Beautiful and luxurious, the Hustler Casino in Gardena, California, recently celebrated its 15th “birthday.” On June 22, 2000, Larry Flynt’s unique casino opened its doors to poker players. (It was built on the site of the old El Dorado Club).
For four days, including the weekend, the Hustler offered a variety of features and prizes – delicious hot delicacies and birthday chocolate cake, special cash drawings, and more. During one odd hour, a player to my left twice won the $100 bonus for Aces-cracked. And, shortly after, our table was selected for a bonus award of $500 in chips divided among the players seated.
Those who have visited the Hustler are familiar with its distinctive rotary design; like the perimeter of a circle, there is no beginning or ending as you walk around the main casino. Its huge elegant wall paintings, sculptures and soft carpeting have no parallel in the gaming industry. The warm and inviting gift shop is one of the best in any casino.
For me it was also a special occasion. It was just over a year ago when I had my open-heart surgery at the VA/West L.A. Medical Center. (I can only give the doctors and staff there my highest praise – and sincere thank you).
The poker gods must have been smiling down on me, too. After a rocky start, the poker “atmosphere” took a definite upward spin for me. Using the Hold’em Algorithm for starting-hand criteria, my playable starting-hands theoretically should run one-out-of-four or one-out-of-five hands, depending on position. This evening I was dealt viable starting-hands one-out-of-three hands.
With the greater number of favorable starting-hands, I was bound to win more often. Including my bluffs, I enjoyed winning 22 hands during my 5-hour session at a $4-$8 limit table with ½ kill. That is well over four winners per hour.
My Esther Bluffs (reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell) were successful five tries (including two steals-on-the-flop) while losing just once. (I was rivered that time.) That is a remarkable 83% success rate, considering break-even for bluffing is 30-40%. Getting the chip bonus was like icing on the delicious birthday chocolate cake.
The City of Gardena, once the Mecca for casino poker with six modest-sized card clubs, also can boast of another wonderful casino just two miles to the north of the Hustler.
The Normandie Casino is the oldest in the area. It started as the Western Club in 1940, later moving to a new building on Rosecrans Avenue (just west of the 110 Freeway), and changing its name under new ownership. Today, it is still owned and operated by the family of Russ Miller.
Sharing its longevity with our Seniors Poker Group (now over 200 members at the Claude Pepper Senior Center – some well into their 90’s), a few days before the Hustler’s 15th Anniversary celebration, the Normandie hosted a special limit hold’em tournament for our group.
Created by its versatile poker room director Russell Matsuo, in addition to winning cash, there were special non-cash prizes (including some of my poker books and several written by other experts) for the top winners, plus a consolation prize for the first player to lose her buy-in.
This unique seniors’ tournament – developed especially for our seniors by Matsuo, working with our own senior-citizen poker expert Ron Ross (also a great actor and ragtime pianist) – was followed by special low-limit tables as our seniors prefer, plus unique food menu items and free specially flavored soft drinks.
All the seniors who participated – even the losers – had a great time at the elegant 70-year-old casino.
Good reasons for celebrating!
“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].