January 18, 2010
My home poker room is at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Altoona, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. I affectionately refer to it as “The Meadows ATM”. It’s not the biggest or shiniest room around, but it has good action and the best dealers in the state, not to mention being less than 30 minutes from home, and 15 minutes from the office. Altogether it’s not a bad place to call home base; at least until the casino gaming management monkeys decided to throw some poop around.
In the past couple of months, two new and rather idiotic decisions have been implemented by upper management: a) a complete ban on the use of cell phones in the poker room, and b) closing the poker room every day from 4:00 to 8:00 a.m., even if there are games in progress. Banning cell phones is stupid-annoying. Closing the poker room is stupid-destructive.
I understand and agree with banning phone conversations at the table—none of us need to hear another player arguing with the spousal unit about where he is and what time he’s coming home, or lining up child care for their after-midnight session. But texting, emailing, Twittering, Facebooking, etc. is rather innocuous. People these days expect to be able to communicate on a whim, whether it be to make dinner or bar plans, tell a spousal unit what time to be home, share a joke, whine about a bad beat, or taunt a buddy about the big game.
About the only coherent explanation for the ban is an attempt to prevent collusion. But these concerns are rather far-fetched. In order for collusion to work via texting, two players would need to: a) be at the same table, b) both hold hands relevant to the play, c) be against a third player, d) hit a board where the third player will play and lose; and e) be able to text quickly enough to be useful but discretely enough not to get caught. I seriously doubt a confluence of all of those events would ever happen at a basic small stakes cash game or small buy-in tourney, particularly given the poor risk-reward ratio. This is a rule in search of a problem.*
The room closure issue is much more significant. Although there were often no games during those hours Monday-Thursday, during the weekend games routinely went all night. The rule is obviously intended to save employee costs for staffing a room with no games, but the rule has had a lot of unintended negative consequences:
Obviously, if you have fewer players, the house gets less rake. It doesn’t look like this rule helps either the casino or the players. But this is what happens when bean counters with no understanding of the dynamics of poker make decisions based solely on spreadsheets and statistics.
It’s all almost enough to make me drive to the Horseshoe in Council Bluffs.
* The 2010 WSOP rules were recently released, and essentially ban cell phone conversations at the table, but permit texting/emailing until players reach the money (see Rules 55 and 56). Hard to imagine why a lowly 1/2 NLHE or 3/6 LHE cash game needs greater preventive security measures than a tournament with millions of dollars at stake.