Saturday, July 14, 2012

Riviera success, Tropicana fail

A few months ago, a friend of mine who lives in Australia wanted to organize a couple of get-togethers for people who, like him, participate in an online poker forum. He comes to Vegas for about six weeks every year. After consulting with potential participants about when they might be in town, he picked two dates, June 24 and July 8, both Sunday evenings. Between those two dates, nearly everybody who was interested in coming could make at least one of them.

I volunteered to make arrangements for small private poker tournaments. Because I live in town and know the poker rooms pretty intimately, I thought I was in a good position to pick spots. The poker room manager of the Riviera piped up on the forum, actively offering his facilities at a discounted rate, so that was half of the decision easily made. I could have done both nights there, but wanted to spread the business around a little, because I thought that people attending from out of town might not have seen other poker rooms and would appreciate the variety.

The first event at the Riviera was just perfect. They were great hosts and took really good care of us, taking pains to be sure that we all had a wonderful time. I could not have been more pleased. If you're ever have occasion to have a private poker tournament, I recommend that you put the Riviera near or at the top of your list of venues to consider.

The Tropicana, however, is another story. I spoke to the poker room manager by telephone in late April, explaining what we were looking for. He promised that he would come up with a proposal for a tournament cost and structure and get back to me. He did, several days later.

My first warning sign of trouble was that he clearly had me mixed up with somebody else for whom he was also negotiating a private poker event. He had the date wrong, he had the number of expected participants wrong, and he remembered that we had wanted to have pizza available, which is something I had not requested. But after getting those items corrected, he gave me his proposal, and I accepted it: July 8, 8 p.m., total of $75 buy-in. The tournament was to be followed by low-stakes cash games, and he promised (just as the Riviera had) to lower the usual rake for any cash games we started. I told him that exactly what games we played would depend on the preferences of those who showed up, but that something like the dealer's-choice mixed game that they regularly offer on Monday nights might be interesting to our guests. He said that would be fine, and if we did that, we could make it either $2/4 or $3/6 limits.

So it appeared that all was in place. Early Sunday I sent him an email as a final confirmation that all was in place. I did not get a reply (still haven't, in fact), but I didn't worry about this. I just assumed that the room manager had the day off and thus didn't see the message. In retrospect, I should have seen that lack of reply as more of a red flag than I did.

Just before 7:15, as I was getting ready to leave home, the first people to arrive were sending messages via Twitter that the staff of the poker room had no idea what private tournament they were talking about. Some small misunderstanding, I thought. So I quickly printed out a copy of the email the poker room manager had sent me containing the details and stuck it in my pocket as I headed out the door.

When I got there, it was as the others had said. The guy behind the desk knew nothing about it. Furthermore, he had in the interim called the room manager, who had claimed to know nothing about any private tournament. They had just one dealer on duty, running their one and only cash game.

I called the room manager. He said that there had been a flood in his office that destroyed his computer, and he had lost all of his emails for the last few months. I was highly skeptical of this story. (I related it to those who had arrived, and one of them quipped, "So he's telling you that the dog ate his homework." Yep--that's about it.) But he said that they always had dealers on call in case they got busy, and they could have someone there in about 20 minutes, and he would take $5 off of the house's portion of the tournament entry fee to help compensate for the misunderstanding. Fine--that was easier than trying to organize going somewhere else at the last minute.

The dealer arrived, sat into the cash game, and the one that had been in the cash game ran our single-table tournament. But when it was over, we were told that we couldn't open another cash game as we had planned; the dealer who ran our tournament was already on overtime and they couldn't keep him there any longer.

A few of us decided to go over to Bally's and play there instead. Others went their separate ways.

The whole thing was a disorganized mess from that second phone call on. I was embarrassed, because I had promised everybody that all was in place, and the failure made me look bad. (Admittedly I could have been more aggressive about rechecking before the appointed date to make sure that all was set. But I assumed that I didn't need to, that this guy was a professional at running his room, and that when he promised to be ready for a private poker tournament at a certain date and time, he would be.)

So what I said about giving consideration to the Riviera if you need to find a venue for a private poker event? Do the opposite for the Tropicana. Put them at the very bottom of your list, unless you relish the idea of your event being ignored and forgotten.


Rob said...

Interesting. I guess it's just as well I missed the Trop tournament and did indeed make the Riveria tournament, which I agree, was flawless.

One more reason not to ever return to the Trop poker room.

Man InBlack said...

Doesnt sound like your fault. Sounds about par for the course from everything I have heard about the Tropicanas poker room

lightning36 said...

Not much you can do in those situations. But as you said -- the Riviera was outstanding.