Mecca of poker rooms gave way to bandits

Nov 12, 2002 12:51 AM

   I remember chatting with Eric Drake and Bobby Baldwin about why they would close it. The Golden Nugget card room is such a good card room that everyone in the world knows about it and loves to come here and play.

   I knew that Bobby loved poker, and I have known and played poker and gin rummy with Bobby since he was about 12 years old, back in our old hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bobby was now in charge of the Golden Nugget and oh, yes, a few other things here in Vegas, but that’s another story for another day.

   I guess nowadays I should call him Mr. Baldwin, but I just can’t. Forgive me, Bobby.

   Bobby’s response was, “Johnny, just look around you, all of the slots are busy and I need this poker room location to put in some more higher-limit slots.”

   The slot machine and now the poker slots are king because they generate so much of the casino bottom line that the slots must be given the very best of locations on the casino floor. So, the Golden Nugget poker room was closed.

   The recognized poker room of the world, the Mecca of poker of the world was closed and passed into poker history. The room had to give way to slots.

   Since the closing of the Golden Nugget card room, many, many other poker rooms have given way to make room for the slot machines. I hate change, but change we must.

   You remember that I was telling you last week about how Steve Wynn and Bobby Baldwin went to such great expense and planning to arrange the Grand Prix of Poker Tournament. Here’s more.

   The world’s best food was flown in from all over the world. All the seafood, steaks and lobsters the players could eat, and desserts to die for. Nothing was too good for the players, and the players loved it.

   Media tournaments were held for the press. I played with the bartender from the Love Boat show, and we finished third. Cocktail parties were hosted by Elaine Wynn for the ladies, and full-length fur coats were the door prizes. My wife Carol’s mother Jane won the full-length mink. My wife Carol still wears the coat.

   The advance advertising was well done so that many European poker players came over to play in the event, and special events were added for their enjoyment. One was the Irish Eccentric, hosted by the world famous Irish bookie, Terry Rogers.

   Another added event was European Stud, a stripped 36-card poker game that many American players had never played. With Eric Drake as promoter, he made every effort to please everyone.

   Please, remember in my last column I told you that I played in two poker tournaments simultaneously. Well, Eric arranged it to please the European players. He added European Stud, but the regular tournament of the day was A-5 California low ball, so when Eric asked me to play, I told him that I was already at the final table of that event and would be playing that final table tomorrow.

   He said “Oh hell, you will get knocked out anyway, come on I need you to help me play with these guys from Europe.”

   I didn’t lose, and even made it to the final table of the added event. So that’s why the following day I had to play at both final tables simultaneously. One of the unusual problems combined with the fact that I had never played the game before, was that at one table I was playing A-5 California low ball where you like to get the little cards and at the other table, I was plying 36-card stripped deck European Stud which all the little cards had been stripped out of the deck to leave only 36 cards.

   So in one game I want to catch the 2’s and 3’s etc, but in the other game there were none of these little babies. I finished third in one event and fifth in the other.

   Also, I told you I played one of the final hands with Bill Boyd, the legendary poker room manager of the world’s most famous card room, the Golden Nugget.

   Well I played the first hand of poker with Bill on the opening day of poker play at the New Mirage poker room, which Donna Harris (one of the first ladies of poker) now does such a wonderful job managing today. Bill Boyd was the honorary poker room manager on opening day of the Mirage.

   Gaming tip of the week

Don’t drink and play! If you drink and drive you will have a car wreck. The police will get you and you will do serious damage to others and or yourself. If you drink and play poker, the poker police will get you and you will do serious damage to your bankrole.

   Excuse me but I must go now. This is Tuesday night. Rich usually comps my dinner at the Mirage when I show up to play in his $60 No limit Hold em’ poker re-buy tournament every week. Rich is having eight or nine tables in this event and the prize money is good. This is a no-limit Texas Hold em’ poker tournament and there are only ten or twelve of the world’s best championship no-limit players playing in the Mirage Poker Zone Tournament, so I usually have no trouble winning this event. Hope to see you there and play a few hands with you.

Until next time, remember to: STAY LUCKY!