Foiled Them!

By Keith ‘The Camel’ Hawkins / September 2005

Lots of things really wind me up. Some are trivial, some are of importance.

Grabbing a few at random: motorists who potter along in the middle lane of motorways at 52mph when the inside lane is empty. Parents who pierce the ears of babies or toddlers should be ashamed of themselves for putting their offspring through the pain and possible infection involved. Cadburys decision to stop making Wispa bars, when they were the best piece of confectionary ever produced.

Believe me; the list of things which get my goat is very, very long.

Currently, my biggest annoyance in the world of poker is the dreadful customer service players are forced to endure in some casinos in the UK.

And this is in the forefront of my mind due to a particularly shabby piece of treatment I encountered recently. If you would care to indulge me, I would like to recount the full story here.

On Sunday 14th September I embarked on the 192.8 mile round trip from Camel Towers in Darlington to Napoleons Casino Sheffield with the purpose of buying in for the first two events of their "Summer Festival" as the tournaments there are rightly very popular (the staff are excellent and the atmosphere top notch).

On arrival, I was informed they no longer accepted buy ins prior to the day of the event despite the fact on their website it clearly states: "Tickets may be purchased in advance" and it has always been possible to buy in prior to previous festivals.

The reason I was given for this change of policy? "Something to do with the Gaming Board." Despite the fact that every other casino the length and breadth of country allows players to buy in weeks in advance for big tournaments, I was expected to believe the Gaming Board chose Napoleons Casino in Sheffield to stop the practice. Hmmmm. I hear several other players turned up to buy in early and were similarly disappointed. Would it have been difficult to post on popular forums such as the Mob’s that travelling to Sheffield early was completely pointless? At the very least we could expect the information on their own website to be correct.

So, for the first event, £100 No Limit hold’em on the Wednesday, the first 110 players to arrive on the premises would get a seat. Everyone else would be shut out. I decided I wasn’t going to get there early enough to guarantee a seat so I didn’t bother travelling. The event was a total sell out and several players who arrived late were disappointed.

I decided to give the next event a go. £200 Pot limit hold’em. I turned up about an hour before the event and bought in without any problems. In fact there were only 70 players. Obviously players were scared off by the thought of travelling to the casino and being told the tournament was sold out. The pot limit event during their spring festival attracted 100 runners.

It wasn’t until the next day, during the main event, that I discovered the real reason early buy ins weren’t allowed. Apparently the people in charge of the casino deduced that if they got poker players in the casino as early as possible on the day of the tournament, they would be a captive audience and almost certainly spunk away loads of money on the tables before the event began.

To be honest, I was livid. How dare a casino treat their clients like that? They changed their rules without telling anyone and then expected us to behave like Pavlov’s dog. The casino owners thought that if they trapped us inside their establishment we would dutifully play the tables.

Well, I did my bit to make sure their little plan failed. I was lucky enough to win the main event. Usually I would have had a tickle on the blackjack tables or a spin or two on the magic roundabout. But, this time I didn’t gamble a shilling.

I decided to save my wagering for a casino that at least makes some effort to treat me like a valued customer, not a walking money box ripe for the casino to empty.

NB: No blame should be attached to Craig and his cardroom staff for this nonsense. They do an excellent job under difficult conditions. It’s the bean counters in charge of the Napoleons Casino group who shoulder the responsibility.