According to Hoyle

Edmund Hoyle, whose guides to gambling are frequently cited as the last word in all kinds of gambling games, including poker, died in 1769, long before Americans invented the game. 

Still, “according to Hoyle” frequently settles arguments about the rules of games. You can learn all about Hoyle’s first gaming guide and much more in Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling

Go here to read an excerpt from the book, or learn where to buy your copy.


From the book: The first poker machine

Lots of people have heard of San Francisco mechanic Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell, which was the first auto-pay reel slot to gain popularity. He unveiled it in 1899.

Fewer people know that the first coin-operated slot machine, a device that flipped through five decks of cards, with winners paid off in kind (not in cash) for “winning” hands.

It was an early, analog video poker machine. And it was invented in 1891, 8 years before Fey’s Liberty Bell, in Brooklyn, New York.

That’s just one of the many fascinating things you’ll read about in Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling.


Interview about RTB at Betfair

Interview about RTB at Betfair:

In this interview with Betfair’s Short-Stacked Shamus (whose great blog you can read here), I talk a little about where Roll the Bones came from, and current events in poker.



Reasonable Online Expectations in the Las Vegas Business Press

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I’ve got a piece about how we should be reasonable about our expectations for online gaming:

Online or “interactive” gaming is coming to Nevada, likely in weeks, not months.Theres a great deal of uncertainty over what the advent of online poker will mean to Nevada. And, throughout the country, lawmakers are mulling the possibility of online lotteries, poker, and even sports betting. Some are hoping for instant, dramatic changes. But a glance back at gamblings history shows that change, even when it has been profound, usually happens in incremental steps, not bold, sudden strokes.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Online gaming likely to grow slowly, prosper.

I know that expectations are running pretty high, and I’ve heard all kinds of projections about what online gaming will do. But I think that if you look at the past, most gaming innovations take some time to build up critical mass.

In other words, this won’t be balancing the budget in the next biennium.


Tectonic shift for gaming in the Business Press

Mulling over two seemingly contradictory bits of news–that the Justice Department had labeled Full Tilt Poker a “global Ponzi scheme” and that the AGA was launching a renewed push for the legalization of online poker–I got to thinking. It’s a dangerous pastime, I know, but in this case it led me to my latest column for the Las Vegas Business Press:

Gambling online and by mobile devices seems to be on the march. Despite a still-simmering online poker scandal, it now appears that its only a matter of when Internet poker is legalized, and last week the Nevada Gaming Commission approved two expansions of sports betting. To some, this is a surprise, but it shouldnt be: Smart players are just adapting to the latest technology, as they have been for millennia.

Gambling shifts to suit the times arent just inevitable — theyre a smart response to changing conditions.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Tectonic shift for gaming seems poised to come.

The Nevada legislature–which doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a forward-thinking, pro-active body–first addressed online gaming ten years ago. I wonder how much longer it will take for Congress to do the same.


Poker, the Great Survivor in Vegas Seven

If you missed it last week, here’s my latest Green Felt Journal, a look at why poker isn’t going anywhere:

A lot of folks are surprised that the World Series of Poker isn’t doing so badly this year. So far, about one-third of tournament events have had record numbers of participants. Back in April, many thought the Black Friday indictments would translate into a bummer of a summer for Caesars Entertainment’s flagship poker asset, but the tournament—like the game of poker itself—has proved to be quite resilient.

via Poker, the Great Survivor | Vegas Seven.

I haven’t tied my historical studies to current events in a column like that in a little while. I think I’ll be doing it more often. Hopefully without making people’s eyes glaze over when they see history. I find that sort of thing fascinating, but book sales tell me that I’m in the minority.


Updated 2004-2011 poker study up

While answering questions about the impact of the Black Friday indictments on Nevada poker, I thought I’d take a look at what impact previous interdiction attempts (the passage of UIGEA, the implementation of UIGEA) had on Nevada poker. So I compiled a month-by-month summary of Nevada’s poker results for the past seven years. Because I didn’t want to keep all of the fun to myself, I turned my table into a little Center for Gaming Research report that you can now enjoy:

From 2003-06, Nevada poker saw an unprecedented boom, with revenues nearly tripling. From roughly the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2007, revenues then stabilized, showing continued small increases. Following a major jump in June 2007 (coinciding with an earlier start for the World Series of Poker), revenues then declined steadily. Since July 2007, poker revenues have increased year-to-year only five months out of forty-three.
In general, poker has, since 2006, become steadily less profitable for Nevada casinos. The win per table has fallen dramatically to early 1990s levels. The large number of tables, however, indicates that it is still an amenity that many choose to provide, though it does not produce significant revenues on its own.

Nevada Poker, 2004-2011

If you want to read my analysis based on the report, check out this Two Way Hard Three post.


Day 1A WSOP 2010

As those of you who follow my Twitter stream know, I spent a good chunk of yesterday down at the Rio, cruising around Day 1A of the World Series of Poker.

Oskar Garcia has the action cover here. I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts.

The story I was looking for at the WSOP was to profile the first person to bust out of the main event for next week’s Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. Luckily I’ve got a great deal of latitude with my subject material there. I thought that it would be interesting to share the experience of someone who came to Las Vegas, plunked down $10,000, and left the game quickly.

I’ve been seriously planning this column for over a month, and it never occurred to me that there might be a logistical problem or two. After all, it’s not like I was planning to interview the winner, who’s readily accessible to the media and usually in a mood to talk. Instead, I had to patrol somewhere around 150 tables, look for an all-in and a call, and quickly grab the unlucky one.

It sounds a lot easier than it is.

After about 20 minutes, I settled into one of the quads of the Amazon ballroom, loosely shadowing a poker supervisor who promised to let me know if he heard anything from one of the other quads.

By 20 minutes, my mouth was dry, and I was noticing how hot it was, with the lights and the excitement. It felt about 10 degrees cooler by the rail than it did at the tables.

I got a heads-up that a player was down to 200 dollars, and sped over. Turns out it was Greg Raymer, who kicked off the action with the official “Shuffle up and deal.” He bounced, and didn’t look anywhere close to being eliminated by the time I got to him.

32 minutes in, I felt like an undertaker waiting for a customer, circling the tables, looking for short stacks, or any inkling that someone might go all-in. This is around the time I started collecting a few statistics. In my section, about 10% of the players wore sunglasses; 25% wore baseball caps, mostly with the bill forward; 3.5% were women.

(someone busts out in another quad 35 minutes in, but I’m not there, and he wasn’t talking, anyway)

41 minutes in, I swear that the players know what I’m here for, and I can’t even look them in the eye. It’s like I’m a poker angel of death or something.

53 minutes in, I’m convinced that this is the worst story idea I’ve ever had. It’s the same feeling that I usually get around mile 22 of a marathon.

62 minutes in, I start to consider that I’ve crossed over into the Twilight Zone. No one will ever bust out, and I’ll spend eternity circling the tables, waiting for an interview that never comes, while a thousand players continue to push chips around the table without ever losing or winning.

68 minutes in, someone goes all in, but made the right call: he doubles up, and lives on.

70 minutes in, this is the idea from hell. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to write a column about failure?

71 minutes in, another all-in call, and this one wasn’t the right call. The player, who looks vaguely like Oliver Stone, busts out. I ask him if he wants to talk, and he says no before scooting out the door. Maybe he’s staying ahead of the snipers on the grassy knoll.

74 minutes in, another all-in call, right in front of me, and it’s another unhappy outcome. This time, the player is shell-shocked, but personable, and we find a few chairs in the media section to do a quick interview.

Turns out his name is Peter Turmezey, he hails from Budapest, Hungary, and he’s a professional poker player. Nice guy, too.

You’ll be able to read all about it in next week’s Vegas Seven.


Vegas Seven double shot

It’s Thursday, and if you like my writing for Vegas Seven, it’s a lucky Thursday, since I’ve got my usual Green Felt Journal column and a more in-depth Latest Word.

The Latest Word piece takes a philosophical and even theological look at poker, winning, and losing:

In other words, poker isn’t always fair. Of course, it’s all about perspective. The best hand at the showdown wins the pot. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the best hand pre-flop, or that someone with a better hand folded on the turn, or that your opponent made a miracle draw to fill his inside straight and won a pot he had no business playing for. That, as they say, is the luck of the draw. And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether you’re a better friend, lover or parent than your opponent, or whether you need the money to save a life and he’s just going to blow it at the craps table. The cards have no conscience.

The Winning Hand is Not to the Swift …

For the Green Felt Journal, I took a look at the business and organization behind the World Series of Poker. It’s considerable.

If you’ve watched the World Series of Poker on ESPN, you might think that it’s a pretty laid-back event. Sure, there’s plenty of tension at the final table, but it’s basically just a bunch of guys and gals getting together to play cards, right?

Actually, the two-month tournament at the Rio is all about the cards, but it is orders of magnitude more complicated than your Tuesday night home game. With 57 bracelet events, daily satellites and nearly 80 cash games going on over the course of the tournament, the World Series of Poker is more than an event.

“It’s an organization, not an event,’ says Jack Effel, vice president of international poker operations and director of the World Series of Poker for Harrah’s Entertainment. “It’s got to be that way to be successful.”

Inside the WSOP

Two very interesting columns to write. Enjoy.


Bad beat profitable in AC

The Trump Taj Mahal’s bad beat jackpot has finally paid off, in record fashion. Thanks to 84 year-old John Bazela’s four sevens getting beaten by by four aces, everyone at the table is quite a bit wealthier this morning. From the AC Press:

Tom Gitto, the casino’s director of poker, said the jackpot usually hits every 92,000 hands. Sunday’s bad beat came after more than 670,000 hands. For each hand, a dollar is added to the pot.

Bazela took home 50 percent of the pot Sunday, or $336,057. The actual winning hand takes home $168,028, or 25 percent. The remaining seven players at the Texas Hold ;Em table take home the rest, each collecting about $24,000.

News of the much-anticipated win attracted dozens of players and passers-by to get in on the commotion. Taj officials soon summoned two video cameras to film the aftermath of the jackpot, served the winners (or losers) Champagne and wheeled out a large cake congratulating the winner of “the largest bad-beat jackpot ever.”

Bazela said his hefty share will go to his 55-year-old daughter.

“What am I going to do with it?” he asked. “I just come down here to break up the monotony.”

via Trump Taj Mahal awards $336,000 to bad-beat poker winner for “losing” hand – pressofAtlanticCity.com.

I love that quote there–guys who live, breathe, and sleep poker and never see anything close to this money must be steaming.

This is exactly the kind of stuff that AC casinos should be doing. If you had a choice between driving to Foxwoods or AC to play poker, and you knew you could get $24,000 just for sitting at the table when someone else gets a bad beat, would that help tip the scales?