Poker as players want it at Sam’s Town
March 27, 2018 3:01 AM
by H. Scot Krause
We visited Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino this month to chat with Ralph Piccirilli, the table games manager who oversees the poker room. Piccirilli is 60 years old. He grew up in Clifton, New Jersey, went to the New York School of Gambling and moved to Las Vegas in 1981. He has worked for Boyd Gaming on and off since 1981, in casino operations, with a few years spent in marketing.
He started as a dice dealer at Sam’s Town but has also worked at several of other Boyd Las Vegas properties. While learning the casino business, Piccirilli received an AAS degree in casino management from CSN and then a BS degree in hotel administration from UNLV. On April 1, 2017, he was promoted to the table games manager position at Sam’s Town.
GT: What’s your current title/position and how did you get into poker?
RP: “I am the table games manager. In addition to overseeing the table games department, I oversee our poker room. Even though I have nearly 37 years of gaming experience, I’ve only been involved in poker since coming back to Sam’s Town last April. Luckily for me, I am surrounded by very poker-savvy men and women who help me make our poker room successful.”
GT: Tell me about your room at Sam’s Town. How many tables, games you spread, tournaments, amenities, etc.
RP: “The poker room at Sam’s Town is non-smoking with between nine and eleven tables, depending on what events are happening in the room. We offer complimentary fresh coffee throughout the day. We have cell phone chargers attached to the tables. We spread whatever games the players want. With such a diverse group of players at any one time we can have an Omaha, Hold ‘Em and a Stud game going at the same time.
“Our basic rule is, the players decide what they want to play and we do not tell them what they have to play. We offer three tournaments a day Sunday-Thursday (10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and on Friday and Saturday we also have a 10 p.m. tournament. In addition, every other Saturday we run a deep stack bounty tournament at 7 p.m. This has become one of the most popular tournaments we offer.”
GT: What makes your room popular or unique for players? What are their favorite games?
RP: “We have a very loyal local clientele who enjoy all the various tournaments, the most number of tournaments on the Boulder Strip. For live play, it’s a mix of Omaha and Hold ‘Em, though, we are starting to see signs of life in the Stud game as well. We noticed a lack of low limit Stud games in Las Vegas and feel it is a game that should be offered more.
GT: Any special events, tournaments or promotions coming up?
RP: “Right now, in Omaha we have a High Hand (Queen High straight flush) and Steel Wheel progressive promotion. In Hold ‘Em, we have progressive high hands, a High Hand of the month (player with the highest hand wins $1,000) and a Flopped Royal promotion. In addition, on Saturdays we have a rolling high hand promotion for Hold ‘Em. There is also a special event in the works, I can’t talk about it right now, but if everything lines up, it will be exciting.”
GT: What’s your view on the future popularity of poker?
RP: “Poker in Las Vegas has had a tough time over the last few years. We’ve seen rooms all across the city close and the rooms that are left are trying to attract players from a smaller pool. This has led to a shift in the way rooms are run. Gone are the days where to have a successful room all you needed was a table and a couple of dealers.
“Now a room, especially in the local market, needs to run promotions, offer a wide selection of games and deliver some value to the players. Poker rooms have to walk a tightrope between offering promotions that attract players and keep them in the room, and running promotions that cost the room more revenue than they bring in. We are still experimenting with new promotions.”
GT: What are your interests, hobbies and family life like outside of the casino?
RP: “I love to listen to audio books on my iPhone, mostly legal thrillers, during my commute and at the gym. I have a very busy home life. My 19-year-old twins, Brenden and Gabrielle, live with me, in addition to my boxer, Molly and two cats, Snowflake and Oreo.”