Boxmen have a home at GN

Aug 31, 2004 6:02 AM

Golden Nugget owner Tim Poster enjoys some of the best dice business in Las Vegas what with his decision to make up to 10 times odds available.

That’s why, he says, the Nugget will not be among casinos eliminating boxmen as Caesars Palace did when it cut more than two-dozen of these supervisors who were earning about $175 each per shift.

"I completely understand the desire to save money and operate more efficiently, but our boxmen are vital to the games and the type of service we’re offering."

Former Horseshoe Gaming President Roger Wagner says he considers boxmen "an integral part of the game . . . They help pace the action. Time is money in the gambling business. I’ve always believed a casino is not doing itself any favors if you start getting fewer hands per hour because a floorman has to come over to process transactions normally handled by a boxman."

Wagner remembers the "old days" at the Sands. The casino would "double box" its games when action was at a peak.

TV rears its ugly head (again)

What if they gave a poker tournament and nobody came . . . nobody except the invited players and an ESPN television crew?

The big thinkers at Harrah’s Entertainment would be very happy, because that’s exactly the way they want it this week.

Which says a lot about the changing nature of big money poker events and the constant elbowing for prime time coverage by the sponsoring networks and major cable channels.

Harrah’s has invited 10 players, people whose exploits helped light up the recent World Series of Poker, to sit down for a $2 million winner take all game to be filmed Wednesday and Thursday at The Rio.

But forget about getting in to take a look at the action. Even the wives of players have been barred from attending. There will be no audience, no railbirds hanging on the nuances of every action by participants such as World Series no limit hold ”˜em champ Greg Raymer.

The game is to be played behind closed and guarded doors. There will not be any coverage by the news media. The Associated Press was offered an exclusive but was told it would have to embargo the release of the story until the tournament is aired on ESPN Sept. 21.

Can’t do that, the AP said.

Then forget about attending, Harrah’s people said.

What’s unique about this event is the fact the prize money is big, very big, and the nine players who finish somewhere other than first place will not get any of the cash.

That’s the way ESPN wants it.

It’s an angle expected to fuel the competitive juices of poker pros such as Raymer, Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Howard Lederer, Johnny Chan, Annie Duke, T. J. Cloutier and Phil Ivey. That’s a partial list of those who have been given a chance to chase this prize for which no buy-in is required.

Gaming tournaments were traditionally engineered with an eye to getting large numbers of people into the casino, either to participate or watch and (hopefully) spend money somewhere in the building before they left.

But that was then and here we are now, on the cutting edge of 21st century marketing techniques with gaming company marketers opting for the so-called big picture strategy — no pun intended — what with television’s ability to reach a national, even global audience.

Millions of ESPN viewers hanging on every wager Sept. 21, should do more for Harrah’s and its plans to market the World Series of Poker, than a few hundred people straining to get a glimpse of the action Wednesday and Thursday at The Rio.

Television has become so important to poker and Las Vegas marketing messages that it may surprise some people to know that the event being filmed this week at The Rio is not the first tournament with a made-for-television look.

Most of the players expected at The Rio previously played in a behind-closed-doors event filmed several months ago at the Palms, and which is only now beginning to air on Fox Sports Net.

That one required a $400,000 buy-in. The winner — yes, his name is a secret and sponsors hope it stays that way — will not be known till Super Bowl Sunday when the finale will get two hours of network time on NBC.