Longtime poker friends manage luxury rooms for Station Casinos

When Tracy Mendiola saw a picture of Kathy Raymond, she knew she had to meet her.

There she was atop a custom-built cycle, a motorcycle mama, leather-covered from head to toe, on the cover of Poker Digest magazine in 1999.

What a shock the next time she saw her shortly after— in a formal evening gown for her induction into the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame.

They became friends, and Raymond hired Mendiola at The Venetian poker room. Raymond encouraged Mendiola to let her personality do the talking.

Then, more than a decade later, Mendiola returned the favor, suggesting to Raymond after she had retired from The Venetian that “spring break’s over,” encouraging her to apply for an opening for a poker room director at Green Valley Ranch.

Today, the two grandmothers lead poker operations at two of Station Casinos’ luxury properties: Mendiola at Red Rock Resort and Raymond at Green Valley Ranch.

‘Get your butt back to work’

Raymond’s title was executive director of poker operations at The Venetian when she retired in 2006.

“It was time,” she said. “I’m a builder, and I was done building.”

She and her husband decided to see the country in a recreational vehicle and Raymond thought about what would be next for her.

“I needed a people fix, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t even know if I wanted to stay in the industry or not,” she said.

Then she got a call from her “sister from another mister,” Mendiola, who encouraged her to “get your butt back to work.”

“She’s too smart and has way too much knowledge for her to sit there and melt,” Mendiola said. “And I was melting,” Raymond said, finishing the thought.

Raymond returned to work in May as Green Valley Ranch’s poker room manager. Now that they’re both in leadership positions for Station, Raymond and Mendiola are blending their talents.

$75 buy-ins

“Tracy is the ultimate people person,” Raymond said. “She can get teams to do what she wants them to do and players to do what she needs them to do.”

They are working with other Station poker rooms to develop programs that appeal to more players.

Raymond’s and Mendiola’s first move was to modify their rooms’ tournament format to encourage more skill players to enter. Raymond charted and graphed play with $50 buy-ins, a practice at Station for years.

She was dismayed that the trend line was heading downward, and “when you hit bottom, you have to start all over again.”

We decided we’re going to have $75 buy-ins in the morning, but you’re going to get more chips and you can re-buy and there’s going to be more action,” Raymond said. “I always believed, and I still do, that if you have tournaments that are starting with a really small stack of chips and they end quickly, there’s no talent involved (by the winners). That was the saving grace for The Venetian at the beginning, because we started the Deep Stack Extravaganza, which was the model for tournaments now nationally and internationally.”

Still learning

Though Raymond has plenty of experience, there are still new challenges in managing a poker room.

Raymond was nervous shortly after she started at Green Valley Ranch when she staged her first Sunday tournament. She needed just over 40 players to guarantee a $5,000 prize pool.

She ended up getting 81 players.

“That was a tremendous tournament, almost a $10,000 prize pool,” she said. “It just reinforced my thought that that’s what the players want.”

She said she’s received some pushback from players who rely more on luck than skill, but generally more people are getting into the games than before.

Through it all, Raymond and Mendiola have remained fast friends.

When Mendiola’s husband of 38 years passed away, Raymond helped her through. When Raymond had a health scare, Mendiola encouraged her and supported her.

They have dinners together, go out together — and now they work for the same company on different sides of town.

“I’m lucky,” Mendiola said. “I get to work with the queen of poker.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like