Monday, June 18, 2007

Shame on Caesars Palace

Yesterday I played in the Caesars Palace freeroll, for which one qualified by logging 60 hours of cash-game play during the month of May. But the tournament was not what was promised.

Freeroll tournaments as a reward for patronage are often structured with blinds increasing so quickly that the luck:skill ratio is way too large. The Station and Coast ones are notorious in that regard.

Caesars was supposed to be different. One of the attrations, in addition to the handsome $100,000 prize pool, was a slow, reasonable structure that would give enough time for skill to predominate over luck. That's what Caesars promised. But it ain't what they delivered. When I checked in, I picked up a paper with the structure on it, and was shocked to find that they reneged on their promise. We were given 20-minute levels, with blinds doubling every level for the first five levels. Antes started with level 3--a mere forty minutes into the tournament.

Predictably, and inevitably, soon after the first break it turned into a pure luckfest, with the only reasonable move being all-in before the flop. This is just nuts. You might as well just hold a random drawing for the prize money.

Arnold Snyder has a useful metric for assessing the speed of a tournament structure in his book The Poker Tournament Formula. I won't bore you with the details, but the Caesars freeroll structure works out to what Snyder would call a "patience factor" of 3.06, which is just barely into his "skill level 2" (on a scale of 0 to 6). Snyder keeps a database of Vegas daily/weekly tournaments rated on this "skill level" scale: see There's a lot of variation, but typically skill-level-2 tournaments are cheapo daily things with buy-ins of $35-$60. They're for tourists who just want a little tournament fun, without the casino having to invest much in terms of tying up tables and dealers. They're donkfests, or, as the 2+2 forum people like to call them, "donkaments."

I suppose some readers will think this is just sour grapes because I got knocked out in level 5. But I promise I would be saying the same thing if I had won the whole thing. It's the principle: Caesars didn't deliver what it promised. They lied to us, or at least went back on their word.

If a casino can't be trusted to stick to what it promises its customers, it's a slippery slope with no end. Next time maybe they'll decide to make the tournament rolling dice instead of poker, or make the total prize pool $100 instead of $100,000, or just cancel the thing altogether after getting their month of increased business. Why not? It's all of a kind with radically altering the structure of the tournament that you promised. What they did was as much a bait-and-switch con job as if they had done any of the other possibilities I just mentioned. It's dishonest, and it's disgraceful.

The next time you see a promotion from Caesars, promising you something in return for playing there, just remember--they now have a demonstrated tendency to renege on their promises. They can't be trusted. And why should I or anybody else patronize a business that can't be trusted to give you what they say they will?

It's really that simple.