Poker is (still)
alive and well!

Aug 17, 2004 4:44 AM

Despite a chilly Wall Street reaction to World Poker Tour’s stock offering last week, card room managers around Las Vegas say their game remains as popular as ever and they are puzzled by the stock market’s lukewarm response.

The Initial Public Offering of World Poker Tour Entertainment (WPTE) stock opened at $8 per share on Tuesday but closed the day at $6.86, a drop of 14 percent. WPTE is the media company behind the World Poker Tour.

In the wake of the offering, a stocks portfolio manager was quoted as saying poker’s popularity could be just a "fad."

"How long has poker been around, and all of a sudden it’s a fad?" said Stephen Leeb, a portfolio manager for Leeb Capital Advisors in New York. "These sort of ventures don’t represent long-term sustainability."

In Las Vegas, poker managers don’t see any evidence of fad.

"I’ve never seen it like it is now," said Deby Callihan, shift manager at Bellagio’s poker room. "We’re packed all the time."

Callihan, who said she has been involved in poker for 15 years, said the Bellagio hosted four $10,000 poker events in the month of July. In years gone by, she said it would take an entire year for the hotel to sponsor that many high-stakes tournaments.

She added that on the day before she was interviewed by GamingToday, there were poker games going at 29 out of 30 tables, a stunning percentage for a Wednesday in August. She said she thinks poker is not only not fading but "it keeps getting more active."

At The Mirage, Donna Harris, the director of poker operations, said that while her room isn’t as busy as when the World Series of Poker was in town, the level of activity is "still higher than last year."

Gary DeWitt, the poker room manager at Palace Station, added, "We’re busy as hell." He also offered that the only news he hears about poker rooms is that they’re all expanding and that the poker room managers in the other Station properties all report they are doing well.

"Why it (the stock) went down, I don’t know," DeWitt said. "More and more and more television stations are adding poker."

Undaunted by a drop in the WPTE stock price, DeWitt suggested it might be a good time to buy the stock, while it is priced lower.

Kathy Wood, the day shift manager at the Golden Nugget’s poker room, said "Our business has picked up a bit. We still see quite a few new players. Things slowed down after the World Series but have picked up."

She said that playing poker is "almost like a fad," but it will be a year or two before there is a noticeable decrease in the game’s popularity.

At the Stardust, the poker room continues to draw in new players and that the game "is as hot as it was," according to Peter Demonte, the poker room manager.

Demonte said he thinks some of the players are being siphoned off by the new card rooms that have opened recently. "I think it’s a little more than a fad and the game is coming back around." He said the perception of poker as a game for old men who smoked cigars is long past. "Now you look and its kids," he said.

A poker room spokesperson at an upscale hotel casino on the Strip said her room keeps "setting records month after month after month" for revenues.

"I haven’t seen any slowdown," she said. "July was a record month as far as revenue. Everyplace that I hear about is going gangbusters. I don’t see it faltering at all."