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Wendeen H. Eolis

Calling Out Sexism in Poker: Beyond Maguire, Molly’s Game, and “The Mouth”

by Wendeen H. Eolis

The bloom was still on the rose of the poker boom when James (Jimmy) Woods strolled into the Commerce Casino, just outside Los Angeles. We met up for coffee and then walked over to a no limit hold’em game with “open seating.”

Tobey Maguire was in the game. So were Leonardo (Leo) DiCaprio and David Schwimmer. The rest of the players were a mixture of local pros and other recognizable regulars. There was no fanfare--no handlers holding court, protectively, no velvet ropes to keep gawkers at bay, no caviar on the side tables for the celebrities.

Except for the cast of Hollywood characters at the table, it was  a typical,  no limit hold' 'em game in  the country's biggest card room  The  blinds ware relatively small. the buy-in was uncapped, and thousands—not hundreds of thousands--of dollars  changed hands in the course of the night. Like the rest of the players at the table, the Hollywood pack seemed to care mostly about how people were playing their chips and the odds of a reversal of fortune on the turn of a card.

Way before Before Molly’s Game

In the mid 80s, when I first  sidled up to a poker table, the WSOP was the one tournament that meant something to any poker player worth his salt. In that era, poker players were accustomed to seeing the likes of Gabe Kaplan and Telly Savalas  at the World Series of Poker, but  generally, movie stars were not aficionados of public poker rooms. Very few women took seats at the tables. During the three week World Series at Binion''s Horseshoe; blue language and  vulgar comments were part of the game--except when a lady was at the table. Benny Binion, had no patience for such bad manners! Neither did Jack Binion. And good old Texans jumped right in if a guy got out of line when the fairer sex was present. But not so much in many other card rooms where  male players viewed women as intrusive on their boys' nights out.    

New York's Mayfair Club did better than most. In the mid 80's the Mayfair  began its evolution into the hottest underground poker den in America. There was an egalitarian spirit at the table.  Originally, a bridge and backgammon club, the Mayfair attracted some of the best and the brightest game players in the world; a slew of them were poker players; some  were women.  Once poker was an option at the Club, word spread like wildfire among local game players and sports bettors.

In no time flat, the Mayfair's ambience roped in low limit poker players from all walks of life. Pros, Wall Street whales and a smattering of celebrities were part of the Club's regular ebb and flow. There was one big no limit game; I decided to make high stakes no limit hold 'em  my game. Few women dared to take a shot at pulling down a four or five figure pot. Most of the time I was the only woman at the table.

Needling fellow players and "coffee-housing" (harmless trash talk) were  encouraged. Cursing was discouraged. The F bomb was never acceptable as a regular part of the conversation. Disparaging whispers about women and  fish were routine but down and dirty abuse   at the table was verboten.

And, Molly Bloom the poker hostess with the mostest, and author of a new book about high stakes poker games, in hotsy- totsy enclaves, was just a kid in Loveland, Colorado.

The 90s takes poker up a notch

In the 90s, screenplay writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien discovered New York’s Mayfair Club.  The Mayfair was the inspiration for their 1998 film,  Rounders, starring Matt Damon, Ed Norton and John Malkovich. In the years that followed, increasingly, celebrities made their way into poker rooms.  Damon took a fancy to the game. His close friend, Ben Affleck also got into poker; first at Foxwoods, in small no limit games, later in Atlantic City’s high stakes mixed limit games--with Jennifer Lopez at his side. After their break-up, more often alongside Maguire, and DiCaprio  in California--the poker capital of the world. Woods, caught the poker bug, independently. He eagerly, made visits to tournaments and cash games on both coasts. and Schwimmer was a frequent player, too.

The movie stars generally behaved in poker rooms as they would in any other coed domain, where manners count and unwritten rules of basic etiquette frown on being disrespectful or making fun of women for sport.  As to the rest of the poker players, across America, they were as orderly as required by the game runners and poker parlors personnel; few public card rooms muzzled provocative  commentary.

The Poker Boom Years in the Oughts

With the advent of online poker, the average age and social skills of poker players dropped, dramatically, during the next decade of the "oughts." A small influx of  never-seen-before women of varying ages  began to take seats at casino card room tables. If they wanted to play poker, they wee forced to adapt to a new lexicon of acceptable curse words and more table chatter that portrayed women as nuts and sl---s . 

Of course, some women in the poker world  never have  looked upon a poker table as a place to be a prim and proper lady!   One-time poker star and runner-up contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, Annie Duke was among them. At one Ante Up for Africa charity poker event, the  outspoken Duke, came running to our table where Matt Damon was the center of the universe. Mugging for the cameras, she said to him in earshot of  the well-heeled crowd, “You are such an attention w---re!”  

The golden era of Molly Bloom’s poker games was on the horizon.

Molly’s Game: Beyond Imagination

The poker festivities described in the new blockbuster book, “Molly’s Game,” by Molly Bloom became  the hottest tickets in town in the latter years of the oughts.  Business titans mixed it up with movie stars and the occasional well-known poker pro.

Dubbed the “Poker Princess,” of Hollywood and New York,  Bloom operated  private, exclusive, high-stakes poker games until the Government shut them down. Her game got hit by a sting operation that  targeted big fish in sports betting businesses and organized crime.

This past spring Bloom resolved the criminal case against her with one year of probation.

Ms. Bloom’s games were always carefully laced with celebrities the likes of Maguire, Schwimmer, Di Caprio, and Affleck. Movie icons attract billionaire businessmen into the fold, she explains. Bloom catered to Spiderman Maguire because he was a regular who encouraged other A-listers to join the fun. And for a good while, Maguire helped to keep Bloom's  business a captivating affair.

According to Bloom, Maguire was a big winner and a poor tipper who messed big-time with her sense of dignity.  Showing him as a cad toward women,  she cited  an incident  in which Spiderman insisted she bark like a seal for the reward of a $1,000 tip. She found it in herself to decline. She got the tip anyway. It was not the first example of Maguire's penchant for humor at a woman's expense, in a poker room, nor the last.

Maguire is part of a sizable demographic of men who push the boundaries of “arguably acceptable” conduct outside , brothels, male locker rooms, and bedrooms--by mutual consent. 

“Mike the Mouth” Reflects a Popular Mindset

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Download and Read the Poker Player Digital Edition for July 14th, 2014 (Vol. 18 Number 2)

June 2nd, 2014 Issue of Poker Player NewspaperDownload the July 14th Digital edition PDF of Poker Player Newspaper.

Featured Articles:
Calling Out Sexism in Poker — Beyond Maguire, Molly’s Game, and “The Mouth” - by Wendeen H. Eolis

Featured Strategy - Mike Caro: Today's Word is Revenge

Tournament Results:
World Series of Poker Events 53 to the Main Event (#65)

AND MUCH MORE, Download the new Issue PDF now!

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WSOP Branding Machine - Part Two : Changing of the Guard

By Wendeen H. Eolis

Until moments after the 2009 WSOP final table proceedings in the fall, Jeffrey Pollack was the public face of the WSOP.  And then, suddenly, he announced his resignation and rushed off to take interviews that controlled the immediate spin on his departure.  He said he was ready to survey opportunities in new pastures and pleased  to have contributed  to the growth of the WSOP brand.  

Despite the happy state of affairs effectuated by the Pollack-Stewart collaboration, the collegiality between the two men had begun to wane at least a year earlier. A corporate reorganization of CIE was also afoot. Although Pollack had recommended a strong initiative in the online gaming market, and sought to add this responsibility to his portfolio, Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman was zooming in on Mitch Garber, the recently departed CEO of Party Gaming, to lead such an effort.

Mitch Garber Steps up to Bat

Pollack’s unveiled opposition to Garber as his potential boss made for an awkward situation once Garber was plainly in line to take the reins of CIE (initially Harrahs Interactive Entertainment), including Pollack's most treasured domain, the WSOP.  

In the spring of 2009, Garber became CEO of CIE. With Garber's blessings, Pollack assumed the title of President of CIE, briefly. But, Garber was running the show and relying on others as he built his team. In the fall of 2009, Pollack resigned. Garber tapped Stewart as his replacement.

Stewart Shines Brighter under Garber

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Download and Read the Poker Player Digital Edition for June 30th, 2014 (Vol. 18 Number 1)

June 2nd, 2014 Issue of Poker Player NewspaperDownload the June 30th Digital edition PDF of Poker Player Newspaper.

Featured Articles:
WSOP Branding Machine: The Players are the Stars - by Wendeen H. Eolis

The World Series of Poker: It's Our Woodstock! - by Shari Geller

Tournament Results:
World Series of Poker Events up to 52

AND MUCH MORE, Download the new Issue PDF now!

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WSOP Branding Machine Part One: Players are the Stars

by Wendeen H. Eolis

Effel / Eolis / Stewart Confer at WSOPHours before the curtain rose on the 45th annual World Series of Poker, last minute wrangling amongst the collaborators was at a fever pitch. Behind the scenes, the organizers and the operator of the fabled tournament were still debating the planned theatrics to open the festivities. Time was running out to settle the latest tiff among the organizers. Players are rarely aware of the internal machinations, but they are often caught, unwittingly, in the cross hairs of the competing entities. In this case, a bit of free money was in the mix. The players were victorious!

Corporate Structure Creates Madness

Welcome to the world of complex corporate relationships that thrive on poker’s biggest stage. At the WSOP the customer is the buyer and the product.  The corporate maze of Caesars Entertainment (Caesars) and its related businesses is even more complicated. Here, you cannot tell the players without a scorecard.

A thumbnail sketch of the inter-connected cast of characters that impact on your experience at the WSOP follows: the WSOP is owned by Caesars Interactive Entertainment ("CIE"), which is a subsidiary of Caesars Growth Partners, LLC, ("Caesars Growth") which is a joint venture between Caesars Acquisition Company (“CAC”) and Caesars Entertainment Corporation (“Caesars”). The Rio All Suites Hotel which operates the WSOP is wholly owned by Caesars.

And—Caesars holds the controlling shares of Caesars Growth; 58%. 42% of the shares is owned by CAC. Mitch Garber is the CEO of Caesars Growth Partners, CAQ and CIE and has a notable equity interest in the businesses he oversees. Garber sums up for me a crucial point in these entangled connections: "The WSOP has no economic interest in the Rio, but the Rio has an economic interest in the WSOP."

For those who crave a more finite understanding of these relationships or further details that make more sense of the fancy structure, you are on your own! For the rest of us, suffice to say that the WSOP branding machine and the Rio operating team have natural reasons to lock horns as each seeks to pursue their own respective interests in the course of their collaborations.

Key Players on the WSOP Team: Stewart, Greenbaum, and Effel

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WSOP Grand Pooh Bah: Ty Stewart From Las Vegas To Macau With Love Always In Mind

By Wendeen H. Eolis

Ty Stewart Family OutingIn the days leading up to the opening of the 2014 World Series of Poker, Ty Stewart, the Grand Pooh Bah of the World Series of Poker, was beaming.  A five day trip had taken the WSOP Executive Director from Las Vegas to Macau where he eyeballed poker action in the stratosphere. He then traveled onward to Atlantic City for the WSOP National Championship, and back to Las Vegas to open the 45th Annual World Series of Poker--with a bang.

WSOP—Checking Out the Action in Macau

While in Macau, Stewart drooled over the possibilities for a future WSOP Macau-based event.  He more than hints at his plan to nail down a deal that moves the WSOP APAP from Australia to Macau, in 2016.

WSOP—Checking into Atlantic City: On Miss America’s Boardwalk

By the time Stewart arrived in Atlantic City, the WSOP Championship was underway. It was his  concept to “reboot the Circuit competitions into a year-long platform, culminating in a nationally televised bracelet championship.”  And, Stewart  took  delight in seeing his idea—a final table competition on the legendary Atlantic City boardwalk—come to fruition.

German hotshot poker pro, 23-year old Dominik Nitsche, nabbed the bracelet along with $218,000. He also brought the Championship to a finish, hours earlier than expected. So, Stewart toyed with the idea of ditching his scheduled reservation for the next afternoon and taking a red-eye flight home to Las Vegas that night instead—to gain one extra day of preparation for the opening of the 2014 WSOP.

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Download and Read the Poker Player Digital Edition for June 2nd, 2014 (Vol. 17 Number 25)

June 2nd, 2014 Issue of Poker Player NewspaperDownload the June 2nd Digital edition PDF of Poker Player Newspaper.

Feature Story 
Poker Player Takes a Step Forward by Wendeen H. Eolis

Featured Strategy:
Mike Caro - Today's Word is BURDENS by Mike Caro

Tournament Results:
Bryan Campanello Wins $175K at Harrah’s New Orleans Main Event

Eric Blair wins Lodge Casino WSOP-C Main Event

Kyle Bowker wins Harrah’s Philadelphia Main Event

AND MUCH MORE, Download the new Issue PDF now!

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Poker Player Newspaper Takes Forward Step

by Wendeen H. EolisWendeen H. Eolis

Last week, Stanley Sludikoff, publisher of Poker Player Newspaper, addressed card room personnel in an open letter saying, “For the past 30 years PPN has faithfully served card rooms across the country with a print edition available every two weeks." He continued, "Costs to provide this service have escalated past a point of feasibility in our current business model."  He announced, "Accordingly, effective immediately, we will be publishing Poker Player Newspaper exclusively on the Internet at pokerplayernewspaper.com."

It was a painful step but also a potential winner for the MENSA man and member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Make no mistake, about it—at 78 Sludikoff is still going strong, fearlessly and immensely confident about Poker Player Newspaper’s future.

A businessman and one time blackjack enthusiast, Sludikoff published diverse gambling books for decades. Among them are a collection of stories by Doyle Brunson “According to Doyle,” the ultimate “Book of Tells” by Mike Caro, and the pre-eminent work of gaming law professor I. Nelson Rose, “Gambling and the Law.” Sludikoff  also brought blackjack expert Ken Uston’s tale of "Million Dollar Blackjack" to the public. A library of sixty five books have been published as part of his Gambling Times business.

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Borgata WPO Tournament Decision Ignites Much Debate

Wendeen H. Eolisby Wendeen H. Eolis

During the past week, since  the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued its final order concerning the first event at the Borgata Winter Poker Open (“WPO”) last January, players have been arguing fiercely about the fairness  or unfairness of the rulings. Chatter has turned into full on posturing. Tournament participants are  communicating with friends, Borgata representatives, the DGE, poker tournament directors around the country, media and---lawyers.  Movers and shakers far across the poker planet are also popping up with takes on the decision.

A Quick Review of the Borgata Counterfeit Chip Caper:
The opening event of the WPO was suspended and ultimately terminated by the DGE before the third day was to commence, after determining that counterfeit chips had been introduced into the tournament. The DGE order provides for the disbursement of the undistributed remaining prize pool (which was frozen during the DGE investigation), together with the revenues earned by Borgata in buy-in fees. The DGE determined that Borgata was a victim of criminal conduct, not negligent and not liable for any other payments, in this matter.

DGE Order and Borgata Statement
One fuzzy issue in the order relates to the distribution of revenues earned by Borgata ($288,000+).  They are referenced in a “whereas clause” as monies provided to players “in consultation” with the Borgata.  The Borgata statement references the inclusion of the buy-in fees in player distributions as a voluntary contribution on the part of the Company.

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Decision on Borgata Counterfeit Chip Investigation is Here! DGE Ends Waiting Game

Wendeen H. Eolis

Wendeen H. Eolis

By Wendeen H. Eolis

Minutes ago, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported  at its website its  final order arising from its investigation of the Borgata counterfeit chip debacle in January of this year. Last Friday  PPN  provided an overview of the outcome of the order which was in place. then and has  been disclosed to the public, today.  To summarize: counterfeit chips were introduced into the Borgata Winter Open tournament's first event. The DGE canceled the event upon determining it had been compromised and has scrutinized the entire matter coming up with the terse order that can be seen here: The terse order can be seen here:

http://www.nj.gov/oag/ge/2014news/BorgataWinterPokerOpenFinalOrder.pdf

The Borgata has issued a statement that fleshes out the order, providing details concerning disbursement of monies.  It clarifies that players who did not cash, but may have been affected by the introduction of counterfeit chips will be refunded  their relevant  buy-ins; players who did not cash and were never exposed to the introduction of the counterfeit chips will not receive any refunds, whatsoever.  Players who were awarded prize monies but didn't pick up  their pay will also get their monies. The full Borgata statement can be seen here:

http://blog.theborgata.com/

Borgata Senior VP,  Joe Lupo,  is quoted as explaining  that the Company is distributing all of the unpaid prize pool money and also voluntarily disbursing to players the revenues earned from buy-in fees. While the DGE order includes the latter, a reading of the order confirms that the revenues earned by Borgata  that were included in the disbrsements came about from consultation with Borgata and not from an independent order on the part of the DGE.

Predictions:This means some 2100+ of the 2800+ players (for the 4800+ buy-ins)  in the tournament will probably be pretty happy,  presumably as  will those who cashed down through 28th place who have been or will be paid per the advertised allocation of prize monies. They all earned their awards prior to a determination of a compromised tournament.   Additionally, those in the second and third tier of the top 27, will probably  find the payout livable as the disbursement is equal or greater than  the original allocation for those spots.  As to the top nine, sparks are sure to fly, but as to whether it will be sound and fury signifying nothing or a colossal headache for DGE and Borgata remains to be seen.

It should be noted  DGE's delay in getting out its report after it allowed  many people to learn that it had been completed resulted in massive leakage, and significant misinformation that circulated for days. This state of affairs did  not help to soothe ruffled feathers of those who are unhappy.

Last Friday all eyes were on the DGE after the regulators sent up white smoke signals that resulted in alerting  executives at multiple casinos of an imminent decision.   By late afternoon the smoke turned gray—without explanation. No announcement materialized until today.   DGE’s further delay was almost inevitable, given its history in this matter; over the past weeks there have been several false alarms of an imminent announcement sounded by  DGE to many parties with close ties to the regulators.

No matter how well reasoned by DGE  the last bit of delay left Borgata personnel with their hands full--not only with new procedures but also with an onlslaught of queries  by frustrated tournament players--the entire weekend. 

Was the DGE miffed by news of their deliberations leaking out to the public (against their preference) slightly before they were to take the stage?  

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