An Election Night Decision . December 2004

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An Election Night Decision By Terry Murphy; Whale Hunter Cyr Profiled, Poker Aces and Black Book Guide to Picking College and Pro Football Winners, Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

An Election Night Decision

By Terry Murphy

"It is better to have gambled and lost, than never to have gambled at all."

--VP Pappy

It's election day and after voting, I'm on the road again headed for Detroit with my unseen friend and mentor VP Pappy to play some video poker. I reach into a pile of CDs on the seat next to me, find Sarah McLachlan's new CD "Afterglow", and cruise on down I-75 and listen to her beautiful voice. From the song "Fallen", I hear these lyrics that remind me of how gambling can sometimes go.

"Truth be told I've tried my best
But somewhere along the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
And the cost was so much more than I could bear"

"Fallen"-- by Sarah McLachlan

I've been voting in US Presidential elections since 1960, when I was young and impressionable and voted for John Kennedy over Richard Nixon. I thought Kennedy and his wife was just like having movie stars in the White House. This year the choice was a little tougher as I could find merit with both candidates, although in the end it came down to simply a matter of which one would benefit me financially the most. Sort of like trying to decide which casino in Detroit to gamble at. Let's take a look at what each one has to offer.

"Judge not the casino by all that glitters, but by the games offered."

--VP Pappy

All three Detroit casinos have the same table games with basically the same rules, so there's no edge there. Motor City has a couple of quarter video poker games that pays close to 100%, which is what I play, and that's good. Greektown has recently added a some quarter video poker games that pay 99.95% in the long run, (Pick'Em Poker) and that's even better. MGM has a bank of video poker machines that have games that pay as much as 99.1%, and that's a progressive, so the percentage could be even higher when you factor in the added extra money for the royal flush. And that's something else to consider. All three casinos offer cashback points on video poker that's .167% (coincidence or price fixing?) which is pretty lousy for all the millions of dollars they're making. So, what's the deciding factor that makes one casino stand out from the other? It's promotions. Let's see what promotions each casino is presently offering.

Greektown has slot and craps tournaments going on. Nope. I don't play those games anymore. Motor City has a ticket-in-the-drum car give away and a random cash bonus while you play at any machine. That's nice, but the odds of hitting any of those are too great to be of any real value to me, so. I'll pass. MGM has a three free nights at New York New York in Vegas point play offer and, here is one that actually puts money in my pocket, they are also giving us a double points as you play promo until November 24th.. With this offer, I can now play video poker, and instead of getting a measly .167% back, I'll get an almost measly .334% cashback. Not great, but still the best offer in town. So, that's it. I've made my choice. It's MGM, at least until November 24th when the promo runs out.

"For some reason that only God knows, all men seem to have an instinct for gambling."

--VP Pappy

As I walk into MGM and head over to the progressive bank of vp machines, I see that the royal flush is up to $1700. This now calls for a new strategy with the emphasis on hitting that royal. The problem is that in doing so, unless you hit the big one soon, you will probably lose more money in the process. But, the royal is what all us vp players play for so, let the games begin. As always, there's a cast of characters that go along with each gambling session. This time, along with others, I meet a Hungarian couple who sit on either side of me and hold a conversation in Hungarian which is a little distracting. I mention to the man that the only Hungarian phrase that I know is "#@ %#+@ ~ # +$#@!" which gets a good laugh out of him. (I'm still not sure what it means) Later a nice lady is playing next to me and runs out of money and asks me to watch the machines while she goes to the ATM. While she is gone, another couple asks me if someone is playing at that seat and I say yes. They don't care and proceed to pull out the other woman's card, sit down and start playing. I start to say something, but get that "Go ahead, make my day!" look from them and decide to just let it go. When the other women returns, she just stands behind them for a while and watches, then asks for her card and leaves. I felt bad about it, but what could I do? Get into a fight with them. No way!

Four hours later and down $500 and with the royal at $2,000, I put in my last hundred and say to VP Pappy that when this last hundred is gone, I'm outta here! ( how many times have we all made those kinds of promises to ourselves?) Within a few hands I'm dealt four threes for $100. That was nice. A few hands after that I'm dealt three Aces and hit the forth one on the draw for another $200. That's even better. Checking my watch, I see that it is 9:15 and time to go as I have to get up at 5:30 to go to work. Down only $200 for the day, minus whatever cashback points I've accumulated, isn't really wasn't all that bad a session.

"If you don't win the cake, be satisfied with the crumbs."

--VP Pappy

On the way back home, old VP and I are a little burned out and need to relax, so we listen to some more of Sarah McLachlan soothing voice and hear these words from her song "Fallen" once again that puts an end to another gambling adventure.

"Time always reveals
The lonely light of morning
The wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything
That I have held so dear. "<
Though I've tried, I've fallen...
I have sunk so low
I have messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so "

"Fallen" by Sarah McLachlan

Terry Murphy & VP Pappy

"The trouble with being a loser is that you have to lose to prove it."

--VP Pappy


Whale Hunter Cyr Profiled, Poker Aces and Black Book Guide to Picking College and Pro Football Winners

Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

One of the most awaited gaming books of the decade--this one focusing on "whales" (super high rollers)--has arrived at Gambler's Book Shop along with two solid titles, one aimed at poker players (Poker Aces by Ron Rose) and the other at football handicappers (Marc Lawrence's Black Book.)

Looking at each book, in order of mention, we start off with Whale Hunt in the Desert:The Secret Las Vegas of Superhost Steve Cyr (319 pages, hardbound, $24.95), written by Deke Castleman. Perhaps it's best to start off with isolated tidbits from one of the most fascinating books of recent years profiling a man who went from brash telemarketer with a hotel management degree from UNLV to help establish a new style of luring the highest of high rollers.

"Most whales are used to running everything and everyone in their lives. They generally get whatever they want whenever they want it," says Cyr.

"The high roller with the most ferocious reputation for trying to run the business of the casinos where he plays is Kerry Packer. In the casino world, Packer is the Prince of Whales." Cyr says, letting us know that Packer is worth somewhere between 4 and 8 billion dollars.

Indexed and illustrated, the book details how "whale hunters" operate and what "perks" or "freebies" whales are offered to entice them to a particular hotel or, in some cases, "steal" them away from another establishment.

It's about ego, sex, peculiarities, psychology too. How does one person  develop and use specific manipulative skills to convince someone with massive discretionary income to "come play at our place?"

It's another world--one the public has rarely been privy to.

For example, did you know there's a major difference between a "branch" and a "property" host? All a property guy has to do to bump into customers is hang around the casino cage. A branch guy is away from the casino, in San Francisco...Hong Kong, wherever.

Castleman is a master of absorbing information from men like Cyr and rearranging the material into clear, organized and understandable facts. He has compiled a virtual must-read textbook for everyone in the industry--management, players and of course, aspiring hosts.

The book too, is a history of the changes in Las Vegas hotel management and ownership practices and policies. It details how approaches to create revenue were revised. This varied from trying to attract locals, via tour and travel visitors, to welcoming international players, to openly courting the high rollers and how the city itself responded to "evolving market conditions."

Castleman has a way with words few gambling authors can match: "Whales are coveted and feared, loved and hated, all at the same time by the Las Vegas casinos that cater to them. A half-dozen do; more than five dozen, like the Stardust, don't. Few casinos have the fortitude and fortune to fade the gut-wrenching sphincter-squeezing high-wire action of the world's heaviest hitters. ...On the one hand, the top casinos will do anything to get them. ...On the other hand, with a single hot streak a single whale can decimate a huge publicly traded corporation's entire quarterly earnings."

Castleman's style stands head and shoulders above most writers I've seen in 25 years at Gambler's Book Shop. He uses it to pack this book with material about the city, the industry and the "secret army of people"--those who have the rare components of big bucks, plenty of chutzpah (nerve and guts) to play very big and those who have harnessed the even rarer talent of guiding these high-bred thoroughbreds to the tables, keeping them there and getting them back in action regularly.

Poker is perhaps the hottest form of gambling in America right now, thanks to the television covers of the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker.

Just off the presses, in timely fashion is Poker Aces(180 pages, 9x11, $29.95) compiled and written by Ron Rose, winner of the first World Poker Tour of Champions. Rose has put together a wonderful picture-biography collection in coffee-table format.

With stories and photos about more than 80 world class players it serves as informational material as well as fan material for those who want to collect poker autographs as it's a nice place to have your favorites sign.

Looking at the pages focusing on poker great Doyle Brunson, we get some insight into his approach to the game; a look at some poker history Brunson-style; background of this great player; and some of his major accomplishments.

T.J. Cloutier explains how he made the transition from pro football to a world class player and emphasizes how important it is to remember with almost a "photographic memory" who you are if he faced you in the past, and how you played your hands.

Chris Ferguson tries to get into an opponent's head, while repairing holes in his own style of play; Johnny Chan's style is to attack..."not too many players try to bluff me." Chan won back-to-back World Series of Poker titles in 1987 and 1988.

Among the known, high profile players featured in the book are Phil Ivey, Freddy Deeb, Annie Duke, Layne Flack, Gus Hansen, Phil Hellmuth, Dewey Tomko, Erik Seidel, Chip Reese, Amarillo Slim Preston,Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Tom McEvoy, Howard Lederer and 2004 World Series of Poker winner Greg Raymer.

Overall, the book offers a fine tribute to the game and some of its greatest players today.

Marc Lawrence's 2004 edition of the Black Book (A Guide to Picking College and Pro Football Winners) (107 pages, paperbound $29.95) has always had an appeal to those who truly believe history repeats.

Looking at Fresno State for example, we're offered the fact that the team is 7-0 against the spread vs. PAC 10 opponents and there are nine other angles in the "100%" category for the team. When Lawrence says 100% it may also mean the team has NEVER covered, meaning they may be 0-5 or worse versus certain opponents.

There's a complete schedule for each college and pro team with angles for almost every game. This is a simple book to use--perfect for entering an office pool or weekly contest. No need to do a lot of handicapping. If someone were to ask you how you happened to pick a winner, all you've got to do is say "the Black Book had it."

Included in the book are 10 new handicapping theories and angles.

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964 by John and Edna Luckman, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)