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Poker author details problems with way card rooms are run

Tens of thousands of dollars flow through poker rooms every day, but the people in charge often make bad decisions that cost the casinos, the staff and the players.

That’s the message longtime gambling author Mason Malmuth presents in his new book “Cardrooms: Everything Bad and How to Make Them Better,” which details all of the choices big and small that affect a poker room’s long-term profitability.

“They’re just terribly run,” Malmuth said in an interview. “Everybody I know complains about them constantly.”

The brisk 125-page book contains sections on card-room procedures and attitudes, problems with dealers and issues with management and other poker room staff.

A principal idea is recognizing that poker rooms need regular winning players, including professionals, who arrive early to start games and stay late to keep them going. The two sides should have the same goal of making sure games maintain what Malmuth calls the “proper balance of luck and skill,” meaning winning players will take home long-term profits but recreational players still win often enough (perhaps one out of three sessions) to keep them coming back.

Poker rooms hurt themselves, Malmuth writes, by enacting procedures that alienate players, such as having dealers perform tasks that slow down the game too much or by the staff making inconsistent decisions on rules disputes.

Winning players hurt themselves by focusing on short-term profits, such as pushing poker rooms to increase the buy-in for No-limit Hold’em cash games (say, starting with $1,500 for a $2-$5 game instead of $500).

“The more chips you allow expert players to have, the larger their edge will be versus the weak players,” Malmuth said.

That might result in a profitable night for a winning player against a bad player, but that bad player might burn out quickly and never come back, feeling he has no chance. (Malmuth also said No-limit Hold’em itself is bad for poker rooms because it gives skilled players too much of an advantage.)

Overall, Malmuth cited the South Point as a Las Vegas room that he believes is well run. South Point poker room manager Jason Sanborn said he focuses on treating his staff well, and that makes them excited to come to work and make money.

“If you take care of the employees, they’ll take care of the customers,” Sanborn said. “The dealers are happy when they know they have good games to deal and that we will back them up.”

Malmuth is offering the book free to anyone who works in poker room management. Contact him through a private message on his website and poker forum twoplustwo.com or through Twitter @MasonMalmuth.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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