Monday, August 3, 2015

Catching Up - Again!

Blogger's nightmare. I just spent an hour and a half writing this post and another hour and a half trying to recover it since I was writing it on an iPad and neglected to hit the "SAVE" button before I exited. Many recovery programs out there but none did the trick so here are my choices. One, quit and never write another blog post in my life or two, start all over again. How's that for "black and white" thinking! I'm starting over!!

New York Casinos - Very little new has happened since the January announcements of the three out of a possible four casinos selected to be built in NY. The reopening of bids for another Finger Lakes area casino has proceeded with very few takers and no decision as of this time. The impact of the final decision is important for the Finger Lakes region but will have very little, in any, impact throughout the rest of that state.

Interestingly enough the tribal entities in NY are not to be out done. The Oneida Indian Nation, owner/operator's of the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY (read Finger Lakes Region!) has announced a planned Wizard of Oz themed casino in Tyre, NY (read Finger Lakes Region as well!). To be called the Yellow Brick Road Casino, it pays homage to the hometown hero, L. Frank Baum, author of the classic "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

Baum was born in nearby Chittenango and the Oneidas plan to muscle in on the annual festival, called "Oz-Stravaganza" that attracts fans for all over the world. Whether or not another casino in an already crowded market can survive on festival goers remains to be seen. Certainly the closest cities, Rochester and Syracuse, do not have nearly enough people to support all the casinos that may end up there - Turning Stone, Lago (being built), Yellow Brick (proposed), and a possible fourth. If all of that does indeed come to pass the Oneidas have the edge judging from their very successful Turning Stone location.

@JGPretlow notwithstanding, the voices for online poker in NY are not being heard and any chance of this even getting to an Assembly committee is dead for 2015. Maybe 2016 will be a better year.

New Jersey Casinos - Atlantic City is breathing its last breaths. The only casino with its head above water is the Borgata which has cornered the millennial market and does a better job than most in the poker arena. The Tropicana has shown some signs of life of late but as soon as Labor Day is gone it too will sink back into the doldrums. As always, AC has more safety issues than any other kinds and as long as that remains gamblers will choose to go elsewhere.

There are still rumors of building a mega-casino at the Meadowlands. This, not rehabbing AC, is the answer to New Jersey's gambling issues but there is too much money at stake for this to be an easy decision. Once they sort out just how much of a very big pie each stakeholder ends up with, we may have a decision. Until then it will be politics as usual. Nevertheless it is hard to believe that the writing on the wall is escaping most. A casino at the Meadowlands is a complete game changer for most of the northeast. Once build, the worries about gambling dollars switches to those in Pennsylvania, New York, and even Connecticut.

Online gambling in NJ seems to be leveling off with the coming of nice summer weather. Unlike their teen and pre-teen counterparts, adults who gamble online can easily drag themselves away from a computer screen in the summer months when there are better things to be had out-of-doors. Online gambling other than poker seems to be enjoying more of a following. Time will answer any questions in this area.

WSOP 2015 - The poker tournament of tournaments has seen another successful run come to an end in Las Vegas. A mecca for poker geeks the world over, spending June and July in Vegas is a must for any serious poker player and a bunch of novices as well. This year's winners came from both camps although it seems to be getting more difficult for seasoned pros, except for Phil Helmuth that is, to come away with a bracelet.

New this year is the clamor that pros are putting up regarding input on tournament practices. Up for debate were payouts as well as structures and regular players see no reason why the WSOP hierarchy refuses to allow them some legitimate input. Worst case scenario is that the officials say "NO" to every suggestion; best case scenario is a lot of good will spreading around.

For the first time in a long time the WSOP sponsored a mid-level buy-in tournament. The Colossus was staged within the first few tournaments and with a very reasonable stake of $565 it attracted a record crowd necessitating tables being put up in very unlikely places - the kitchen for one! The game drew 22,373 players according to PokerNews and was won by a small time circuit grinder (PokerNews' words) named Cord Garcia. Garcia walked away with in excess of $600K, enough of a stake to buy back into a few other tournaments I am sure. If the WSOP people are smart they will hold this again and maybe even stage a similar tournament toward the end of the series to hold regular players around. What's good for non-pros is good for the game, right? Which brings me to the always controversial topic of women and poker . . .

Women and Poker - The likes of @KaraOTR, @katehall, and @KristyArnett and so many others have said it all, some recently, on this topic. The pathetic thing is that it has to be said at all. Poker is no more a men's game than any other game that does not have a foundation in pure physical strength. That's the difference between men and women for the most part and even that's not always true. Yet, men have a distinct advantage when it comes to strength. In competitions that involve primarily physical strength it makes sense to separate men and women so that the playing field is level. Poker is not one of those activities. Neither is chess, scrabble, backgammon, or a slew of other activities that get our competitive juices flowing. So why the sexism, and it is blatant sexism, in poker? 

The game developed in places that were not considered to be spots where decent women congregated. Saloons, bars, back rooms were all the haunts of men who, instead of pitching in and sharing the responsibilities at home, chose to go out and play cards. The modern game, the one played in casinos world-wide, grew out of this atmosphere and cigarette smoking, cigar chomping, dirty talking men were more likely than women to sit down at the few tables available. Women got their first break in poker with the internet craze since they could easily play and, if they wished, not identify themselves as women. The internet days came and went leaving behind a sometimes up and sometimes down but rather healthy face-to-face poker environment these days - a poker environment populated in the vast majority by men.

 Men are insecure; don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Some women are too but men are more likely to suffer from this character defect. The fact that a statement like that will raise the hackles of many men is the proof of the pudding. We like what is ours and we want to keep it that way at all costs. So when a woman sits down at a poker table, no matter how well she plays, no matter what she looks like, no matter if she is old or young, we resort to small talk, innuendo, and often outright insults. We don't really want them playing poker and our behavior says so. Instead we drive women away from the game just like we attempt to drive them away from the board room or any leadership position, anywhere except where we think they belong. We want to keep what is ours and we want to keep it at all costs.

It's a shame but that's the way things are. Most men will behave at a poker table in a way that tends to exclude half the human race and, unfortunately, all the assets they might bring to a game of poker. Short-sighted? You bet. It's mostly about egos, weak egos and, I'm afraid, there's little that can be done about it. 

Poker rooms I have been in are generally sensitive to the issue of women playing poker. Room managers and tournament directors, both male and female, know that a fist of hundred dollar bills in a woman's hand is just as good as the same fistful in a man's hand. The trouble usually starts when a woman sits down. The best behaved and savvy male players I have seen are what I call "regulars." These are guys, yes they are usually guys, who sit and play in the same card room day after day grinding out a small win percentage. When a new player walks up, usually a tourist, they go out of their way to make that person comfortable. If they are comfortable, they will stay. If they stay they almost always lose some dough. Sometimes these "walk-ins" are women and, for the regulars, that rarely matters. A woman's money is just as good as a man's money and if they have to set aside their petty biases and their hard nosed prejudices, they will for the sake of a few bucks. Unfortunately many men won't!

Making it difficult and sometimes impossible for women to enjoy playing poker in public is unacceptable and thank goodness there are those who speak out. What gets me is that those who speak out are usually women. Although there may be more than a modicum of male support behind the scenes, there is very little displayed publicly. When was the last time you read a male pro ranting on Twitter about inequality in poker? I didn't think so! And it's not that many prominent male poker pros aren't sympathetic to this cause. What's more likely is that they refrain from speaking out in deference to the corporate entities that pay their salaries and insist that the pros make very few, if any, waves. That's too bad because in the end this game will not survive on any level close to its pinnacle without the support and participation of women.

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