Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rules? We ain't got no rules! We don't need no rules! I don't have to show you any stinking rules!

And that is officially my longest blog post title ever.

Last week, before my trip to Utah, I put in a couple of sessions at the Flamingo because the World Series of Beer Pong was there, and I had a hunch that its participants would (1) want to play poker, and (2) not be very good at it. I was right on both counts.

While there, I ran into several rules problems, which isn't a particular surprise, given my previous observations there.


On my second night I had at the table the same guy (Don) that I discussed here. To make it even more interesting, Orlando was dealing again, and we had the same floor guy, too--Charlie. Because it had been proven to my satisfaction previously that nobody was going to lift a finger to stop this moron from talking about every single hand in progress, I decided to just sit back and watch, rather than complain about it.

Sure enough, he ran his mouth non-stop, just as before. He would overtly announce what his cards were (at least sometimes truthfully), what he thought other players' cards were (e.g., on a three-bet, "He's got aces for sure"), what he thought other players should do ("You have to call him here--you know that, right?"), etc.

And, just as the last time I played at a table with him, not a single dealer did or said a thing about it. We went through three different dealers before Don left for the day, and none of them gave even the slightest hint that there was anything wrong with this ongoing monologue.

Why should they? It would likely cut into their tips (he is a very generous tipper), and they already know that the floor guy, Charlie, isn't going to back them up if they or a player complains about it; he doesn't care that Don talks about every hand in flagrant violation of the rules.

So the beat goes on.


Guy on phone gets dealt in and plays his hand while continuing to talk. Another player asks about this. Dealer says it's fine. Player says, "When I played here last night, they wouldn't deal me in because I was on my phone."

He is far from the first to notice that the rule on this point varies from moment to moment, dealer to dealer, day to day.


One guy makes a bet by picking up part of a stack of chips, reaching over the betting line, and dropping a couple of them, then returning the rest of the chips to his stack. Another player asks the dealer why all of those chips aren't committed to the pot, since they all went over the line. Dealer tells him that only chips released are committed. The player very believably launches into a story about how on the previous night he lost a lot of money in a hand because that dealer said that the house rule was that all chips in your hand that crossed the betting line were committed to the pot. He was understandably perturbed that that rule, like the one about cell phones, appeared and disappeared at the whim of the dealers. His friend, who had also been playing the previous night, confirms that the first guy is relating things accurately. I reassure them that they are not the first ones to notice that this rule comes and goes without notice.

I actually remember when that rule was implemented a couple of years ago. (I thought I had blogged about it at the time, but I find no such post now.) I know somebody who was a dealer there at the time, and we talked about the problems it was going to cause. As I recall the conversation, I told him that I anticipated that it was going to get enforced with extreme variability--some dealers doing it all the time, others never, others only when somebody complained (or used it for angle-shooting against a less knowledgeable opponent). He agreed. It probably also varies with who the supervisor is at any given time, since, like dealers, some of them will be sticklers for the rules and others will be lax.


Dang it. There really was a fourth example, this one involving a straddler who was allowed to raise after having first checked. Unfortunately, the notes I quickly scribbled about what happened are so brief, cryptic, and illegible that I can't reconstruct exactly what happened, and I no longer remember the details. (I had intended to write this post as soon as I got home, but then other stuff got in the way--you know how that goes.) Sorry.

The larger point is, though, that the Flamingo continues to be one of the worst-managed poker rooms in the city, in terms of having rules that make sense and that are enforced consistently. I have previously posted about times when the dealer queered the action by talking about the hand as it played out (here), and about the difficulty I have had getting dealers to replace obviously marked cards (here).

The bottom line is this: As far as I can tell, nobody in a position of any authority at the Flamingo gives a damn about consistent enforcement of either the most basic, universal rules of poker, or the house-specific rules that they choose to have on their books. Game integrity means nothing to the poker room management there, and if you play there, you can't count on what the rules are or how or whether they will be enforced. Even if you ask about some specific rule, it may well be different when the next dealer sits down.

For the last several months, Bluff magazine has been running a column titled "Call the Floor," in which a poker room manager answers sometimes difficult rules questions. The blurb about the author of the column says this: "Andy Rich is the Poker Room Manager for several Harrah’s Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, including Harrah’s, Flamingo, and O’Sheas. He is also a Shift Manager every summer on the live side at the World Series of Poker. Got a poker rule question? Send it to Andy at" (See here, e.g.) the column is consistently good--I haven't yet disagreed with Mr. Rich's discussions of the scenarios readers ask about. So I'm going to email him a link to this post and ask for his comment. If he offers any for public consumption, I'll post it here.


Even though that email address for Mr. Rich was published in the November, 2009, issue, I got an error message in return: "User unknown."


Anonymous said...

So if you realize that the rules are poorly enforced there, why do you continue to play there?

Rakewell said...

For the same reasons that I play in places that are perenially too cold, or have uncomfortable chairs, or are less convenient to get to, or have bad parking situations, or have bad dealers, or have too much noise or cigarette smoke: Because I make money, and, secondarily, because I like the variety of having 55+ poker rooms available to choose from, depending on my preferences for any given day.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, you lose your rights to post a lengthy blog article about how poorly a poker room is run when you continue to frequent it and give them your business anyway. 54 poker rooms is plenty to choose from.