervisor who also tried his hardest to avoid having to actually step in and do anything about the problem, and who, when eventually confronted directly about it, made lame excuses for his dealers' inaction, rather than admitting, even in the hypothetical, something like, "If what you're telling me is really what happened, then the dealers should have stepped in earlier."

Between Orlando and Charlie, it was perhaps the most unprofessional conduct I've ever witnessed in poker room staff. Absolutely shameful.

I deliberately skipped one part of the story, leaving it for the end here. After Charlie walked away from the table without having said or done anything meaningful, and without having resolved the problem, Don clearly felt some sense of vindication. He looked right at me and snarled, "I can say anything I want." When I ignored him, he repeated more loudly, "I can say anything I want!"

Sadly, at the Flamingo poker room, that appears to be true.


gr7070 said...

Any chance you're emailing this to someone of importance at the Flamingo? I'd be curious in a response if any.

Rakewell said...

I thought about it, but couldn't find any executive names on the Flamingo web site. So I think I'll just trust that it will percolate to those who should hear about it. From past experience with telling stories about specific places and people, I know that they tend to get it pointed out to them.

Pete said...

This is a constant problem. But as a dealer I see another side to it.

Sometimes we have to pick and choose our battles. I have learned that asking players to not comment on the hands is not usually successful at stopping the conduct and in fact frequently invites conflict from players who assure me that I am the only dealer in the entire world who has ever claimed this is a rule.

While working in one locals room I had my supervisor tell me in my 90 day evaluation that I needed to be more flexible with the players. This was explained to me as "back off from insisting on things like players not talk about a hand in progress or even act in turn (while they want me to run the action -- I shouldn't criticize the player on the button who looks at his hand and goes out for a smoke before the UTG player has acted.)

So knowing that I am not going to get a player like Don to stop, and knowing that the floor certainly isn't going to support my attempts to do it. And knowing that my attempts to get these players to act consistent with rules is more likely to result in conflict than correction . . . why as a dealer would I want to address this issue?

Of course that is no excuse for the rude way you were treated by the staff.

Rakewell said...

Wow--that's ugly, Pete. Certainly puts the dealer into a no-win situation, if you can't enforce the rules but also obviously can't openly tell somebody who complains that the room doesn't enforce the rule as a matter of policy.

Rob C said...

well it is a harrahs property, so its pretty much a joke anyways. its pretty crazy how people abuse rules and employees dont enforce them. good for the flamingo that their players are so bad that people will keep coming back to take money off of them, thats their only redeeming quality

veeRob said...

This is why I only play at the bigger poker rooms with a solid reputation of being player-friendly. Venetian, Bellagio, Caesar's...

Rob C said...

ill have to disagree with you veerob on that, while the venetian has great customer service, bellagio leaves ALOT to be desired, the same can be said for ceasars (at least with my experiences). I woudl say best customer service on strip would be planet hollywood, venetian, and the wynn. TI too. I think i would rate bellagio as some of the worst customer services in the city, however their 2-5 is the softest in the city, so that makes up for it

ChezChani said...

Pete, I don't think that's the case with Orlando. He has been dealing at Flamingo for years, had a failed attempt at working the floor and really is just one of those sort of burnt out dealers who has been dealing too long. He probably dealt poker in the days when customer service was not expected at the poker table and all dealers were rude. That's just what I think. I don't really know anything.

Local Rock said...

So, some day it would be interesting to hear just what exactly Orlando and Charlie imagine their jobs are. What is the purpose for which they exist in a poker room and get paid?

"Between Orlando and Charlie, it was perhaps the most unprofessional conduct I've ever witnessed in poker room staff. Absolutely shameful." Yes indeed, disgusting, and there can be no legitimate reason for it to be tolerated ever, only rationalization. This destroys the game, turns it into a slot machine at best and makes poker impossible, it is cheating, and floor staff choosing to permit it is corrupt. It does not depend.

Thank-you for being "one of those" so I don't have to go there and be sickened. And I don't give a fig if they were "rude." That is trivial. The "customer service" they are there for is to run the game with integrity. They have none, so neither does that game.

Rakewell said...

Back when I was actively applying for dealer positions, I had no experience, but tried to add something in my application or cover letter that would make me stand out. This was my standard language: "I have no experience dealing outside the classroom, but among my best attributes is that I am a quick study. I also tend to be quite a stickler for doing things right—by the book. Because I think that the dealer’s primary job is to protect the integrity of the game, this quality should serve me well."

Now that I'm more world-wise about how things actually operate, I wonder if that self-description actually worked as poison, identifying me as a potential problem employee, that would cause headaches for the floor and other dealers. It's hard to imagine the company that hires Charlie and Orlando thinking that an employee who wanted to be sure everything was done correctly was a desirable thing to have.

steeser said...

I would second the note on Bellagio not being top shelf. I was playing 2/5 after the Super Bowl this year, and after raising pre-flop and getting called, I was checked to on the flop. I asked my lone opponent how much money he was playing (his chips were somewhat obscured, and he was sitting across the table from me). He said, "No, I'm not telling.". Undeterred by this bit of juvenile behavior, I asked the dealer, and he said, "He doesn't have to tell you." I was incredulous, and after arguing with the dealer for a minute, I requested the floor. When he came over he immediately chastised both the player and the dealer that I absolutely had the right to know what my opponent was playing.

Rakewell said...

The dealer was half right. The player doesn't have to tell you, but he does have to let you see his chips clearly, and allow the dealer to count them if you request it.

gr7070 said...

>>>Now that I'm more world-wise about how things actually operate, I wonder if that self-description actually worked as poison<<<

I suspect it did.

I think you may have even missed the biggest responsiibility. It's not aobut the headaches you might have caused or being tough to deal with.

The biggest responsbility of the dealer is to make money for the casino! That's very close to their only responsibility.

Of course, running a game that all can enjoy is the key to that. Following rules *usually* helps that, but as you see not everyone feels that following the rules is enjoyable or that all the rules are equally important.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with your opinion that asking the dealer if speculating about another player's hand is the least intrusive and most polite way to address the issue.

It seems very passive aggressive to me. If I was doing something wrong, I would much rather have another player calmly tell me after the hand is over. If I feel I want validation then I would ask the dealer to confirm.

Something like, "excuse me sir, I couldn't help but notice that you were speculating on what the other player had while the hand is in progress. That happens to be against the rules because it may influence the other players decisions. Could you please stop doing that?"

Am I being naive that people like to be addressed directly?

Poker Bully

Rakewell said...

Bully: I do occasionally handle it approximately that way if (1) it seems clear that the offender is new to casino poker and just doesn't know better, and (2) I'm seated right next to him, so that I can say it quietly, and not embarrass him by having to say something loud enough for everybody to hear. My usual line is roughly, "You know, you probably shouldn't say things like that during the hand, because other players may not be as good as you at figuring out what somebody else has, and you could give them ideas that they're supposed to come up with on their own."

But neither of those conditions was met at the Flamingo that night. Furthermore, it was obvious that the dealer had heard the comments and wasn't doing anything about it. So my motivation was not only to get the comments stopped, but to prod the dealer to take some responsibility for controlling the table.

Gargamello said...

Poker Bully is right. It's extremely passive aggressive to not address someone directly if you're sitting at a game a few feet from them.

I think the main problem here is playing in a dump like the Flamingo. It's not the Wynn or the Bellagio. So you're gonna have to suck it up and tolerate some jerkoffs if you're gonna choose to play there. What's so confusing about that?