Room Review: Rio/WSOP

Overview:  First off, after the WSOP is over, there are no Open Face Chinese Games at the Rio. So for the vast majority of the year, this review only serves to inform people as to how the games at the Rio during the WSOP ran the previous year. And given how much OFC side-action in the “Green” Section there has been during the 2013 WSOP, from $10/pt all the way to $1,000/pt, I believe that a room review must be done, because I hope that some of the negatives I saw will be fixed for the 2014 Summer; unfortunately, it’s not very likely.

First, in terms of number of games running and number of interested players, nowhere else in Vegas game close. Typically the morning and afternoon saw 2-4 games running, usually a $10 and a $25. By night-time, there would be 10-15 games running, including multiple $10 & $25/pt games, and 1 or 2 $50/$100/pt games. Frequently, higher stakes games would run. The room was also the first place to run Pineapple Chinese, and for most of the summer the only place to find a Pineapple Chinese game.

The reason for Rio’s success is beyond simple – you have such a massive volume of poker players in one convention center area during the WSOP, and many of them will be looking for cash game action in-between, or before, or after, their tournament play that day. It’s a competitive advantage that the Rio has that no room can come close to matching. This means that no matter how badly the Rio runs the games or how many mistakes happen, unless all the players stop playing the game because of the Rio’s ineptitude, the Rio has no incentive to change their policies. Inertia is a powerful force. I can scream at the top of my lungs how much better the games are at ANY OTHER CASINO, but the fact still remains that the Rio’s location as the host for all the tournaments that make up the WSOP creates a captive market. People are simply willing to accept a poorly run game that is one banquet hall over as opposed to a better run game 1/2 mile away.

So unless something changes and people become willing to leave the Rio because of their ineptitude, me discussing these negatives only serves to allow people to understand what they are getting into when they play Open Face at Rio.

First, many dealers there are grossly unqualified or inept. The WSOP needs so many dealers during their series that they end up taking people right off the street, giving them the bare minimum in training, and throwing them out there. Obviously they are smart to make sure that the legitimately good dealers are assigned to the important events, but much to my dismay, Open Face cash games are very low on the totem pole for Rio/WSOP. So a few of the dealers are just horrible – I had one fall asleep, a second berate a player for his bad play, and a third offer strategy advice (without being asked) to a player who was contemplating a decision – the exact phrase was “You’ve got plenty of hearts left dude, go for it so you can have the only royalty”.  These weren’t even the worst dealer snafus – rather just a few easy ones to describe.

Second, the Room is not particularly organized in regards to getting people seated, calling games down, tables changes, and the like. This is in large part due to the sheer size of the room, and having floormen have to be in charge of a ridiculous number of cash games, but it is still quite annoying.

Third, the Room’s stated rule regarding “table stakes” is grossly misleading and opens up the door for a whole host of issues and angles; further compounding the potential for trouble is the fact that despite being the only room in town w/ such an aggressive rule (the rule itself I don’t mind actually), the WSOP makes no attempt whatsoever to inform players of their rules and procedures and thus players can find themselves in a very uncomfortable spot.

The situation is this – they state as a rule that the games are not table stakes, but that players must cover all losses out of pocket  This is simply not allowed under Nevada Gaming Commission. Instead, what the rule ACTUALLY is at the Rio is that if you do not have enough to cover your losses on the table, and do not wish to pay out of pocket, they will ask you to leave and ban you from all Harrah’s properties (or just Rio/WSOP, it was unclear), using the standard ability of any casino to refuse the business of any one customer. However, although they can demand you leave the premises and ban you from ever playing again at Harrahs, they still cannot force you to pay. This is a huge distinction – obviously many of us would much rather pay out, but if a person simply does not care – perhaps he is flying back to Europe that day, he can just stand up and leave.

That a game is table stakes or not is not the issue – I understand Nevada Gaming Law mandates as such. The issue is that the Rio’s rules make no mention of the obviously important detail that when they say “players must cover all losses”, what they mean is “players unwilling to pay more than what they have on the table will be asked to leave and banned, but the losses will not be covered”. The Rio’s rules imply that the staff have the power to actually force a payout – but they simply do not. A new player who reads that rule is going to believe something that is vastly different from what is real, and not be particularly happy when he doesn’t get paid out by some European guy who is leaving that day – and that did happen.

On the other side of the coin is that even if one supports the Rio’s attempts to make players pay out past table stakes, the Rio is the only room in Vegas to take such an aggressive stance, and yet they make NO attempt to inform players as such.This led to an equally ugly situation involving my friend (I later learned this situation happened numerous times):

My friend was down to $250 at the $10/pt game, and said “I don’t have any more money on me, if I drop low enough so that it’s just silly to stay, I will just leave, but I have 25 points so it probably isn’t an issue now”, and a second player said “Yeah we all agree that it’s tables stakes” (the two other players did not speak particularly good English so they pretty much had no clue what was going on). Now obviously it is the responsibility of every player to know the rules of the casino where they are playing, so my friend bears some of the responsibility, but at the same time, he’s not the first and definitely not the last to make this mistake.

The two non-English players then proceed to each hit a flush and scoop my friend, and they got paid in order, leaving my friend with only 5 points to pay the final player, which then became a problem as the other player scooped my friend, with a full house and trips in the middle. My friend said “Well that was a quick way to lose $250! Sorry about only having $50, but I did tell you guys!”, but the other player instantly demanded that my friend pay the full amount, called the floor over and changed his story, insisting that he never agreed that games are table stakes or said anything of the sort. The Rio sided with the other player, and told my friend his two options – leave and be banned from the WSOP, or pay more than what he had on him. Since he plays in numerous WSOP events, he chose the later, but he simply would never have started the hand had he known it was more than table stakes, and the other player’s angleshot/scummery (yeah I know that’s not a word) was entirely rewarded.

All it would have taken to prevent this issue would be some sort of attempt by the Rio/WSOP to inform players that they view the games as more than table stakes – even a small note on a handout with the royalties also listed would be more than sufficient. But again, the Rio/WSOP takes the stance of “we don’t care, we’ll do it our way because we know we don’t need to change or improve”, and frankly, who can blame them?

Finally the Rio treats their dealers like absolute shit. I apologize for my language, but it’s true. It’s the final sub-point to illustrate the overall concept that the Rio is a horrible place to play at if it weren’t for the fact that they have the absolute best player base to draw players from, will always have games, and will always have waiting lists keeping games full. Maybe one day players will boycott the cash games at Rio/WSOP, but I can’t even think of a metaphor to describe how amazingly tiny that chance is.

Rake: $15 per 1/2 hour, no forced tip. Plus, apparently no one ever tips there, because a lot of dealers responded to my tips with this sort of “Oh my god thank you I can’t believe someone actually tipped me finally!” look.

Rules: Trips up top is incremental, not 20 no matter what – so 222 is 10, 333 is 11, and so forth. Trips in the middle is 1. Fantasyland, you can turn around and look at your cards and figure out how to play while the other players start the hand without you. Other than that, normal rules.

So in conclusion, the Rio is a really annoying place to play at, but their incompetence and laziness essentially is a necessary evil if you want OFC action during the summer. Maybe next summer will be different, but I doubt it.