Monday, April 29, 2013

On taking Hollywood / Charles Town to task

I read a post about the M Resort the other day from a fellow blogger and it kindled a little fire inside of me to get out my thoughts and feelings about my home casino, which happens to be part of the same chain of Penn National casinos, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

As a semi-astute investor (I actually have the reverse Midas touch, who am I kidding?), I always look at the various places I visit / frequent from the eyes of "would I invest in this place," or "would I hire this employee?"  It is rare that I come away from a place with such a strong negative emotion / disdain that not only would I not invest, but I would sell short on the particular place.  Unfortunately, the HC@CTRS poker room is one such place.

The best way I've figured to list my complaints - and this is all poker room focused, FWIW, is in a bulletized list.  Here goes:
  • The rules.  Perhaps I'm way off base, but shouldn't a poker room have a rule book?  Shouldn't players be allowed to see the rule book?  If I play blackjack, I can see exactly what and how I'm playing the house.  I have been refused numerous times to see the rule book.  Either through being blown off but persisting, or told outright that I cannot see the book, I am told to refer to Robert's Rules of Poker as the basis for the casino's rulebook.  That's great, but when I want to see why or how they're going to rule a certain way, I want consistency.  An example is awhile ago when I saw a limp / raise / re-raise all-in which did not cover the full raise.  The limper called the re-raise and the original raiser was able to re-open his betting to re-raise all-in himself.  To my understanding, this should not have been allowed, yet it was at the time by the floor personnel running the games.  Had a rulebook been available for floor personnel, I'd imagine this issue would have been resolved pretty quickly.  Had a rulebook been allowed for me to read, I could have pointed to page and verse.
  • The no-flop, HELL YES THERE'S A DROP policy...  Oh yeah, and no-flop, there's a bad beat drop too!  Seriously?  I have to pay for a bad beat drop even though there is not chance of winning a bad beat?  95% of all poker rooms do not charge rake when we don't see a flop (86% of all statistics are made up on the spot), yet CTRS does?  Why is that?  It seems that management loves to stick their finger in the customer's eye continually, nickel and diming every chance they get.  Which leads me to the next issue...
  • 10% service charge on take out orders for food.  What?  Yes.  If you want to take food to-go after a night of playing, you are charged a 10% fee on top of the normal exorbitant food prices for the privilege of taking it to-go.  So if I buy a few rolls of sushi for $20, I pay $2 take out fee for the singular tray, the same as if I order $10 lomein and pay $1 for the singular box.  More importantly, why am I paying 10%?!?!?!  for take out?  I've just paid you a TON of money in rake, and my fellow slot player has paid you a TON of money in losses.  Stick it to the customer!  Let him lose - and then him lose a bit more!
  • Lack of a comp system.  The good majority of casinos, INCLUDING other Hollywood Casinos, offer a point system redeemable for food, drinks, etc.  Does the CTRS poker room?  No.  Nothing to speak of.  Every other gambler at the establishment gets comps - blackjack, slots, roulette, etc..  Nothing to be seen for poker players.  Why not?  Is it not a sustainable business model at Charles Town, yet it is sustainable at the other Penn National properties?  Give me comps, damn you!
  • Lack of promotions.  I will say they are getting better in this department, giving back some of the bad beat jackpot drop to the regulars.  Although I rarely if ever personally qualify, CTRS does semi-regularly offer players clocking more than ~60 hours chances at freerolls, drawings, etc.  In addition, they offer a full time royal flush promotion (I believe they start at $100 per suit and add $100 for every day that the suit's royal flush has not hit).  In fact, I personally won $800 from the royal flush promotion.  On certain days at certain times, they offer a high hand jackpot as well.
    If this bullet sounds complimentary, I really should come back with the following: THIS IS NOT GIVE-BACK FROM THE CASINO.  In other words, the promotion dollars come from the bad beat jackpot, that is the PLAYER CONTRIBUTED bad beat jackpot.
    The point is, though, the casino does have a few promotions going - whether you like the promotions or not (personally, I despise the bad beat jackpot; I'd rather keep my $1 per pot won contribution and exclude myself from future jackpots).  In the past, they had no promotions whatsoever with the exception of the BBJ.
    One further comment here: get rid of the hours for freeroll promotions.  If management is intent on "giving back," run a drawing or offer rakeback, but don't force regs to play freerolls for the chance to win additional $$$.  Personally, it's good for a player like me when the regs are away fighting it out with each other (cat's away, the mouse'll play), but theoretically:
    • It takes away seat time from the regs
    • It pulls dealers away for a free event
    • Not that I really care, but it reduces house rake for the duration of the freeroll
    • I'm theorizing that the structure probably stinks and is a crap shoot
  • Lack of communication.  Does it hurt to send out an email once in awhile promoting the casino, poker room, etc.?  I rarely go to Delaware Park, yet every birthday, without fail, they send me a complimentary $20 dinner.  They want and love my business.  Unfortunately, they're double the driving time, so I only go up when I have a full day to devote to playing (few and far between).
  • The rake.  10% up to $6 + $1 BBJ.  I'm under the impression that the prevalent rake in AC is 10% up to $4 + $1 BBJ.  I guess they can charge whatever they want if they can get away with it - which they can and will.  In fact, I'm surprised that in their waning moments of casino monopoly, they haven't bumped the rake to $7 or higher.  Why not?  It's not like the customers have somewhere else to go...
  • The BBJ payout.  The way the BBJ is paid out is 50% losing hand (pocket 7's + 77 board beaten by 2 hole cards + 3 board cards, quad 8's or better), 25% winning hand, 25% table share.  I'd like to see them go the route of Vegas; a room share or perhaps even a Penn National share.  Why not have everyone contribute to a singular jackpot to be distributed to all players playing throughout all the rooms under Penn National control?  I would think that would be a bigger incentive to bring action - having the "biggest BBJ in the world."  Look, I realize that the odds are I'll never even get a whiff of a BBJ, much less be seated at the same table where a BBJ was hit.  At least give me a 20x (figure 20 tables are running at the given time) chance when I have seat time.
I'm going to commend the dealers of the poker room.  99% of them are awesome.  Certainly, there are the occasional dealers who think they know best and don't check with the floor to verify the rules, but for the large large majority, the dealers at CTRS are among the best I've had the pleasure to work with.   The dealers are professional and curtious, efficient and fast.  For the most part, the floor personnel is good at their job.  They are efficient at finding seats, covering the room effectively and quick to respond to problems.

It's most unfortunate for the workers at CTRS; Maryland recently approved gaming within their borders, so CTRS is looking at competition from Baltimore (Harrah's), Anne Arundel (Maryland Live!) and National Harbor (MGM).  I anticipate CTRS will be experiencing a slow death over the next 3-5 years as the competitors come online to offer closer alternates to the long West Virginia drive.  It's too bad they didn't formulate a loyalty plan years ago to ensure continued success.  It's too bad they've never made an attempt to connect with the players, or establish a relationship.  They were the fat cats for years and knew it, but their business will soon be eroding.  Good luck in the future, CTRS!  I can't wait to switch to MGM / Harrah's.

I'm going to start a petition, "F*ck the Chuck."


  1. Wow -- does sound like you have some valid gripes. The closest poker room to me, which having okay management and dealers, offers virtually nothing to poker players -- no comps, unrealistic BBJ, etc. Free soda and coffee, which is available to anyone in the casino, is about it as far as "amenities" go.

    1. I don't get it... Why wouldn't they solidify their customer base by offering these things?

  2. Capitalism depends on competition (among other things) and it looks like the Chuck is in for hard times. I saw the same thing in Atlantic City. They charged for parking! I've never seen a casino do that. Don't they want me to come? I think it was $10, but they increased the parking on weekends to $20. Now that they have competition, you can see what's happening to them -- lean times.

    "F*ck the Chuck."


    1. Yes - That's exactly what happened with AC. They had the fat cat no one can touch us syndrome and let themselves crumble while other competition was being formulated and now they're being dealt the death knell.

      The Chuck will be following shortly...

    2. For what its worth, at any AC casino, you can get parking for $5, even on weekends, provided that you have a player's card (a regular one, not a special tier). Most places advertise that as a means to encourage players to get a player's card, but I noticed when I was in AC recently that a couple of places didn't have signage alerting players that parking is reduced with any player's card. Still, when I asked at the two places, they accepted the card and $5.

      But overall, the sentiment is correct about AC. For the most part, they do not do enough to entice players. The hotel room rates are my biggest gripe.

    3. The Trop seems to be the only casino trying to bring in the tourists. They're continually sending emails with tons of deals like $50 for a night + free breakfast, or $60 + $30 in slot play, etc. I've found the Trop to be a great place to get away for a weekend inexpensively.

      By and large, though, The Chuck should take its cue from AC and realize the wrongs they've done, taking heed to not repeat the same missteps.

  3. "F*CK the CHUCK" haha classic. Let's hope Chuck Norris doesn't get offended.

  4. In AC, If you pay $5 to park at any casino, ask for a receipt. That receipt, otherwise called a "transfer" can be used at any other AC casino (for up to 24 hours) and you won't have to pay the $5 a second time.


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