I am not a people person. Although I started my poker career in a live setting, for the simple reason that the internet hadn’t been invented yet, I took to online play like a cat to a bowl of sardines. Tracking software and HUDs transformed the sardines into a silver platter of ultra-gushy gourmet supreme kitty treats that simultaneously fired jingle balls and catnip mice in all directions.
Suffice it to say I was not thrilled to be forced back, thanks to Black Friday, to the cacophony of casinos, largely because my opponents ceased to be data-streams and returned to their original, smelly, corporeal form. And in Vegas I was introduced to a new sub-population: local promo-nits.
Room 1. $1/2 NLHE.
In winter I switch from nights to days in order to get more sunlight in an attempt to avoid getting really strange. I’ve found this is most easily achieved by skipping a sleep period. Such a transition found me in one of my regular rooms at about the time normal people eat breakfast. I got settled in with a large and dreadful coffee and watched names get added to the list for the first game of the day.
Also watching the list was Peeping Tom. His name was on the screen directly under mine. Two tourists were persuaded by brush to sit down since, well you know, Kat’s here and there are a couple of other names on the list and we just had a phone-in who’ll turn up any minute.
I like this room. They are enthusiastic and aggressive about starting games.
Tom is neither enthusiastic nor aggressive. His method of watching the list, and the slowly-forming game, is to adopt a vantage point behind a nearby bar from which he periodically pokes his head before disappearing again. As such, he does fuck all to help get a game going. The peek-a-boo routine continues until seven players are seated at which point he scuttles to the table and barks at the dealer to punch him in the Bravo.
Room 2. $1/3 NLHE.
Flicking through Bravo I noticed that a room not usually on my schedule had added a promo involving weekly NFL picks. Since handicapping the NFL is a hobby of mine, and Bravo indicated one game was currently in progress, I popped in.
On my occasional forays into this room in the past I had noticed that management used a liberal definition of a “game in progress.” Since my last visit things had slipped further downhill.
A gentleman that I recognized from earlier attempts to actually play poker in this room was reading a book in the 7-seat. Two other players that looked vaguely familiar and thus likely locals sat chatting next to each other in the 2 and 3. All three had the table minimum stacked in front of them. There was a fourth similar stack in front of the unoccupied 9-seat. I suppose that technically the game was dead-spread since a deck of cards was fanned face up in the center of the table, but there was no dealer in the box and the glass cover over the tray was locked in place.
“Game in progress,” I mumbled to myself, then noticed that four lights were showing on the Bravo console. Not four flashing lights, mind you. Four bright, solid red lights. Clearly a game in progress. Just no dealer, and… yeah.
I decided I might as well see if we could get a game underway. I recognized the shift supervisor at the podium and nodded a quizzical hello. I was encouraged that she looked slightly embarrassed.
“Hey, do you think if I put chips on the table we could get cards in the air?”
The supervisor gave me an apologetic shrug. “We can try.” I swapped three hundreds for three stacks of almost pristine red chips.
Returning to the table I offered a “good afternoon” to the other players who were looking at me with all the friendliness of cowboys in a Dodge City saloon, assuming that I’d just walked into the saloon wearing a kilt while playing bagpipes. I felt as welcome as a Romanov at a Bolshevik bake-sale.
I put my chips on the felt. A tubby local came flying out of the neighboring deli, punched himself out of the Bravo, picked up his stack and ran out the room. Nobody other than me seemed remotely surprised.
Room 3. $4/8 LHE with a half-kill.
The game is ten-handed and even some of the locals seem to be enjoying the loose action and conversation. When the button hits Roquette in her usual spot in the ten, she checks the time on her phone, folds out of turn, and scuttles off to the Diamond Lounge for free chicken wings. Nine-handed.
This coincides with a newbie tourist asking the dealer if his chips will be okay if he goes to the bathroom because he really needs to pee. Eight-handed.
Then Timex (not that one) asks the dealer for a swipe-in-swipe-out so he can check his freeroll hours. Seven-handed.
A tourist who has clearly played (badly) before and has amassed huge towers of chips, largely by calling with any two pre, taking one off for a bet with an overcard on the flop, turning a gutter, and getting there on the end, asks if she can color some up. The dealer hands her a rack. Minh Stak, who is watching a soap opera on her tablet, assumes the tourist is racking up to leave. Realizing it is her big blind she picks up her chips, unplugs all her electronics and leaves. Six-handed.
“Well! Guess that’s the game!” says Uwanna Checkdown, and follows Minh Stak to the cage.
The dealer sighs and gives the remaining players racks.
Vegas grinders are fond of parroting tired phrases about how casinos hate poker players and that they’d much rather replace us with a bank of slots. Like many such nuggets of conventional Vegas wisdom, this claim is largely a pile of horse dung. Casinos have multiple reasons for maintaining poker rooms that are consistent with the overall goals of the hotel-casino (locals tend to forget about the 95% of the structure above the casino floor) to make as much money as possible.
Given the three not uncommon farces described above, I’ve reached the conclusion that Vegas casinos treat local poker players amazingly well.
And it also just occurred to me that if you are a recreational player, you may be completely in the dark about the behavior I have just described.
It’s the promos. Pay-to-play, free-rolls, and other cunning schemes that reward local nits for doing nothing more than putting their leather-asses in the chairs provided and posting blinds. Many of these promos are effectively taxing tourists via the jackpot drop and directing that money to locals. (This is most obvious in month-long promos in which only locals are realistically able to participate.)
And how do many locals respond to this? They whine and moan. They refuse to play short-handed. They throw cards at dealers. They spend their sessions silently buried in their tablets and phones. They are actively hostile to tourists, particularly when those tourists commit terrible crimes against nit-etiquette such as open-raising from late position thereby preventing the blinds from chopping.
If you think that entitlement was invented by millennials, you’ve never witnessed the shameful and embarrassing shenanigans of Vegas poker nits.
Maybe I’m just a naive dummy, but I’ve always regarded my role in the Vegas poker ecosystem as part of a sort of social contract. The floor and dealers provide an environment in which I make my living. While I have a responsibility to take care of my own interests, those interests include the health of poker in Vegas. As a local I feel I am in a loose partnership with those on the other side of the felt without whom there would be no game.
And yet so many locals seem to regard poker as just another casino promo to exploit, like a slot tournament, or discounted show tickets they can scalp, or half-priced buffets.
Fundamentally I guess they don’t love poker the way I do. But must they really act like such assholes?
~ Kat Martin, January 2017.