Golden Nugget 6/6 2014 OFC Tournament

A full review of the Golden Nugget’s June 6th OFC Tournament will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, check out the following gallery of the action, including a picture of yours truly taking down first place after defeating Jon “PearlJammer” Turner in Heads Up Play.

Review: Wynn Fall 2013 Tournament

This post is admittedly quite overdue, as it is currently the summer of 2014, and the topic here is a OFC tournament ran in the Fall of 2013. But I feel I should still post it because the Wynn deserves credit for a well-run tournament that included FantasyLand. They were the first casino (that I know of) to include FantasyLand and although there were a few hiccups along the way, they deserve a lot of credit for making the tournament run as well as it did. 

Because it was so long ago, I will not do a full review, but rather I will simply take note of the most important takeaways from the tournament. First, here was the rule sheet handed out: Rules for Wynn OFC Event

The first thing to note is how they did FantasyLand. I think this is the best way to do it in a tournament style, as the casual “turn around and set hand while the others play out the hand” can lead to all sorts of angles and potential conflict and IMO isn’t an option in a tournament. The way the Wynn did it was that all four (or 3) players would recieve their 5 cards as normal, and then the player would recieve the next 8 off the deck (as normal), then he would get 2 minutes to set his hand (no one else would do anything) face down. Once set, the others would play out the hand as normal. Although this does create some dead time, it’s the fairest way to do it. It was not mentioned in the rules but it was probably the best way to do it, and it was very well enforced.

The second takeaway was the Wynn’s solution to questions of table balance, speed of play (some tables being many hands ahead of other tables), tables being way ahead level wise, some tables being 2-handed while others were 4-handed, and other assorted issues that are created when one tries to run an OFC tournament – the Wynn simply had a floorman actively monitoring every table for speed of play, unbalanced tables and other potential issues, and actively moving players from one table to the other to kep the tournament as fair as possible, both in terms of balancing tables by number, and also simply adjusting a slow-moving table and a fast-moving table by swapping a randomly chosen seat at each table to get a faster player to the slow table and a slower player to the fast table. Typically I am against the idea of giving a person or two the broad and vaguely defined ability to act in the “best interests” of an event due to the inheret subjectiveness and lack of explcit/objective guidelines. However, particularly in the case of OFC tournaments where new issues can arise and it’s not entirely clear what’s the optimal way to run things, it isn’t neccessarily a bad idea, provided the floorman in question knows what he’s doing, and it’s spelled out in advance that he has the authority and will use as such. I’ve spoke highly of the staff at the Wynn before, and I will do so again here – they are fair, honest and quite good at their jobs so giving one of their floormen subjective authority to make sure the tournament is run fairly is perfectly fine because the staff have a pretty damn good idea what they’re doing. The problem would arise if a tournament run by people who don’t have an idea what they’re doing try to emulate the Wynn’s policies. So although I’m not sure the Wynn’s policy of “have a floorman with a brain actively monitor the tournament” is the long-term solution to how to run an OFC tournament, it certainly was a short-term solution that proved quite effective.

Now for some pictures from the event:


Room Review: Orleans

I’ve always been impressed with Orleans. In general, most poker rooms either near the strip (Palms, Hard Rock, some of the Stations Casinos for example) or on the strip but not one of the “big” casinos (Harrah’s, Quad, Luxor, Treasure Island) seem to believe that either they can compete with the big boys (by big boys, I mean Aria/Wynn/Venetian/Bellagio, arguably MGM & Caesars) or that how the big boys run a room should equal how they run a room. By that I mean that because 1/2 NL is the bread & butter of the big rooms, the nearby rooms are going to try to fight in that marketplace. They’ll also fight for the low limit (2-4/3-6/4-8) hold ’em crowd.

Orleans essentially realized that you can’t beat the Yankees by outspending them. Instead, you make a room that puts an absolute hammerlock on the market outside of NLHE and Low-Limit Hold ‘Em. While they do run those games, that’s not the Orleans’ Bread-n-Butter. No, what makes their room is that they’re pretty much the best place for low to mid-stakes Omaha-8, Stud, Stud-8, and all the other non-HE games. I believe they’re the only place in town that runs a HORSE tournament. Orleans realized that they can’t compete with the big boys for 1/2 NLHE, because the combination of location/name recognition/tourist traffic that the top rooms have is simply unbeatable. But what they can do is instead focus their energy

Right now, for example, at 12:20 PM on a random Wednesday in September, they’ve got 2 tables running of 4-8 Omaha 8 or better. No room on the Strip besides Aria, Venetian, Wynn, and randomly, the Flamingo, have more than 2 tables running. Orleans has more than just those two tables, but my point is that instead of making their main focus trying to siphon off of the big room’s edges (I hope that metaphor actually makes sense), the Orleans went for the marketplace that the big rooms ignore – the non-Hold ’em Market. And the results are clear – they’re the most successful off-strip room, bar none.

So it only makes sense that the Orleans would be a perfect fit for Open Face Chinese – their strategy is to get the games that the Strip doesn’t go after, and OFC is exactly that. I’m actually a bit surprised they haven’t done more to go AFTER the OFC crowd, but simply willing to offer a very good rake ($5+$5, regardless of stakes) is far beyond most places.
There are a few negatives, although one negative is countered. First, the dealers there have had some issues. Most of the dealers are fairly “veteran”/”experienced” dealers, who are not very comfortable dealing new games, and don’t really adapt well. I’ve seen a lot of dealers struggle with some concepts – I understand that the first time you deal FantasyLand, it may be a bit confusing, but I’ve seen dealers routinely mess it up, time after time, and make no attempt to get better or to learn. I’ve seen dealers refuse to adopt some of the things that the players, or the floormen, have suggested to speed the game up, because the dealers in question are stubbornly dead-set in their ways and how they believe things should be run – for example, at the Orleans (and almost everywhere) if a card among the initial deal flips up by accident, the players just treat it as an accident and continue going, the card is not burned or replaced. One dealer refused to accept this and called the floorman to verify – I can understand that. But all four players asked the dealer to continue dealing out WHILE waiting for the floor to come over because the floormen were busy on another table – the dealer steadfastly refused. That is a problem, because that’s time wasted in what is already a slow game that is time-raked. I understand needing to call the floor, but continue the hand while the floor comes over, particularly something as simple as the deal, and particularly when all four players are in agreement.

The worst part was when the floor told the dealer we were right, and also in general to keep the game going while the floor is called over (something I give the floor credit for), that same dealer had a later issue where he refused to let the game continue until the floor came over.

Now I know any room has bad dealers, but it just seems that Orleans has the highest number of dealers who simply cannot understand or cannot learn Open Face. The floormen are great, and many dealers are perfectly fine, but I cannot write a room review without acknowledging that negative.

The other negative is the lack of foot traffic around the room; specifically, the lack of tourist traffic. Orleans is not a Strip Casino – it’s just not going to have nearly as many random passer-bys intrigued by the game. What made Venetian and Palms so great, and what makes MGM okay, simply does not exist at Orleans. It’s a huge problem because while it’s a great place to play Open Face, you’re not going to get new blood, at least in regards to tourists or random passer-bys or random poker amateurs playing 1/2 NL at a nearby table. On the flip side, because you have so many mixed game veterans, so many Omaha 8 or Stud players, you DO get a decent number of older players who see this game, have heard something about it (or know what normal Chinese Poker is), and want to add it to their repertoire as they fancy themselves experts in everything poker that’s not NLHE. The problem is that those types of people aren’t typically the ones who will just jump right in, or even ones who will jump right in at lower stakes, rather, they’re going to have to contemplate the game for a while before joining. I’ve only seen 3 people actually legitimately see the game and give it a try, far below even what MGM has gotten in terms of new players. Maybe I’m being too stereotypical, and said old people will actually start playing the game. But to me, it’s just as important that a room be a good place to get new players – it’s not just enough for 4 OFC regulars to play a $10/pt game or a $5/pt game somewhere, the game, like any poker game or the entire poker community, needs a constant influx of new blood, otherwise it just becomes a few people fighting for a dwindling amount of money.

Rules: Orleans uses 222 = 10 pts, 333 = 11 pts, upwards to AAA = 22pts as the Top Royalty. Trips in the middle are worth 2. They are very good about letting players turn around in FantasyLand to set their hand, while letting the other players play out the hand. Rake is $5+$5 (half for house, half for dealer) regardless of stakes.

Room Review Edit: Palms Gets Greedy, Ends Up Shooting Itself in the Foot

When Venetian first decided to jack up the rake for Open Face Chinese to absurd amounts, under the misguided notion that they can consistently fill their room with full-ring games, Palms swooped right in. I praised the Palms’ ability to understand their position within the Vegas Poker Scene – although I’m sure they’d like their 8-table room to be consistently packed with 1/2 or 2/5 No Limit Games getting 20 hands of max rake each 1/2 hr (like Aria is able to do with their 24-table room), the reality of the situation is that Palms often faces an entirely empty room or a room with 1 2/4 Limit Game filled with jackpot/high hand chasers who don’t build the pot enough to hit max rake consistently.

Palms realized that offering Open Face Chinese at a reasonable rake was preferable to no games at all, and probably preferable to the 2/4 limit games that they currently run as well.

At least I thought they did. Apparently not. Or apparently they got greedy. Or they wanted to believe they belong with the big boys like Aria and Venetian (who rake $15+5 per 1/2 hour), Palms decided to jack up the rake as well, just one month after they had made the conscious decision to try to establish themselves as the place to play Open Face Chinese Poker in Las Vegas. Their new rake was $10+5 per 1/2 hr for $2/pt, and $15+5 per 1/2 hr for $5/pt.

And by the very next day, the games were gone. The room was getting 2 or 3 games a night each night, and within a day, any Open Face Chinese Poker action at Palms was dead. I have not seen a single game of Open Face Chinese Poker run at Palms since they jacked up the rake, and I don’t forseee a game running there ever again unless they decide to bring the rake back down – there are rooms that offer reasonable rake (MGM and Orleans, rooms I will be reviewing shortly). Alongside the lack of cash games, the weekly Open Face tournament at Palms is a goner as well.

I still do not understand why Palms did it. Yes, Open Face Chinese Poker is not as profitable a game as a full ring 1/2 No Limit Table or other full ring poker games. But the game is still a profitable one to run for a casino – so why Palms would rather have empty tables and empty rooms as opposed to nights where there were 5 or 6 tables of OFC games going – I simply do not know. And I’m sure whatever reason they would give would be absurd.

Palms had a chance to be the epicenter of OFC Cash Games in Las Vegas – but I guess they’d rather just have their 8-table room sit with 6-7 empty tables, and 1-2 2/4 Limit Games with 8 nits chasing high hand jackpots all day.

Thankfully there are still rooms that reconigze that an OFC game is better than no game for a poker room. MGM and Orleans still run low stakes OFC games, from $2 to $10/pt, at very reasonable rakes. I will be posting room reviews shortly for each room.

Room Review: Palms

Overview: It isn’t exactly a secret that the Palms Poker Room (specifically, the Cantor Poker Room at Palms Casino) is struggling. There are certainly other factors at play, but the two main reasons for the recent lack of success are first due to the casino’s off-strip location and also due to the poker room’s desire to try to compete head-on with the “big strip poker rooms” like Aria, Venetian and Bellagio. So whereas Aria consistently fills its room (and Venetian can point to days where they filled their room to support their delusions of consistently being at capacity) and thus can be discriminating with which games they wish to run (catering to the ones that get the highest rake for the casino), the Palms, simply put, cannot. They need games running. But sdsxd

I say this not to bash the room, but rather, to point out that the room is in a very different position than rooms like Aria and Bellagio. It is for that reason than whereas Venetian seems determined to kill low-stakes OFC, Palms wants to embrace it. The first day Venetian announced their rake, I spoke with management at the Palms, and when I mentioned that Venetian’s rake would kill the game there, the exact response was “Venetian’s loss is our gain”. They have an 8-table poker room and the management has said point blank he would not mind seeing all 8 tables filled with Open Face Chinese games. They know they cannot compete with the “big boys” for 1-3 NL, but they can easily compete, and win, at being the best place for Open Face Chinese, and the management there understands that 8 Open Face Chinese games is vastly superior to 8 empty tables.

That’s why they are making such an effort to become the epicenter of Open Face Chinese. It’s why they’ve agreed to have the $5+$5 rake for any level of stakes. They’ve promised to many players, including myself, that if they do not have a dealer on staff, they will call in a dealer into work so they can get a game going. They made sure that every dealer knows the game, to the point where the dealers at Palms take an active role in payouts and hand adjudication moreso than any room I’ve ever seen (and I feel much more willing to pay a rake if I know I’m getting a dealer who is going to make sure all the payouts are correct and no one feels uncomfortable about being potentially shorted $). They have no problem playing any variant you can think of – so any degenerate variant you have at your home game, just tell the dealers and they’ll deal it out for you.

They’ve even gone so far as to decide to host a weekly tournament for Open Face Chinese, and run the first of many promotions specific to Open Face – in this case, they’re offering to freeroll anyone who played 20 hours of OFC the previous week into that week’s OFC tournament.

Now, it still must be noted that the Palms still has one huge downside that places like Venetian and Aria do not – player traffic. Since the Palms does not have many other poker games running – at most they’ll have 2 other games running, you do not get nearly the same level of player traffic – poker players wandering around, checking out all the games, potentially seeing OFC being played and becoming intrigued. Aria, Venetian, Bellagio all have a significant amount of traffic; and Rio/WSOP’s entire reason for why they can be so horribly run is b/c of the traffic/player base created by the WSOP tournament crowd. Palms has none of that. It’s a significant hurdle, because it means they have to depend that much more on either players bringing in other players, or being able to contact interested players to tell them a game is running.

The one caveat is that the poker room’s presence next to the Sportsbook, and also being clearly visible to casino-goers passing by, does lead to a decent number of gambling-minded individuals seeing Open Face Chinese being played and becoming intrigued despite not being normally there to play poker. This does not compensate fully for the lack of poker traffic, but it is still a significant source of players for Open Face games. One thing Palms has done recently is begun running a “Open Face Chinese Class”, the same way casinos offer Blackjack or Craps class – one of the dealers or floormen sit down with a few interested players and teach them the basics and play a few hands at 50 cents or $1/pt – and just like the Craps classes work in that players then decide to go “play for real”, I’ve seen at least two “graduates” go and then play in the $5/pt game that same day.

So – essentially, what is important to know about the Palms Poker Room is that they really want Open Face Chinese games to run regularly there. They will go the “extra mile”, moreso than any other casino in Vegas. This is for the same reason that ends up being the hurdle for them as they try to build an OFC community – specifically, they don’t have a lot of poker traffic from other games – it’s both why they want to run OFC as much as they do, and why I can’t give it a perfect score for it’s OFC games (if I actually graded the rooms out).

Rake: $5+$5 forced dealer tip per 1/2 hour for any stakes from $2/pt to $25/pt – higher than $25/pt, management has said they will play each high-stakes game by ear. Also, they are very good about not charging a rake for two people if they agree to start heads-up with the intention of getting a game going.

There still remains the issue of the lack of player base/traffic; Palms never has and never will have the traffic that an Aria or Venetian has. They do have a comparable level of casino traffic, and their location in the sportsbook does help add some gambling-minded individuals to the “pool” of people who may pass by, see the game and become interested; however, it is still the one big hurdle that the Palms will face as they try to turn themselves into a huge player in Open Face Chinese in Las Vegas. The only real solution is for them to continue spreading the word about their desire to host OFC games, and continue to try their best to pull interested players in. Outside of that (admittedly significant) downside, the Palms is just simply an awesome place for OFC. It’s not hyperbole to say that it has become the best place to play non-nosebleed Open Face Chinese.

Rules: The Palms has been quite flexible with the rules, if every player agrees to a certain rule set. However, they do have a standard Royalty sheet – Trips in the middle is 2, Trips in the back is 0, Trips up top is 20. Tablestakes (and they are very aggressive in enforcing this rule, they will warn players who get short-stacked that they can only double up, and they will also warn the rest of the table that they can only lose what’s in front of them).

In conclusion – come check out the Palms, if you want non-nosebleed OFC action. Particularly if you also want to watch some baseball or another sporting event – then it’s the best of both worlds.

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.

Room Review Edit: Venetian Changes Rake To Absurd Amount

Venetian had established itself as the single best place to go to for low-stakes Open Face Chinese action – and given that the nosebleed games are likely to die out after the series is over, the Venetian had the absolute lock on the market that is far for more able to provide a consistent source of business for the room.

However, I am sad to report that Venetian essentially told the Open Face community to GTFO. For various reasons, some legitimate and some not, Venetian raised their rake from the fair and reasonable $5 per 1/2 hour for both the $2 and $5 per point games to $15+$5 forced dealer tip per 1/2 hour.

The following is a bit lengthy, and is mostly personal opinions. The take-away from Venetian’s change in rake is that the $5/pt game is dead, and 1 $2/pt game runs almost daily but under an unbeatable rake. Stay away from the Venetian, and consider the room to be persona non grata with the Open Face Chinese Community. Thankfully, there are two new rooms that appear to be wiling to fill in the void that the Venetian left by kicking the OFC game to the curb: The Palms, and MGM Grand. I will be doing room reviews on the two rooms soon.

As for the Venetian, due to the fact that I want to see Open Face Chinese continue to grow, and Venetian offered a perfect spot to grow the game without screwing over a room by taking a table away from a 1-2 NLHE game, I do feel compelled to elaborate on why I feel it’s beyond ridiculous that the Venetian did this, and either reflects a delusional view of their own ability to fill 59 tables consistently or is an over-reaction to dealer complaints of a lack of tips (a fair complaint about Open Face Chinese games).

Now, let me clarify that I absolutely support the forced dealer tip. I think a $5+$5 per 1/2 hour rake is absolutely reasonable. The simple fact is that when you combine honest forgetfulness by the players who normally tip generously since they aren’t being “pushed” a pot, not playing a lot of hands leading to less opportunites for such players to tip, and complete jackassery by miserly local regs who absolutely detest tipping and don’t realize that their Scrooge-like behaviors cause more problems that the dollar or two they save, you get dealers who get screwed if they have to deal Open Face because the difference in tips from dealing OFC vs. NLHE can be rather significant in the absence of a forced tip. And the lack of tips (and subsequent dealer complaints) was clearly one of the reasons why Venetian wanted to up the rake. I understand the rationale for the forced tip, and I support the +$5 forced tip part.

However, to change from $5 per 1/2 hour to $15 per 1/2 hour is absolutely absurd. I understand that the Venetian does not want to have to run an OFC game when they could run a 1/2 NLHE or a 4-8 limit Omaha game (both which completely dominate OFC in terms of overall rake for the house), but the Venetian views this as an either/or proposition, believing that they will consistently fill their 59-table room. Yes, during the WSOP they sometimes did, but let’s be honest, from July to May, the number of days they come anywhere close to filling the room is quite low. There will be empty tables, and a $5/pt OFC game with $5 per 1/2 hour (and $5 dealer tip) is better than NO game, which is what happened the instant they switched – the $5/pt game is now dead at Venetian.

What is frustrating is that the Venetian came out of nowhere with this decision and then basically told any players who tried to discuss the issue that they need not bother. A lot of the players, myself included, were perfectly willing to accept the fact that if every table was filled or if they were short dealers, that Open Face was not an option that day. We were willing to accept that Open Face Chinese will only be spread when there is an empty table and a free dealer, and even accept having to stop playing if another full-rake game needed to run. We just wanted a place that would run an OFC game if there was an empty table and a dealer, and run it for a fair rake for the game – accepting that such a rake is far less than other games, so those games get preference. Since Venetian has a 59-table room that is almost never filled, they have the perfect spot for Open Face Chinese, but management apparently suffers from the delusion that their room will be filled to capactiy all the time, as opposed to just during the WSOP. Such delusions are simply sad, because they caused a great Open Face Game to be killed.

Perhaps the most ridiculousness thing, however, is that they only jacked the $2/pt game’s rake up to $10+$5; this is still unbeatable, but it shows that they somehow want to have some sort of minor accomodation to the Open Face Games as a whole – essentially throwing a small bone to the crowd. The problem is that they chose to do this for the WORSE of the two games in terms of the problems that Venetian had with Open Face – specifically, the $2/pt game was filled with the very miserly old regs that never tip that I previously described, whereas the $5/pt game had very few of such players. Further, the $2/pt game had players who constantly complained about the rake and tried to find ways around it or argue they did not have to pay it, to a far higher degree than the $5/pt game players would (I won’t stand here and say the 5/pt game was perfect, but relatively speaking, the $5/pt game was a dream game compared to the $2/pt game). It’s beyond lunacy to give a minor accommodation to the $2/pt game and not the $5/pt game.

Sure enough, as of today, the $2/pt game has still been running fairly consistently, in large part because the regs who still play it somehow have yet to figure out that the game is not beatable at the rake of $10+$5, whereas the $5/pt game has died precisely because the players saw the new rake and instantly realized the game was effectively dead.

So in conclusion – it is with true sadness and frustration that I retract the positive things I wrote about Venetian earlier this summer – the room is no longer a good place for low stakes Open Face, and should not be viewed as a place to try to get a game running. If you want Open Face Chinese action, stay away from the Venetian – instead, go to one of the other rooms that I will be reviewing soon – namely, Palms or MGM Grand.