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Best of Aaron Todd

Gaming Guru

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Top-10 things that should be banned in casinos

12 September 2011

By Aaron Todd

Everyone has pet peeves. And if you spend enough time in casinos, you’ll see plenty of things that drive you nuts. Of course, if I were in charge of a casino, things would be done right, and no one would be allowed to do the things that drive me nuts.

So when a venture capitalist comes to me and tells me that he wants me to be in charge of the casino he’s going to build, here are the top-10 things that I’m going to ban in my casino.

10. Saving a seat for more than 10 minutes
No matter what you’re playing (slots, table games or poker), there are times when nature calls. And I don’t think you should be forced to give up your seat if you’re going to take a quick bathroom break. But I do think it’s ridiculous when people save their spot and then go have a nice meal, check out the shops, talk to some friends on the phone for 30 minutes, then return two hours later. If you’re going to be gone for more than 10 minutes, take your things with you and leave the seat open for someone else who is interested in playing. Otherwise, we’ll be happy to hold your things for you and give them back when you return to find yourself a new seat.

9. Re-entry poker tournaments
Some poker tournaments have gotten so big that they need multiple starting days to accommodate the field. Others may be able to accommodate demand, but want to inflate their field size (and their prize pools), so they open up registration on more than one day. Some of these tournaments have taken to allowing players who bust on the first “Day 1” to register in the next “Day 1” to take another shot at making Day 2. There’s a reason you never see dealers “run it twice” in a tournament. There shouldn’t be any do-overs in tournament poker, and that includes getting back into a tournament after you’ve busted (except in the case of a rebuy tournament, of course). At my casino, you’ve only got one shot. Sorry you lost to a one-outer, but you’ll have to wait until the next tournament to try your luck again.

8. Playing the blame game
This happens at the poker table, but also at the blackjack tables. Poker players complain about how badly someone else played when they suffer a bad beat. Blackjack players complain when someone makes a play that isn’t “by the book” and “takes away the dealer’s bust card.” Tough luck. You’re playing a game, and you can’t expect everyone to play exactly the way you do. You don’t seem to mind when you suck out on someone else at the poker table or when the person who “played it wrong” at the blackjack table takes away a card that would have made the dealer a 21. It all evens out in the end. Just play your best and let the other players make their own decisions. Every time a player blames someone else for their bad luck at my casino, they’ll have to post that person’s next bet or blind.

7. Betting don't pass in craps
There are lots of bad bets in the casino, especially on the craps table. Some boast house edges over 10 percent. But the craps table also has some really good, low house edge bets, like the pass and don’t pass bets. My theory on betting is that players can choose to bet on anything they like, but they should be armed with the knowledge of the odds they are facing. The one exception in the casino is the don’t pass bet.

Craps tables can be the rowdiest places in a casino, because usually when one person wins, everyone wins. The only exception to this is when someone has a bet on the don’t pass line, also known as the “dark side.” When someone is betting on the dark side, they are rooting against the shooter, and a weird adversarial dynamic begins at the table. One player is rooting against everyone else at the table. This turns the table from a fun, happy place, to a quiet graveyard. Let’s keep the craps fun, okay? Bet the pass line and high five your neighbor when the shooter hits his point. At my casino, there won’t be a don’t pass line.

6. Late entry in poker tournaments
Another recent scourge in tournament poker is the ability for players to register for tournaments AFTER they’ve already begun. The World Series of Poker allows players to register up to four hours after the start of a tournament. The Epic Poker League allows players to register until the end of the fourth level, meaning players can register until the dinner break in a tournament that starts at noon. If you want to show up late, that’s your business. But all players should be registered when a tournament begins, and chip stacks should be placed in every seat. When the tournament director says, “Shuffle up and deal,” every stack should be posting blinds, whether you’re in your seat or not. If you can’t get up on time, set an alarm clock. If you don’t want to get up on time, register the day before the tournament and get blinded off. I don’t care that you think the blinds are too small to invest your time. The first few levels are there for a reason; either show up and play or be blinded off until you arrive.

5. Banking against other players in pai gow
When a player acts as the bank in pai gow, their hand becomes the hand that every other hand is compared to. And if the player banking beats you, you lose your money to him and not the house. And of course, the opposite is true; if you beat the player who is banking, they owe you the amount of your wager.

A few months ago I was playing at a $5 pai gow table at Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel. After awhile, I was the only one at the table, and I was about to ask the dealer to let me bank every other hand, which lowers the house edge because the banker wins in the case of a tie. But another player sat down at the table, so I ended up passing on the opportunity to bank, because that would have pitted me against a fellow casino patron. A few hands after the player sat down, I had a tricky hand and asked the dealer if I was setting it the way the house would set it (a question that is allowed in pai gow – and yes, I was setting it correctly). After the hand, the other player at the table immediately said, “Bank!” and played the next hand heads up against me. I lost, giving the other player a $5 bet, and immediately got up and left the table. If I wanted to play cards against other people in the casino, I would have sat down in the poker room. At my casino, players will only be allowed to bank in pai gow if they are the only player at the table.

4. Racebook only seats in the sportsbook
After you make a bet in a sportsbook, the most fun place to watch a game is right there in the sportsbook. The cheers and jeers from your fellow bettors are entertaining, and the rush from a last-second win is second-to-none. Sometimes the sportsbook is packed and you can’t get a seat. But other times, you might find that you can’t get a seat, even though there is plenty seating available. That’s because some sportsbooks save half (or more) of their seats for people who are betting on horse races. While I understand that sportsbooks make quite a bit of money on people betting on horses (the turnover is much higher … a horse race takes less than two minutes, but a football game takes more than three hours), saving so much real estate for those bettors leaves people betting on sports without a place to sit and takes away from the experience of watching the game. My casino won’t have any reserved space – except for the luxury suites with private big-screen LCDs for the high rollers.

3. Betting from behind
When you're playing a table game, the decisions you make really only affect your chance of winning or losing. That changes when an onlooker puts a bet out and says he’s playing your hand from behind. (This is most common in blackjack.) While you may be flattered that someone thinks you’re lucky enough to make a wager on, the problem is that they think they suddenly have the right to offer their input on how you should play. Some decisions you make at the tables can be stressful enough when it’s just your money on the line. But when someone else is throwing in their two cents, it can turn a good time into a miserable one.

2. Angle shooting in poker
Nothing drives me nuts more than people at a poker table who try to gain an advantage by means other than how they play the cards. I was at a $4-$8 Omaha hi-lo table at The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino where a player was bullying everyone else at the table and influencing how they played their hands. When the player to his right was thinking about betting, he waved a stack of chips out in front to act like he was going to insta-raise her. When she saw this, she slowed down and checked, then he checked behind. He obviously didn’t want to put any more chips in the pot and he scared her away from making a bet. Yes, players may be able to gain a greater advantage by using such tactics. It also makes those players real jerks. If you’re reading this and it applies to you, clearly you don’t care about being a jerk, so I’ll appeal to your monetary sensibilities. People who act like that scare away inexperienced players because they’re intimidated by such actions and feel they’ve been duped and that they can’t win. You don’t want to scare those inexperienced players away. Oh yeah, and you’re still a real shameful excuse for a poker player. At my casino, you’ll have to put those chips in the pot, reveal your hand and automatically lose. Don’t like it? Play somewhere else. I don’t want angle shooters in my poker room anyway.

1. Smoking
I may make some enemies for this one, but I honestly believe that smoking should be banned on all casino floors. There’s a reason that smoking is banned in just about every other indoor public place. Smoking is really bad for you. It causes cancer. And second-hand smoke isn’t any good for you either. I really feel for the dealers who have to inhale second-hand smoke for eight hours a day, every day. They’re putting their long-term health in jeopardy just by going to work. Most of my casino play is done in poker rooms, and thankfully, most poker rooms have gone smoke free. I believe it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the casino floor does as well. Casino employees (and their lungs) will be celebrating that day for years to come, and I might even find my way to the blackjack tables a little more often once it does. My casino employees won’t have to breathe carcinogens all day, and hopefully that makes everyone at the tables a little happier.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at aarontodd@casinocity.com, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.