By Matt Savage
Recently, I was invited to speak at the California Gaming Association Conference which is a unique group of California cardroom owners and managers. California cardrooms do not have slot machines and their revenue is generated by both poker and table games. While poker is a big part of the cardroom’s business, it still takes a back seat to table games similar to poker versus slot machines in casinos across the country.
Because of this fact, my speaking session presented a challenge I’ve faced my entire career which is promoting the great game of poker to an audience whose majority views it as a secondary revenue stream.
My career and passion for the poker industry started in Northern California and I worked my way through all the jobs including chip runner, poker dealer, floorman, assistant Tournament Director, and Tournament Director.
I’m basically the lowest of the low in many of the people’s eyes here. Not only am I a poker guy but I’m mainly a tournament guy who still believes that bringing players into your properties to play poker tournaments is good for business.
Some things I heard just that weekend about poker reminded me of what I’ve heard my entire career about tournaments.
“Poker is a loss leader to get people in the door.”
“Poker is a necessary evil.”
Hearing things like that is NOT COOL to someone that has dedicated his whole career to a game that he loves.
Something I read caught my attention and I believe it applies here:
“Successful entrepreneurs give 100 percent effort to everything they do.” So, if you are ‘doing poker,’ I think we as a group need to put more effort into making poker great again!
Here are some ideas I have to bring some more life back to the game we love.
What are you doing revitalize the poker market!?
We have to make poker fun and exciting again and infuse some young players into the player base or we are going to have more room closures and continue to see poker players disappear or die off.
Speed and Efficiency
If dealers could just deal two hands more per down, your bottom line poker number would increase substantially and players would also be happier.
If the majority of players lose due to rake, tips, and skill level, then we have to make it entertainment again just like going bowling, to the movies, or to a sporting event. Part of the reason players continued to come for decades is the old Cheers analogy that they want to go to a place “where everybody knows your name.” Knowing your customer and making them feel special doesn’t even take that much more effort. Why isn’t this part of the training?
Of course, with California raising the minimum wage, the cost of doing business has increased and so cardrooms have cut back on jobs and are having staff do additional tasks to compensate so hiring energetic positive employees that never knew they were “doing extra work” is key.
Attract more Women to Poker
Getting more women into the game is vital and the WPT recently hosted a Woman’s Summit at the Bike that was attended by players and cardroom managers. It was a great insight to why women are uncomfortable coming into poker for the first time. The WPT is working with our partners and others to ensure that growth will continue in this area.
Poker is NOT dead, plateaued perhaps, and the strong properties will survive and thrive.
I could see from the look on their faces I was about done there but it was in the hope they would take at least one thing I said back to their properties. Poker has been good to me and I’m sure many of you, don’t give up on it because there is still fun to be had, and money to be made by both the players and casino properties.