In Las Vegas, there are power players in the poker world, and we're not talking about those who make a living playing the game. Instead, there are men and women who make their living by working in the game, and a select few that climb the ranks to become moves and shakers in the industry. Case in point, Sean McCormack, who recently became Director of Poker Operations at ARIA.
If McCormack's name sounds familiar, that's probably because you recognize it from Bellagio, where beginning in July 2012 he was appointed to the position of Poker Operations Manager. McCormack did great things at that property, but now he looks to bring his expertise to ARIA, which has quickly become one of Sin City's premiere poker hot spots.
Born outside of Boston and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, McCormack followed the plan most kids do – graduate high school and head to college. He put in three years studying computer engineering, but eventually decided it wasn't for him. Like so many before him, he left college, not sure what he'd be doing with his life.
He headed to Florida for a change of pace, and as fate would have it that's where he discovered poker.
"One day a friend asked me if I ever thought of becoming a poker dealer," says McCormack. "He was working as a dealer at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and got me my first audition. I was instantly hooked. In 2006, I had the privilege of dealing a World Poker Tour event in Tunica, Mississippi. There I met dealers/staff from Vegas and knew I wanted to move where the 'big action' was. So I packed my bags and headed to Vegas, where before the end of 2006, I had landed a job dealing poker at Bellagio."
McCormack has been with MGM Resorts International for over nines years not, all at the Bellagio aside from the recent switch to ARIA.
"It’s the greatest company I’ve ever worked for," says McCormack. "When the opportunity opened here I knew I had to put my name in the hat. I’ve always wanted to run my own room and what better place than here. Our level of service at ARIA is second to none. Every player that walks through the door whether it’s their first time or they are a return guest gets treated with exceptional service. We understand that to continue to offer our product at the level our players are accustomed we must remain the most knowledgeable, customer friendly staff in the world."
PokerNews caught up with McCormack to ask him a few questions about his new gig at ARIA:
I brought in Paul Campbell as our new tournament manager and he has big plans for this year.
What do you feel sets ARIA apart from the other poker rooms in Las Vegas and the world?
ARIA believes in poker and wants it to prosper. I am very fortunate to work for Mr. Bobby Baldwin, our President & CEO, and also Mr. Gary Sanoff, our VP of Table Games. They both provide strong support for the poker room and me and are an instrumental part of our success.
While at the Bellagio you were intimately involved in the WPT Five Diamond. Does ARIA have any plans to bring any major tours to the property?
We are currently working on our 2016 schedule. I brought in Paul Campbell as our new tournament manager and he has big plans for this year, so stay tuned.
Numerous players sport ARIA gear at poker events and serve as ambassadors for the room, such as Phil Hellmuth, Ben Lamb and Jean-Robert Bellande. What exactly is involved in finding ambassadors? What deals are the offered?
We do have partnerships with select players but I am not at liberty to discuss any deals or terms specifically.
Are there any special comp deals, promotions, or hotel rates associated with the poker room?
The poker room offers $2/hour food comps in all cash games. We also offer a player’s hotel rate of $129 Sunday-Thursday, $179 Saturday-Sunday +resort fee/tax (subject to availability).
We've been hearing a lot about Six-Plus Hold'em? Will ARIA be spreading the game?
There was some interest in spreading Six-Plus, so I drew up the rules and placed them in our rule book. The game is regularly played in Macau, but is still in its infancy in the U.S. At ARIA we always like to be prepared for the next new game, and when the players are ready we will be also.
Follow McCormack on Twitter at @ThePokerBoss.