Let me start out, since this is an op-ed piece, by saying that I really like The Wynn poker room. I’ve probably played there more than any other room in Vegas. The environment is great, the staff is great, there is good food nearby, and the action is top notch. I think you should play there. I will definitely not stop playing there myself.
This bit in the terms and conditions of the Signature Series that starts in August, is interesting.
“Participants are prohibited from using gaming charts or any other poker training tool while in the Tournament area. Any participant found with gaming charts or any other poker training tool while in the Tournament area may be penalized in Wynn Las Vegas’ sole discretion, up to and including disqualification.”
I understand what they are trying to do here. There has been a lot of talk lately about people using pre-solved databases, push/fold apps, etc, while they are playing. And I agree that people shouldn’t be using these things while they are in a hand. That is absolutely not acceptable. But that is not what the wording above says.
What it really says is that if you walk into the tournament area with a paper copy of a push/fold or starting hands chart in your pocket, you are breaking the rules. If you pull it out between hands to check to see if you made the right play, you are subject to disqualification. If someone sees you looking at it outside the tournament area, and you put it in your pocket and walk back into the tournament area, you could be disqualified.
Nevada law is heavily slanted in the favor of casinos. This is not a surprise given how much lobbying money they spend. Those laws are almost never used, but they are extreme. If you use a calculator watch while you are playing black jack, it is technically a felony. And any casino employee in Paradise, NV (the strip) is legally allowed to detain you as if they were a police officer. Yep, the cigarette girl, the janitor, the bass player from the house band playing in the bar, anyone who is employed by the casino can physically detain you.
These laws are extreme, but they are rarely used. The casinos just want them in place in case they want to use them on occasion. And they are almost never misused. But that doesn’t make them right. In fact, many of them are likely unconstitutional, but they haven’t been challenged by someone with enough money to put up a real fight. Actually they probably have, at which point the casino agreed to drop all charges because they don’t want to lose.
Poker rooms are no different. You will often be signing away rights that are ridiculous when you enter a poker tournament, but I do it anyway because I know that if they use my name and likeness excessively after I ask them not to, my coming out publicly against them would be horrible for their brand, so they wouldn’t even consider it. You don’t want the guy on your billboards telling people not to play in your card room.
This prohibition of any charts or training tools in the tournament area is almost certainly the same thing. No one is going to kick you out of the room for having a push/fold chart in your pocket. Probably. But I have sold laminated push/fold charts in the past, and I hate to think someone could be kicked out of a tournament for having one in their pocket because it breaks a rule they didn’t know existed.
So this op-ed is partly a complaint and partly a public service announcement. Do not take any push/fold charts into the Wynn. Don’t open up a push/fold app or a solver app, or any other training tool in the tournament area. And check the rules of any tournament you enter in the future if you are considering doing this, because clauses like this are likely to start to appear in other rooms too.
This solution also does very little to prevent a clever player from using these tools. I was once playing late in a tournament with a player on my left who was restealing frequently, and I thought he was doing it quite well. I commented on it, hoping the rest of the table would notice and someone would call him. Whether he went broke or doubled up didn’t matter to me, as long as he didn’t have a resteal stack to prevent me from opening up my range and attacking the tight players behind him.
That night I got a message on a poker forum. It was basically “Hey, I’m the guy who was restealing today. Just wanted to let you know that I was listening to your podcast series on resteals while I was doing it. Thanks for those, they helped a lot.”
I didn’t know whether to be happy that my training content was working, or annoyed that I had clearly made the game harder for myself. I settled on both.
As long as headphones are allowed, it will be nearly impossible to remove training content from the game. And without headphones, other solutions will be devised.
I just had another thought. What if I’m heads up with a tough opponent. I have his phone number or email. And he has a smart watch that displays his messages. Can I text him on break with a picture of a push/fold chart (from outside the tournament area) and when the image appears on his watch, have him disqualified? Clearly I would never do this, but it’s an example of one of the many ways this kind of policy could go wrong unless there is further qualification.
Simple wording like “Intentionally using charts, training software, or other assistance during a hand is forbidden” would solve most of my issues with the Wynn’s policy. But it is not likely to change, because it won’t prevent anyone from playing, and their job is to get butts in seats and rake in the bank.