72°F
weather icon Clear

Rio cash-flow connoisseur: With WSOP, planning key

Kevin Amend spends six months out of the year prepping for a job that lasts all of six weeks.

His bosses at the Rio don’t seem to mind.

Amend, 34, is director of cage operations for the Rio, home of the World Series of Poker. This year, a record $191.9 million in prize money was awarded at the tournament, all of which passed through the cage facility that was built in one of the Rio Convention Center’s meeting rooms.

The cage, along with auxiliary cages built in the Rio’s Pavilion Ballroom that were used to service the poker tables associated with satellite events and cash games, were as equally secure and operated as if they were the primary cage in the resort’s casino.

Through the other poker operations that were run in conjunction with the World Series of Poker, millions of additional dollars were wagered at the Rio. Since the Caesars Entertainment Corp.-owned tournament was moved to the Rio in 2005, the event has traditionally been the catalyst for making June and July the Rio’s busiest months.

Amend brought in temporary staff to supplement full-time Rio cage supervisors and employees to serve the record 75,672 participants in the World Series of Poker’s 58 events.

“The operation has high security and is just as sophisticated as the main Rio cage,” Amend said of the temporary cage that had 20 windows to take care of poker-playing customers.

The recently completed World Series of Poker marked Amend’s second stint as the cage director. Three years ago, as a customer service manager, he had the unpleasant task of dealing with last-minute poker players who couldn’t get a seat at the Main Event’s final day of first-round play because the casino ran out of space.

Amend, who has been with the Rio since September 2002, has also worked in slot-machine operations and spent a year during the tough economy as an improvement specialist helping find ways to cut costs.

A move to become director of cage operations two years ago allowed him to spend time with the World Series of Poker, an event he enjoys.

Question: When do you begin planning for the poker tournament?

Answer: We start planning in January. It’s a big task and a lot of different departments are involved. It really takes up about half my year with all the planning. After the tournament is completed, we’ll start talking about what we can do differently the next year. We take notes throughout the World Series of Poker and have a series of meetings to download all the information and talk about improvement opportunities. Our goal is to always improve customer service.

Question: How do you go about staffing the temporary cage operations?

Answer: I have about 38 employees from the regular Rio cage that we bring down for the World Series of Poker. We also hire an additional 195 temporary cashiers for the cages. They are part-time jobs, so we have school teachers, people who have worked at banks and retired folks. We also have a lot of people who work at other casino cages around town.

It’s a full-on casino cage and we get a lot of support from the main cage. I take a good part of my team and bring them down here. We need full-time Rio cashiers and supervisors who understand the Rio cage operation better than the temporary folks. You just can’t turn over the keys to the temporary employees.

Question: Are there long hours involved with running the cage for the World Series of Poker?

Answer: We have an amazing team and it impresses me how dedicated they are to executing this huge event. It’s a lot of hours and we have folks willing to put in 10 or 12 hours a day to get the job done. The main cage is the heart of the whole casino and the World Series of Poker cage is just as important.

Question: How much time do you spend at the cage during the World Series of Poker?

Answer: Probably 95 percent of my time is spent down here (at the World Series of Poker cage) during the tournament. I’m always available to the main cage by phone, but this becomes a pretty important place during the tournament.

Question: How do the entry fees and the player payout systems work?

Answer: Many of the entries are preregistered, so money might already be on account. It’s typical as with any casino cage. Players will buy in with cashier checks; they can wire funds directly to the World Series of Poker. They can bring in cash or use casino chips.

As for payouts, we can wire funds into their bank accounts, or we can hold the money on account here at the Rio to be used as front money for other events. We can also pay out winnings in Rio casino chips. A lot of the poker professionals who are here for the whole World Series of Poker prefer to take the winnings in chips that they can use for big cash games. We have chips as large as $25,000. We also have safety deposit boxes in the cage for the players to use as a secure place to store their winnings.

Question: What happens if someone asks to be paid out in cash?

Answer: When you get up to those high limits, most people won’t take cash for security reasons. But we’re prepared to handle some very large payouts in cash. If a big winner wanted all cash, it probably could take a day or two to facilitate that request.

Question: Do you play poker?

Answer: I play a little bit at tournaments around town. I got to have dinner a few years ago with Annie Duke when she was on the Players Advisory Committee. Jean-Robert Bellande has given me some advice on how to help my game, but I still have a lot of work to do.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.
Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Lucky Dragon’s foreign investors demand refund

The Lucky Dragon’s developers and prior management are facing lawsuits from Chinese investors, the project’s main lender and a Canadian high-roller who paid a $400,000 deposit to lease the casino just one month before it abruptly closed.