Web site ranks slots paybacks: Mohegan Sun Pocono hits state average for casinos

Payback can be a number of things, and in the casino business it’s left to chance.

The web site visitPAcasinos.com ranked the 12 casinos across the state by slot machine payback percentages for June and the Mohegan Sun Pocono fell below the state average.
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Mohegan posted an 89.96 percent payback rate compared to the state average of 90.03 percent. It ranked sixth overall, three places behind Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County with a 90.23 percent payback.

Parx Casino in Bensalem topped the list with a 90.74 percent payback and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie came in last with at 89.18 percent.

Mike Bean, president of Mohegan Sun Pocono, didn’t argue with the casino’s percentage

“I think it’s accurate,” Bean said.

But, the comparison wasn’t apples to apples in his opinion.

The casinos differ in size, location, clientele and more importantly, the slot machines. The Plains Township venue has 2,332 machines on the gaming floor of various makes, models and denominations. It’s an ever changing mix, based on what the customers demand and that’s based on what they get back. The casino monitors the machines and replaces those that don’t put out.

“As we do that paybacks are a result of the mix” rather than a target to hit, Bean said Thursday.

The web site contained the caveat that one month’s numbers shouldn’t be used to predict future paybacks to patrons.

It included rankings based on data from the July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 that showed Mohegan matched the state average of 89.94 percent.

Mount Airy

Mount Airy still ranked third, but its percentage fell to 90.12 percent. Parx held firm in first with 90.73 percent and Presque Isle didn’t budge from the bottom at 89.19 percent.

The high and low paybacks differed by less than 1 percentage point across the state, but when millions of dollars are wagered each month, it adds up.

For example, at Mohegan for every $100 put into a slot machine, $89.96 was paid back in June and the house kept $10.04. At Mount Airy, the payback was $90.23 and the house kept $9.77 of every $100 wagered.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported $17.6 million were wagered on slots at Mohegan last month, the fifth largest amount among the 12 casinos. By comparison, $11.5 million were wagered on slots at Mount Airy that ranked ninth.

The slots’ payback, while lower than other casinos, might not be the deciding factor to go the Mohegan Sun Pocono, Bean said.

“We’re a resort destination,” he said, listing the bars and restaurants, hotel and entertainment offered. “It’s a complete experience. Gaming is a large part of the guest experience.”

Getting details

When he created visitPAcasinos.com, Mark Tevis knew people wanted to know the details.

Pennsylvania did not allocate a portion of casino revenues to support marketing, leaving it to the casinos to do it. With 12 operating casinos and two more licensed, there was no central location to provide information about each one. “That was kind of an unmet need,” Tevis said Friday.

Tevis, of Erie, transitioned from accounting to web site designer and internet marketer to concentrate on the developing the site that launched this year. It’s one-stop shop that provides objective data and indisputable number sourced from the PA Gaming Control Board.

The reception has been favorable from the public and the casinos, he said.

Parx Casino was appreciative of the payback rankings, he said.

“It kind of makes everyone step up their game,” Tevis said. “If those rankings come out and you’re lower, you could lose your clientele.”

The public and casinos have taken notice and so have lawmakers. He counted them among the subscribers to his monthly newsletter.

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Thief grabs $2,000 from slots player at Resorts World Casino

Police are seeking this suspect in the theft.[/caption]A Queens thief snatched $2,000 out of a gambler’s hand while the victim was playing a slot machine at the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, cops said Tuesday.
The crook approached the victim on the casino floor, grabbed the cash and dashed out a side exit at 11:30 p.m. last Thursday.
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He was last seen on surveillance video running down the stairs on his way out of the gaming facility.
Police said the thief is in his early 20s with a thin build.
He was still at large Tuesday night, police investigators said.

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Slot Payouts at Casinos Around the Country

Those of us who try our luck on the slots at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun hope the next pull of the lever will be life changing. But what are the odds you’ll really walk away with cash?
Connecticut’s two tribal casinos rank in the middle of the pack in terms of slot payouts when compared with other states around the country.
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According to the Connecticut Gaming Commission, Foxwoods’ slot payout average is 91.85 percent. Mohegan Sun pays back at a rate of 91.71 percent. That means Connecticut has the eighth-highest payout rate of the 20 states requiring casinos to report.
The best payout percentage by state is in neighboring New York. The Empire State, with its nine reporting casinos, pays back 93.75 percent. Resorts World in Queens, New York, pays the highest returns, at 95.05 percent.
The second state by average is Nevada, at 93.54 percent. West Virginia is at the bottom of the list, with an average of 89.12 percent payback.
NEW YORK – 93.75 percent
NEVADA – 93.54 percent
COLORADO – 92.85 percent
MISSISSIPPI – 92.77 percent
FLORIDA – 92.46 percent
DELAWARE – 92.36 percent
**KENTUCKY– 92.06 percent
*CONNECTICUT – 91.77 percent
NEW JERSEY – 91.41 percent
SOUTH DAKOTA – 91.36 percent
ILLINOIS – 91.00 percent
RHODE ISLAND – 90.88 percent
LOUISIANA – 90.74 percent
INDIANA – 90.71 percent
IOWA – 90.69 percent
MAINE – 90.68 percent
MISSOURI – 90.64 percent
OHIO – 90.34 percent
PENNSYLVANIA – 90.16 percent
WEST VIRGINIA – 89.72 percent
Percentages for include slots, blackjack, keno and video poker unless otherwise noted.
*Only slot machines
**Historical Horse Wagering
It’s not an exact science. Most states include video poker, Keno and video blackjack in their percentages, which tend to give better odds. Connecticut is the only state to include only slots. States like Nevada and Louisiana report area averages, not individual casinos. Other states, like New York and Florida, exempt tribes from reporting.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters sorted through slot revenue reports submitted to gaming, lottery and racing commissions for all reporting states. The Troubleshooters found that the areas with more competition tend to pay out higher averages.
Also, the lower the denomination, the lower the payback. Penny slots at both Connecticut casinos pay lower than 90 percent and receive almost half the total money wagered. The highest payouts at Foxwoods are the multi-denomination machines. They pay out 95.77 percent. Mohegan Sun’s $10 machines return 96.96 percent.
Foxwoods: July 2014 – May 2015
$0.01: 89.34 percent
$0.02: 90.83 percent
$0.05: 90.40 percent
$0.25: 92.06 percent
$0.50: 91.47 percent
$1.00: 93.50 percent
$2.00: 93.34 percent
$5.00: 93.96 percent
$10.00: 94.70 percent
$25.00: 94.25 percent
$100.00: 95.56 percent
Multi-Denomination: 95.77 percent
Total: 91.85 percent
Mohegan Sun: July 2014 – May 2015
$0.0025: 85.84 percent
$0.005: 85.45 percent
$0.01: 88.93 percent
$0.02: 89.21 percent
$0.05: 88.39 percent
$0.25: 91.64 percent
$0.50: 91.94 percent
$1.00: 93.04 percent
$2.00: 96.62 percent
$5.00: 93.82 percent
$10.00: 96.96 percent
$25.00: 95.38 percent
$100.00: 93.85 percent
Multi-Denomination: 95.19 percent
Total: 91.71 percent
Mohegan Sun president Bobby Soper argues his casino is as competitive as any around the country. He points out the economy and amount of free play credits they give to entice bettors plays a big part in keeping them from being even higher on the list.
“There are certainly a higher percentage of penny machines and nickel machines than previous,” said Soper. “That across the board, across the industry is going to drive hold percentage.”
This investigation comes at a time when Connecticut is exploring the option of allowing Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to jointly operate a third state casino, off tribal land, north of Hartford.
Locations being considered include the Enfield Square Mall, the Bradley Off-Track Betting property in Windsor Locks and the former Showcase Cinemas property in East Windsor.
The legislature approved the right for tribes to consider proposals from towns willing to host a satellite casino. Soper expects its cost could save thousands of jobs in the state and cost close to $300 million. It will include slots, table games and a poker room.
Soper hopes to see it as close to the Connecticut border as possible. Just 5 miles from the border, MGM is building a $1 billion resort casino in Springfield. A spokesman for MGM estimates its slot payouts will be in the mid-90 percent.
State Sen. John Kissel believes casino expansion is bad policy. He argues a casino in his area of North Central Connecticut will not stop people, especially high-end gamblers, from traveling to Springfield.
“They’re aware of payouts and they’re going to travel,” said Kissel, a Republican from Enfield. “If Massachusetts is better than Connecticut, all the high-end gamblers are going to Massachusetts and the people that are struggling to just make ends meet are going to end up in North Central Connecticut.”
In Connecticut, the tribes are required to pay 25 percent of all slot revenue to the state. They don’t need to pay anything on table games. The state has received nearly $7 billion total since Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods opened in the 1990s.

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What Can US Online Poker Players Expect From Second Wave Sites?

Regulated online poker in the United States has brought with it the return of long-absent iPoker platforms Party Poker and 888, as well as the launch of a couple new platforms, Ultimate Poker and Real Gaming.
Unfortunately, a fresh start hasn’t brought about fresh software.
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When it comes to 888 and Party, absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder. Both platforms have received their fair share of criticism from the poker community – some deserved and some not so deserved, as players rightfully compare their current options to their memories of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
Party and 888 may have taken quite a few shots, but they are still standing and soldiering on.
On the other hand, the new platforms, Ultimate Poker and Real Gaming, have fared far worse.
Ultimate Poker took one right on the chin and was unable to get off the canvas, shutting down its online poker sites in New Jersey and Nevada in 2014. From the beginning, the site struggled to gain any type of market share and lost millions before finally closing its doors.
Real Gaming has peak cash game traffic of 12 players according to PokerScout.com. Most online poker players are likely unaware the site even exists, and that might be a good thing considering the lackluster graphics and features.
Looking to the future
Fortunately, there are other operators sitting on the sidelines. Unfortunately, these companies haven’t entered the market to date as they wait for one or more of the following to occur:
A more robust market.
A partner.
A license.
Here is a look at the platforms waiting in the wings, and what the poker community can expect from these operators in the coming years.
PokerStars and Full Tilt
Arguably the two best online poker platforms around, both PokerStars and Full Tilt would like to be operational in the U.S., but have so far been left sitting on the sidelines as they wait for regulatory approval in New Jersey, and continue to fight for their right to apply for licenses in other locales.
When it comes to PokerStars in New Jersey it appears to be a matter of when, not if they will receive a license (approval could come any day now), but what their plans are for Full Tilt Poker is still anyone’s guess.
Amaya, the parent company of both platforms hasn’t commented on Full Tilt Poker’s U.S. future, likely because of the bad taste the previous incarnation of Full Tilt Poker left in the U.S. online poker community’s mouth.
HDPoker
HDPoker is cross-platform poker software originally designed as Siena Casino’s real-money online poker platform in Nevada, but later amended to accommodate social and mobile operating systems.
With the Nevada market the size it is, and with WSOP.com’s virtual monopoly in the state, it appears Siena is content to develop HDPoker as a social poker platform for the time being.
HDPoker is available on Facebook, and even this beta “flash” version seems pretty impressive.
While not as fast as the upper echelon of software in the real-money online poker sector – such as PokerStars – HDPoker still possesses a responsiveness similar to a high quality video game.
However, HDPoker is far more aesthetically pleasing than PokerStars and other platforms, with tremendous, highly-customizable graphics also fit for a high-end video game.
A fully downloadable version of HDPoker would likely increase both the GUI as well as the speed of the software.
Pala Poker
Pala Poker’s software is a bit of a mystery. Some sardonically expect the site to have a similar look to the now defunct UB (Ultimate Bet) software considering the man at the helm of Pala Interactive, Jim Ryan, was a former CEO of Ultimate Bet’s parent company, Exscapa.
Ryan also held the title of co-CEO at Party Poker and bwin.party before moving on to head Pala Interactive.
Truth be told, we have no idea what Pala’s online poker room will look like, but it will likely have a similar style to its already-launched online casino. We should know in the not so distant future, as a Pala spokesman indicated they still plan on unveiling their online poker room in New Jersey in Q4 of 2015.
Gamesys
Gamesys has been extremely successful in the online casino market in Europe and in New Jersey, where they power the Tropicana and Virgin online casinos.
Even though the company has never operated an online poker platform, there were some early intimations that Gamesys would be developing an online poker site for New Jersey. Market size seems to have put these plans on hold.
The chances of Gamesys launching an online poker platform in the U.S. will heavily depend on the following three future developments occurring:
Other states legalizing online poker.
Those states partnering with New Jersey.
Gamesys securing partners in those markets.
Churchill Downs Interactive
This is yet another company with big designs on the U.S. online gaming market, considering CDI has been developing an online poker product for several years, and has sunk quite a bit of money into it – at least $10 million as of July 2014.
CDI now appears ready to launch its online poker software, as it has partnered with Oceans 11 and Crystal Casino in California. Unfortunately, at the rate that state is going, it’s more likely we’ll see CDI’s product in another state first, perhaps in Pennsylvania, or in New Jersey by piggybacking off one of the current licensees.
Expectations are pretty high for CDI’s online poker platform.
Churchill has a good deal of online gaming experience as it runs the extremely successful TwinSpires.com online horse racing site. Later in 2014, the company acquired the social casino company Big Fish Games.
NYX
NYX is partnered with two New Jersey casinos, Resorts and Golden Nugget. And while this is speculation, the company could be considering developing/unveiling an online poker platform.
NYX has purchased OnGame from Amaya, which could allow them to quickly fine-tune an online poker product for Golden Nugget.
The problem is, OnGame online poker software is considered second- or even third-tier at best. It will have to be overhauled by NYX to be a viable online poker site in 2015.
Golden Nugget’s Thomas Winter said the company is still considering online poker, but it’s not in its immediate plans.
AcePlay
AcePlay or ACEP is the online poker product developed for the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas. Similar to other platforms, market constraints seem to have stalled ACEP’s real-money launch, but the product is available as a play money site.
ACEP is the OnGame Network’s latest incarnation, as it was sold to Amaya following the merger between bwin (OnGame’s previous owner) and Party Gaming, and later to NYX.

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Advanced Games Launched by Online Casino from Costa Rica

LAS VEGAS, July 13, 2015 /CNW/ – NYX Gaming Group is proud to announce the launch of its Open Gaming System (OGS™) with Full Tilt, enabling Full Tilt to launch hundreds of casino games in both mobile and desktop formats immediately. The partnership covers the licensing of a significant number of NextGen Gaming slots (NYX’s proprietary games studio) and a wealth of third party content delivered via the single NYX OGS™ integration.
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NYX Gaming Group Commercial Director David Johnson said, “We are delighted to announce our go-live with Full Tilt, who complement a wide roster of premium, regulated operators licensing content via NYX OGS™. NYX Gaming Group boast the widest distribution network of real money wagering slots games in the online marketplace.”

Dominic Mansour, Managing Director of Full Tilt said, “The agreement with NYX Gaming Group supports our strategy of enabling our customers to enjoy the best in multi-vendor content. I look forward to future releases of proprietary NextGen content and the wide array of third party providers also available via NYX OGS™.”

The launch of OGS™ to Full Tilt is the result of the excellent working relationship between both parties and further evidence of the concrete demand for NYX Gaming Group supplied content to leading, regulated B2C providers worldwide.

NYX Gaming Group are also celebrating the recent award of Innovation In Slot Provision at 2015’s EGR B2B Awards, which recognized the group’s breadth of distribution opportunities, speed of integration and premium content delivery.

ABOUT NYX GAMING GROUP
NYX Gaming Group is headquartered in Las Vegas with development out of Stockholm and Sydney. The group provides flexible gaming solutions to some of the largest lotteries, casinos, poker rooms and I-gaming operators across the globe.

NYX Poker Network, is a leading internet poker network deliver poker solutions for online poker operators world-wide.

Game development arm NextGen Gaming is the industry’s leading platform agnostic provider of engaging, repeat play Slots, providing entertainment for players and profits for Operators.

The technology division, NYX Interactive, specialize in developing gaming system solutions for World Lottery Association members, media companies and both private and publicly listed Gaming companies worldwide. Through its Open Platform System (OPS™), operators can take advantage of best of breed products and services, including their own, all managed via a single interface. Through its fully hosted Open Gaming System (OGS™), licensees can leverage the best in multi-vendor Casino content from around the world.

The Las Vegas office provides social Poker & Casino solutions out of the group headquarters.

NYX Gaming Group is a proud recipient of the Special Achievement Award from EGR Magazine, which recognized the group’s consistent growth and innovation in multiple e-gaming verticals.

ABOUT FULL TILT
Full Tilt is a leading gaming brand known for delivering some of the most innovative online poker games in the world. It is home to the revolutionary poker format of ‘Rush Poker’, which offer its players fast-paced, quick-fold gameplay on both desktop and mobile.

There are four Full Tilt licensed sites – FullTilt.com, which serves players in various countries around the world under license from the Isle of Man; FullTilt.eu, which serves players in European markets under license from Malta; and FullTilt.uk and FullTilt.dk which serves players in the United Kingdom and Denmarkrespectively. In 2014, Full Tilt began expanding its game portfolio by adding a variety of slot offerings and a range of single- and multi-player variations of Blackjack and Roulette.

Full Tilt was re-launched in November 2012 under new ownership of Rational Group, which also operates PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Rational Group companies in the UK and Isle of Man won recognition as one of the best workplaces in the UK, being awarded a top 25 position by the Great Place to Work Institute’s Best Workplaces – Large category rankings. Rational Group entities in Costa Rica and Dublin also achieved the same accolade in their respective local rankings in 2014. Full Tilt is owned by Amaya Inc. (Nasdaq: AYA; TSX: AYA).

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32Red Buys Online Casino Roxy Palace

British online gambling operator 32Red announced today that it is to acquire online casino business Roxy Palace for the total amount of £8.4 million. According to the information released, 32Red would pay £2 million in cash and would issue 10 million new shares.
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Roxy Palace was founded back in 2002. Currently, it offers over 500 casino games, with blackjack, roulette, video poker, and slots being among those. The online casino brand has more than 230,000 registered players. Similarly to 32Red itself, Roxy Palace is powered by the Microgaming platform.

The online casino reported net revenue of £10.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2014. Furthermore, it generated gross profit of £3.4 million. EBITDA amounted to £1.6 million for 2014.

32Red is to take charge of Roxy Palace via the purchase of Eucalyptus Investment’s issued share capital. The latter entity is a subsidiary of Hyperlink Media Limited and Applied Logics. Once the acquisition deal is completed, 32Red will be the owner of Roxy Palace’s intellectual property rights, customer database, etc.

Ed Ware, Chief Executive Officer of 32Red, said in a statement from earlier today that they are delighted with their latest purchase and believe that it would benefit both their existing and new shareholders. Mr. Ware also pointed out that the two gaming companies share a lot of common values.

As mentioned above, 32Red and Roxy Palace are both powered by the Microgaming platform and this is why the integration is expected to be completed quickly and smoothly.

Mr. Ware further commented that the latest purchase corresponds to his company’s strategy to grow its presence in regulated markets. Furthermore, 32Red will have the opportunity to make use of the experience Roxy Palace “has built up” in various international markets over the years. Thus, both companies will benefit from the enlarged business. In order to achieve this, 32Red is planning to maximize synergies where and when appropriate.

Following the announcement about its latest acquisition, the British gambling operator also confirmed that it would release its trading update for the first half of 2015 on July 22. In 2014, the company reported revenue of £32.1 million and EBITDA of £6 million. Furthermore, the company’s dividend increased 33% over the year to reach 2.4 pence.

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A Decade in Poker: My First WSOP Remembered

I am quickly approaching the tender age of 40. I have many days now where the swiftness of life makes itself known to me, whether it’s thinking about the fact that I have completed nearly a third of my life*, realizing that one of my kids will see her age hit double digits next year, or being confused that my brain still thinks I can play baseball even though the last time I wore a uniform was 21 years ago. And now, with the 2015 World Series of Poker drawing to a close, it has also hit me that it was a full 10 years ago already that I stepped foot in the Rio for the first time to cover the WSOP. Was it that long ago?

In the fall of 2004, not long after completing my MBA, I was miserable in my consulting job. That year, though, I had discovered poker, took it up as an inexpensive hobby, and got involved in an online poker community. I got to know a person or two and, in the spring of 2005, just an hour after I gave my two-week’s notice, I was offered a job to help a poker affiliate launch a poker news site. I jumped at the opportunity.
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That summer, a noob if there ever was one, I was sent to Las Vegas to provide live coverage of the WSOP. No journalistic experience, very little poker experience, and there I was, walking down the endless hallways of the Rio after parking on the wrong side of the property, looking for the place to pick up my press pass.

I eventually found the small room down a one of the many identical-looking hallways and after hanging the huge badge around my neck, complete with my name and website on it, I felt like I belonged.

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
When I walked into the Amazon Room a few minutes later, I felt like a complete outsider. One of the early tournaments was already underway – I wasn’t concerned about missing a little of the beginning – and perhaps needless to say, a wall of sights and sounds pummeled me as soon as I opened the door. I felt something similar to when I think about being in my grandparents’ house. Even though I spent plenty of time there as a young adult, my memories are often from the point of view of my childhood-self, when the front door was too heavy to open, when the pantry doorknobs were too high to reach, when I could get lost in the maze of history in the basement. I am over six feet tall, but when I first saw the endless expanse of poker tables and hordes of players, I immediately felt small, like I couldn’t see over the tables to the end of the room. I was afraid if I started walking, I’d get lost.

So I went to find press row. It didn’t take long, as it was one of the few areas of the Amazon room with no poker tables. A few long tables were set up, staff from various poker news outlets scattered about, chatting with each other or engrossed in their laptops. I found an open spot and started setting up shop when a woman looked up from her monitor and told me that the area was for media only. I showed her my badge and assured her that I was cool, but then she informed me that only *certain* media had the right to be there.** Oh.

I stammered something while trying look like yeah, I knew that, and swam to the nearest exit. After a few minutes of searching, I finally saw a sign for the “press room,” and I got excited again. The PRESS ROOM!

It was a bit disappointing. The press room was a long, narrow room, lined with tables on three sides. It was hot and crowded and I had to stake out my workspace early, but there was a food and drink table in the middle of the room, so it wasn’t all bad. And over the course of the two years I covered the WSOP live, I got to know some really interesting people in that room. It became a place I could just go to relax if I needed a break from the tournament but still wanted to be around people.

During the first week or so, I committed a gigantic blunder that I’m surprised didn’t result in someone scolding me. I was on my own at the WSOP, responsible for both writing about the tournaments and taking pictures to post on the site. Armed with my little point-and-shoot camera, I wandered around the tables snapping pics, trying to get cool shots of famous players. What I didn’t know was that flash photography was not allowed. It seems so silly now – I should’ve realized that a camera flash would be really irritating to players concentrating on poker. But there I was, flashing away. To make matters worse, most of the pictures were crap; the lighting was just dim enough and I was just far enough away from the players that the pictures were either too dark or blurry. My boss and I went out after a couple weeks to get an expensive, DSLR camera, which made me feel like a magician. No flash was needed – I was now an artist. Also, Mimi Rogers smiled at me when I took her picture.

As the WSOP moved along in 2005, I settled into a comfortable rhythm. I’d get to the Rio around noon, drop my laptop off in the press room, and head to the tournament room to wander around and get a read of the scene. I’d jot down notes on anything interesting going on, take some pictures, and then head to whatever final table was set to begin. For most of the day, I would take detailed notes at the final table, not content to just post some hand histories, but to actually give readers a sense of what that table was like. I wanted to present the real story of the final table and if that involved the retelling of zero hands, so be it. I would write my article in the wee hours of the morning, often finally posting it when the sun was rising.

During those two summers, the Rio at times felt like my home away from home. I spent 12-16 hours there every weekday, had my favorite seat at my favorite eatery (a Chinese place next to the sportsbook), knew where I could go for a little quiet time while still being treated to air conditioning, and even had a cheap video poker machine I could sit at for a while and only lose a few bucks. Eventually, I didn’t feel like an outsider. I kind of felt like the Rio was MY territory; I felt strangely important when I would guide my wife or other guest through the casino, knowing exactly the best routes to take to get places, or when I knew all the backroads of Las Vegas by heart so I wouldn’t have to drive on the Strip like a tourist.

I stopped attending the WSOP after 2006 because my wife gave birth to our first child and I wasn’t about to spend that much time away. For a few years, I would get nostalgic come WSOP-time, just thinking about the dinging and chiming of the video machines as I walked through the Rio or the sound tidal wave of thousands of players riffling chips as I opened the Amazon Room’s doors. Those memories have faded a bit; I don’t really miss that all that much anymore.

What I do still miss, though, are the people. I have never met a more fascinating mix of characters than I did when I was at the World Series of Poker. I got to take Doyle Brunson’s picture when he won a bracelet in 2005 and then showed it to him on the cover of Canadian Poker Player Magazine the following year. I got to interview all sorts of famous poker players. I got to play poker with Anthony Michael Hall and witness his double-take when I told him that Weird Science is amongst my top five favorite films. I was even interviewed myself for an author’s book. But more than the people who left me star-struck at the time, it was just fun to spend time with all sorts of people who I never would have met had the WSOP not thrown us together. A writer from a European website, customers of our site that won a seat in the Main Event, grizzled veteran poker beat writers, excited young guys trying to start an online poker room, and poker fans who were as excited as me just to be there. That’s not an experience you get every day.

I was an outsider when the 2005 WSOP began; ten years later I’m the grizzled veteran. Sometimes I do wish I could be back at the Rio in the thick of it and feel like a noob all over again, but life marches on. Sitting here at my son’s karate class works just fine for me.

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Casino Room Offers Great Blackjack Games

Get familiar with the highly entertaining table game, blackjack, by entering the exciting world of Casino Room!
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For example, those who will sign up for Casino Room because they are interested in finding out more about blackjack, will be able to claim a terrific 100% first deposit bonus. Join Casino Room now and start playing blackjack by using your superb first deposit bonus, which doubles your stake immediately!

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A Bar, Blackjack And Best-Sellers: One Author’s Big Break

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Once — before he’d hit the New York Times Best Sellers List, before he’d hosted a TV show, before he’d written a book whose film adaptation got an Oscar nomination for best picture — Ben Mezrich was just another struggling author.

“My first six books were medical thrillers that nobody read,” he laughs. “Trashy, pop, sci-fi medical thrillers. One of them became a TV movie called Fatal Error, which is really horrible [and] airs at about 2 in the morning.”

He was deep in debt and using credit cards to pay rent.

The night that things changed, a friend took him to an Irish pub in Boston called Crossroads, just across the Charles River from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“There was this group of kind of geeky MIT kids who used to hang out there,” Mezrich remembers. “They were regular MIT kids, but they had tons of money and all of it was in hundred dollar bills.”

He remembers that those crisp bills caught his eye.

“The thing is that, in Boston, you never see $100 bills,” he says. “I know in New York you see them all the time. In LA, you see them. In Vegas, they come right out of the ATM machine — but in Boston you never see $100 bills.”

Mezrich was introduced to the group. Among them was a tall, athletic kid named Jeff Ma.

“‘Why do you have all this money in hundreds?'” Mezrich remembers asking Ma. “And he invited me to his apartment and pointed to his laundry — and in his laundry was $250,000 in stacks of hundreds. It was incredible. I’d never seen so much cash in one place. And he said, ‘Come to Vegas with me tomorrow; I want to show you something.’ ”

Mezrich had no regular job and was deep in debt anyway, so he figured: why not?

“It was him and five of his buddies, and the driver took us to this suite on the Strip. And the MIT kids came in and started pulling money out from under their clothes. They piled it up, and it was a million dollars in cash.”

The kids from the dive bar were members of the MIT blackjack team. They invited him to watch as they hit the blackjack tables with their elaborate system for counting cards, complete with costumes, false identities and secret hand signals.

“It was like a real operation going on,” he says. “I was blown away, because I’d been spending the past few years writing all this crap that nobody was reading. And here was a true story that was better than anything I could come up with on my own.”

When Mezrich got back to Boston, he wrote up a book proposal and sent it off to his agent. The agent wasn’t incredibly impressed. Las Vegas just wasn’t “hot” yet, Mezrich recalls. This was back in the late ’90s, before Ocean’s Eleven and poker on TV.

He got his smallest advance ever — smaller than those medical thrillers — and his book, Bringing Down the House, was scheduled for a print run of just 12,000 copies.

To help promote the book, he wrote an article about the MIT blackjack team and their methods for Wired magazine.

Kevin Spacey read that article, called Mezrich, invited him to lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel and told him he wanted to make a movie out of the book. The film adaption — renamed 21 — was released in 2008.

And that wasn’t his only big break: A week before the premiere of 21, Mezrich received a strange email from someone who claimed that their friend had founded Facebook. That led to his meeting Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder and former chief financial officer of Facebook, who told Mezrich that he had “a story to tell.”

That story became the best-selling Accidental Billionaires, which led to more phone calls from Hollywood mainstays: Aaron Sorkin, who wanted to adapt the book into a screenplay, and David Fincher, who wanted to direct the film. In 2010, The Social Network netted an Oscar nomination for best picture.

Mezrich’s latest book is called Once Upon A Time In Russia: The Rise Of The Oligarchs, which chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Commission says blackjack dealers can ‘hit’ on 17

The house would win more blackjack hands at Maryland casinos under a pending rule change approved Thursday.

State gambling regulators approved casinos’ request to allow blackjack dealers to draw a card on a hand known as a “soft 17″ — a change that would incrementally boost the house advantage and generate increased revenue.
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The change, endorsed on a voice vote at the monthly meeting of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, must be approved in Annapolis by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.

Rocky Gap proposes new slots, outdoor gambling
Rocky Gap proposes new slots, outdoor gambling
A year ago, the gaming control staff rejected the casinos’ request to allow dealers to “hit” on a soft 17 — a hand adding up to 17 including an ace, which can be counted as a 1 or an 11 — instead of having to stand pat.

In blackjack, players try to score higher than the dealer without going over 21. Dealers at Maryland casinos must draw a card at 16 or below, and must now stand on all 17s. Players have no such restrictions.

Blackjack offers players the best odds of any game of chance in casinos, with the house holding a slight edge for players correctly applying basic strategy.

Maryland’s rules are generally considered player-friendly. For example, Maryland casinos pay 3-to-2 on a blackjack, which occurs when a player reaches a perfect 21 by drawing an ace and 10-value card. That means a $10 bet yields $15. Some casinos in other states have blackjack payouts of 6-to-5.

Permitting dealers to hit on 17 would raise the house advantage by about 0.2 percent, said Charles LaBoy, the state’s assistant director for gaming.

“It gives the casinos more flexibility to manage their floors,” LaBoy said.

LaBoy said the revenue gains from such a shift would enable casinos to offer more tables permitting low bets — typically $10 or $15. Those tables are popular with players, but many blackjack tables at Maryland casinos now require higher bets.

cComments
The article was well written and made several good points. First, I’m all about allowing businesses to offer the games and rules they want. It is our job as consumers to decide what we are willing to accept. If the Horseshoe offers the new rule, hit soft 17, and Live says keep it the way…
CASINO INSIDER
AT 11:26 PM JUNE 19, 2015
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“They’d like to offer more of that,” LaBoy said.

But Tom Hyland, a longtime professional blackjack player from New Jersey, said the proposal “is very significant, to the detriment of the player.”

“The best way to think about it is, if you bet $100 a hand and you get 100 hands an hour, it would cost $20 an hour,” Hyland said. “It’s a serious windfall for the casino.”

Hyland doesn’t fault casinos for seeking the change.

“I kind of think casinos should be able to offer any game they want and then people can choose,” he said. “The sad thing is, the general public doesn’t even notice. Sometimes the dealer ends up busting [after a soft 17], but most of the time the dealer gets a better hand. You’re never supposed to stand on soft 17 as a player.”

Last year, the casinos told the state that the change would “increase the house advantage, which will increase revenue, tax dollars and make us comparable with other markets,” according to a 2014 memorandum obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

The casinos’ initial proposal was rejected last year because Maryland decided that “changing the rules to essentially lower the payout to players was rather one-sided,” LaBoy said at the time.

He said casinos came back this year “and essentially they made a good enough argument.”

If approved, LaBoy said the change would be communicated to players with signs at tables where the change is in effect. But first it must be reviewed and voted on by the House-Senate committee, a process that can take months.

Also Thursday, the commission approved, without debate, the proposed $128 million merger of Lakes Entertainment, which owns Rocky Gap Casino Resort, and Las Vegas-based Golden Gaming.

Golden Gaming operates casinos and taverns, and a subsidiary known as Golden Route Operations installs and operates thousands of gambling machines in taverns, convenience stores and other retailers. Lakes’ principal asset is Rocky Gap, the once-troubled state-owned resort it acquired for $6.8 million in 2012.

“It makes the company stronger,” said Scott Just, Rocky Gap’s general manager. “It makes us more diversified.”

The commission also approved Rocky Gap’s request to add 54 slot machines and create a new outdoor gambling area on an existing smoking deck. The change will enable patrons to smoke and gamble simultaneously.

The shift will put Rocky Gap on a more even footing with some casinos in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where smoking is allowed inside, Just said.

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