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Keith 'The Camel' Hawkins

Keith The Camel Hawkins

Keith 'The Camel' Hawkins Older Articles

Treat us Right

By Keith 'The Camel' Hawkins / January 2005

I was at the Bellagio in Las Vegas last month for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic.

I did my gonads.

I blew a huge stack in one of the tournaments and missed the money by miles.

But was I put on tilt, miserable and depressed? Not a bit of it. Because the Bellagio knows how to treat the players who attend their tournaments. I was staying in 5 star luxury for about £60 a night, comps to excellent restaurants were there for the asking. The tournament staff can get you priority bookings for shows. The cardroom is comfortable and plush. The dealers are efficient and friendly. In short, the Bellagio's tournaments are poker heaven.

On returning home, I got to thinking. How come British casinos can't provide such incredible value for money when running their tournaments?

I will give you a few examples:

The Rendezvous Casino in Brighton is an excellent facility. The restaurant is one of the best I've encountered in the a UK casino. But, when they run poker festivals they do not provide dealers for any tournament other than the big event.

The Grosvenor Casino, Luton used to be my favourite haunt. I like Carmel and the staff very much. During their biggest festival in August the casino becomes so hot as to be nearly unbearable. The playing conditions are totally intolerable. They did try to use mobile air conditioning units but they didn't help much, if at all.

At various casinos up and down the country only one day is allocated to complete huge tournaments, to save on dealers wages no doubt. So who wins the massive amounts of cash on offer is decided sometimes on the basis of a crap shoot, not on traditional poker skills.

At Wasall they try to shoehorn as many players into the cardroom as possible. You couldn't swing a dead cat in there at the start of a big comp (or, for that matter, a live one). And although they do give the players a free buffet, the grub could only, grudgingly, be described as moderate.

Spectators of big tournaments are treated just as badly, if not worse. Shoved into corners, out of the way, sometimes refused waitress services and generally thought of a as a pain in the neck.

Recently I was playing a small comp at Luton. The regular cardroom supervisor was off sick and a dealer I've known and joked around with for years was in charge. It was only when a waitress brought me a snack, and he volunteered to sign for it, did I realise this was the first time I've ever been comped in an English casino!

But perhaps the most annoying consideration in British casinos is the lack of a standardisation of the rules. If a player leaves the table during a competition he posts his blinds and antes. But, in various places in the UK he gets anted away every hand after a set amount of time. At Southampton (I believe) he has 3 hands grace, at Walsall it's 9 hands and at the Vic it's "a reasonable amount of time". In some casinos "moody" goes, in others you can't bet in the round when you "moodied", in still others you can't bet for duration of the hand and in yet others your hand is dead! The Tournament Directors (TDA) rule that if you are not in your seat when the last card is dealt your hand is dead is a great innovation and now virtually standard in the USA, yet, as far as I know, only the Vic and Walsall use it in the UK.

Would Americans put up with the poor treatment we receive in many casinos? Not on you nelly! There the customer is king, and the casinos will do anything to make you feel wanted and special.

Here it sometimes feels like the poker player is a nuisance. To be tolerated but not encouraged.

Poker players provide alot of income to the casinos. Not only in tournament registration fees and session charges. Many of us, me included (sadly), are sick gamblers who play the tables regularly. I think we deserve a better deal somehow. But, I doubt we are going to get it under current conditions.

The only solution must be for there to be much more competition. Private card clubs are a good start. But if the proposed deregulation of gambling/casinos means there will be greater supply of places to play poker, maybe we will be treated in a way Americans would consider "the norm" as poker players would be sought after by the casinos. Until then it will be left to cardroom supervisors/managers like Jeff at the Vic, Carmel at Luton and Yogi Bear at Blackpool to do the best they can on limited resources while the bean counters in head office work out ingenious way to save a tenner or two.

Happy New Year everyone!

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