The Changing Face of Vegas Poker
About four years ago, several poker rooms in Las Vegas were shut down. Now that poker has become what it is today, we have seen a dramatic turn around in the industry. All over town properties that never had poker are opening rooms. Poker at Harrah's on the strip closed its doors in 2001 and now not only do they have a new poker room at the same location, Harrahs Corp. now owns the World Series Of Poker. With so many new poker rooms opening all over town there is one room that has a completely different feel to it.
The Aladdin Hotel and Casino opened its poker room in October 2004 and has been met with overwhelming success. With 12 tables full almost every day The Aladdin's secret is not hard to see when you look at who is in charge. Edna Dalton, wife of Doug Dalton (Manager of the Bellagio Poker room) and world traveler for many years has been given the reins of one of the hottest new poker rooms in town. Her passion and integrity
are a true sign that this poker room will be making some waves in the near future. I got a chance to sit down with one of the classiest people in the business Mrs. Edna Dalton.
Poker News(HUX): Tell me more about Edna Dalton, when did you first get involved in poker?
EDNA: When I was really young my grandfather would have a poker game. On Saturdays we would go for lunch we would go to his house, and we would see all the whiskey bottles and the people, and we were like little kids you know. We didn't know what was going on we just knew he had a party every Saturday. Then as the years went on I used to go pick him up each night and he wouldn't let me go into these seedy kinds of places, I used to have to wait in the car.
Then when I went to college I was always interested in why people gamble; not just gamble for money, but why they gamble at all. And, in fact while I was in college I convinced my professor to add these classes called the psychology of gaming. That's when I was living in South Dakota and I would read books by Sklansky and Brunson, and I was fascinated. Then I met a guy that played poker. He was from New York City and he was a diamond salesman and only worked four months out of the year so he traveled quite a bit.
At one point I was living in Montana, and poker was legal; casinos weren't yet but poker was. And so there were these little bars and they had you know the bar up the front and the poker room was out the back.
HUX: Liquor in the front, poker in the rear?
EDNA: I didn't say that Hux.
So I would just sit at these games for about a year, and I would just watch. I would watch and watch.
Then one day I went out playing on my own. The first year I played I would go to these bars and I'd play just little games like you know 5- 10 and I would just sit there while they drank their Budweiser, because it was only Budweiser back then, and I would just take their money. I won $45,000 in the first year, and they never thought I could play, and you know I'd just study them and I'd watch and watch it was great. I still do that in a lot of different things today and we're not just talking poker.
HUX: The Aladdin Hotel and Casino has Poker, how long ago did they launch this room?
EDNA: The room has been open since October 2004. I came on board at the end of September 2004. One of the first things I did was to put up an ad in house through human resources. Now anyone who wanted to transfer departments provided they could complete my school in four weeks would have the chance to enter into the world of poker. And it was really nice because the people that I got really appreciated it. You know I had people from housekeeping, and PABX operators and one guy was from Croatia, you know they really appreciate the opportunity more than say someone off the street. And one of the key things I tried to teach them was to learn how to play. Because, in my opinion, you can't be a good dealer if you don't know how to play the game. I've really worked hard with them on that issue.
HUX: I strongly agree with you on that point Edna, if you can't play the game, you sure cant deal it. I think you're doing a great job on that point because I see half your staff over at the Bellagio each night after work and they are ripping that place up. Perhaps you're doing too good a job?
ENDA: I know! That's ok, as long as they come to work the next day I'm ok with that.
HUX: Do you charge for these lessons?
EDNA: No it's all part of working for me, but for you I would charge Hux.
HUX: Thanks. I understand that the property has undergone a change of ownership recently, can you tell us a little about that.
EDNA: Yes Robert Earl, founder and CEO of Planet Hollywood International, Inc, along with Doug Teitelbaum, Principal of Bay Harbour Management LC have taken ownership of the property. There are plans to do the big unveiling of the new property and name by the end of 2005 and into 2006.
HUX: And what new plans do the new owners have for poker and for the hotel in general?
EDNA: Well the property itself is going to go through a huge transformation. Planet Hollywood plans to spend about 90 million in renovations. The new poker room will actually be right up on the strip. There are going to be doors going right into the room. We plan to have about 16-18 tables.
HUX: Wow not many poker rooms can claim to have that kind of location!
EDNA: Yes were very excited.
HUX: What are the biggest plans for poker here at the Aladdin this year?
EDNA: First we are going to introduce a mid-level size poker tournament to the property. You know just to show them how to handle poker. You can check out the details of our tournaments at our web site, www.aladdincasino.com and click on poker room. Then after that we will be filming the Ultimate Poker Challenge here this year.
HUX: That was the show that was filmed at the Plaza last year correct?
EDNA: Yes. Very successful and we plan on taking that to another dimension. I look forward to working with Sam Riddle, he's a great guy.
HUX: Sam Riddle? Is that guy from Star Search?
EDNA: Yes he is one of the Producers of the show, and he and I have been working together on this years show to make sure that it will be a huge success.
HUX: Wow by the sounds of things looks like the Aladdin is going to explode into the poker world this year.
EDNA: Yes I can't wait.
HUX: And how many local players does your room get on a regular basis? Are you implementing anything to try and increase your local player base?
EDNA: Yes that is a concern to me, and I really am trying hard with that. We are running this new program at the Aladdin designed to bring in local players and increase our player base. The program is called the Leonard Benson Company's POKER BOOT CAMP. It gives new players a chance to come in to a friendly environment and learn the game. The feedback has been fantastic; it's been really good. Angel Largay is the Instructor and he has just been fantastic, the students just love him. The average age of the enrollees was between 35-50. They had 45 people for their first seminar and it was just wonderful. You can find out more about this camp by calling this number (702) 794-2468.
HUX: I understand you like to travel a lot, does your position here at the Aladdin hold you back from traveling or was that a stipulation in your contract?
EDNA: Yes I told them that there were certain events that I do, that I've done for a long time, and they see the benefits of me traveling to these tournaments, so it's good. It was certainly a stipulation that I am allowed to travel to these tournaments and work at the same time.
HUX: So we will see you in Australia in 2006?
EDNA: Oh I should have been there this year, but Doug got sick in early December and you know, that was the only reason I wasn't there this year. But next year I can assure you I will be there.
HUX: With poker booming in the last few years, what do you think has been the biggest change to the game and why?
EDNA: The World Poker Tour. The World Poker Tour changed everything with poker. Then, the silent partner (the internet companies) got on the bandwagon. You know with these sites running these satellites and sending these players to these events, its really been great for our game and don't get me wrong, they're not losing anything from this either, they are making a lot of money, but at the same time they are really supporting poker in a big way. Other than that I would have to say the World Poker Tour has been the biggest and best change to the game itself.
HUX: Where would you like to see poker head in the coming years and how do you see it getting there?
EDNA: I get concerned when I look back and remember when poker became legal in places like Atlantic City and California and places like that and one of the biggest things that came out of that boom was larceny. You had all these people just coming out of the woodwork during the poker boom back then, and I just feel like they destroyed the game to a certain point. I think the future of the game lies in the integrity of it. Let these new players come in and have a great time but at the same time, they have to feel like the integrity of the game is there or they won't come back. I would like to see all the properties and poker rooms communicate with each other more, it can only help our game.
HUX: Tell me more about the action in your room, I hear rumors that some local players are winning so much money in the no-limit games that they refuse to tell anyone about the room!! Is this true?
EDNA: Yes that's true. Its like they have a little berry patch. You know they see these tourists coming in and they have actually told me for a fact that they are not telling anybody. They would like to keep it for themselves. We have our $2-5 blind no limit game everyday and it's just incredible. The game is full of tourists that see it on TV and now we are spreading at least 2 each day, it's great.
HUX: Last question, Aladdin sounds like a great place to work, are you hiring?
EDNA: There is always a job for you Hux