Going Fishing, In Suburban Baltimore
April 20, 2014 6:17 PM   Subscribe

The hottest poker room in the US is at Maryland Live, a casino just Southwest of Baltimore. The reason is that the poker rooms are well stocked with fish, amateurs that regularly lose large sums at poker, but keep coming back to lose again. The sharks are enjoying the feast.
posted by COD (44 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
"Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker."
posted by stltony at 6:34 PM on April 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Great read.
posted by ph00dz at 6:45 PM on April 20, 2014

So, I'm a local. I see the exterior of Maryland Live whenever I drive down to Arundel Mills to see a movie, usually meeting up with friends from Columbia, Rockville or Silver Spring, but I've never been inside. As a rule I don't gamble, and I barely understand the rules of poker. Keeping that in mind, I've got one question that the article didn't address in any detail: How's the buffet?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:46 PM on April 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

In the last days of my job running the most absurd clock tower in Baltimore, when my lovely train commute had been interrupted by the obnoxious need to ride the motorcycle in for far too many weekdays because of strange hours and new tasks, I used to head south on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway each night. As I passed the cloverleaf for Route 100 and approached the southbound lane merging in from the exit serving Maryland Live and the most wretched mall in my part of Maryland, you could actually smell the stink of failure in that caravan of losers.

The beat-up Corollas with one black fender, the Echos with no hubcaps and three dozen bumper stickers, and the rust-riddled late-eighties Civic sedans with duct tape repairs would chug into the arterial highway like the half-clotted blood from a limb bound too tightly, and streams of blue cancer from cracked rings and off-brand menthol cigarette smoke hacked out by broken-down grandmothers grinding their teeth over the days' losses would curl into my helmet.

You search for compassion, but, man, these fucking people. They drag themselves out to the halls of sadness, blow their money, and lumber home, but never learn. I'd ride by, with exaggerated vigilance to meet the challenge of daylight drunks, and look over, trying to sum up, in all those faces, exactly why anyone believes in fairy tales, but I just felt sorry, and frustrated, and tired of all the waste.

I'd tuck in there, a temporary traveler in the caravan, and watch as they'd split off, heading for Prince George's County, or I'd be stuck with them as I pulled away on Route 175, at least till they'd head in their own directions and I've happily take my shortcut through the sprawling prison complex there, then duck through the racetrack in my own town and pull in for the night.

I just don't get it, and I don't get why anyone thinks funding a government this way, on lotteries and bullshit parlors and the old asylums of torture for those who just can't understand the most basic rules of mathematics, but it's the way things are now.

Still, I try not to be on that road for those grim migrations these days.

So sad.
posted by sonascope at 6:59 PM on April 20, 2014 [43 favorites]

How's the buffet?

Sort of expensive for what you get. I've only been there splitting buy-one-get-one tickets with friends who get comped in some way. They have a few gimmick stations, like Pasta, but it wasn't worth the wait, and the resulting pasta was way too oily and gross. There's fro-go, which is cool, and the Chinese food isn't terrible, but absolutely NOT worth paying full price for.

I feel like you could pay a little bit more and get a decent meal at the Prime Rib which runs a much lower chance of giving you a bad case of the shits.

Decent article. I have some friends who are over the moon about the poker room, and also relayed that the tables can be incredibly soft. I was hoping they'd talk more about the economics, but a lot of it is basic poker stuff. Still, well written.

The rest of the casino is disappointingly expensive, even on off days during the week. I haven't seen a craps game there that's below 20 dollars min. I guess that sort of makes sense if you're bringing in huge walking wads of cash to the poker room.

It is sort of interesting. I was definitely against gambling coming to Maryland, and voted against slots each time they were proposed. As soon as we got the slots I figured the damage was done, and voted for table games. I live really close to the casino, and so far I've neither seen all of the apocalyptic stuff that the nay sayers (propped up by West Virginia casino interests) were proposing, and I haven't see the amazing benefits that the casino advocates were proposing.

There's ANOTHER new casino coming to the Inner Harbor soon, and I'm curious what that's going to be like. With all of the casinos opening I can only imagine that they're cannibalizing each other's profits.
posted by codacorolla at 7:02 PM on April 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

I voted against casino gambling in Maryland because, as an expatriate Louisianian, I feel gambling is a terrible way to fund governments. I avoid Maryland Live like the plague, but I doubt it's any worse than the casinos I've been to in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I don't know what the crowd's like, but it wouldn't surprise me if sonascope is right and it's mostly the usual crowd, even if there are some famous players in the poker room. I don't know what to do about gaming like this. I think that adults should be allowed to gamble, but there's no getting around the predatory nature of casinos, and I can't imagine a scheme where you could do anything about that that wouldn't instantly become some sort of class-based system that only allowed rich people to play.

I enjoyed the article, even if I dislike casinos.
posted by wintermind at 7:13 PM on April 20, 2014

I have always believed the tax revenue from casino gambling should be solely dedicated to raising mathematical literacy in the general population.
posted by spitbull at 7:22 PM on April 20, 2014 [25 favorites]

It's a really shitty situation for Maryland, to be honest. You've got Charlestown to one side and Delaware Park to other. Maryland Live is pretty much the same thing: an unglamorous little hole for people to buy a few seconds of hope (well, it's a little bit less unglamorous than either Charlestown or DE Park, but it's definitely not the gold-plated decadent pit of despair that Atlantic City is; after all you're still in chain store capital of the world, Howard County).

So Maryland's government then has a choice: maintain moral superiority and give up the small, small slice of tax revenue that the casinos deign to give back to the state, or give in and get that small, small slice. People don't recognize this for what it is, a tax on the poor, but instead think of it as a good way to get revenue for schools which are constantly being undermined by the politics of austerity.

And, overall, austerity politics is the real shark here. They get a little bit of tax money from poor people who are trying to buy a few hours of hope by pulling little silver levers, they get to claim fiscal responsibility by ignoring the fact that it's a tax, and they get to pretend that they care about education and public works by putting that small, small slice back there. Of course the people who push austerity politics are the very people who can afford to drop the $100,000 in a month on both campaign donations and feeling like a big man being fleeced by Merson. Maryland ladies and gentlemen: a liberal bastion!
posted by codacorolla at 7:33 PM on April 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I knew casinos only from James Bond movies, all tuxedos and elegant women, so it was a bit of a shock the first time I went into a real casino and saw how tawdry it was.

I have always believed the tax revenue from casino gambling should be solely dedicated to raising mathematical literacy in the general population.

I'm not sure it's mathematical literacy only that's needed. I suspect a lot of the people there know the house always wins, but still get something out of it and at the very least enjoy the evening. I understand much better the working stiff who spends an evening losing $300 and maybe catching a show than I do the "high rollers" who lose hundreds of thousands or millions.

I wish the article had spent some time talking to the "fish" -- what makes them want to play with the sharks, and do they really believe that they have a serious chance?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:41 PM on April 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Probably the fish are motivated by the same urge to transcend the banality and torpor of the straight-job world, an urge that strongly motivated some of the pros that the author met, as much as they are simply moved by money. They don't want any old money, they want money that they got by being smarter than the other guy, from beating the system: money from playing poker. Poker is an escape hatch for them, a fantasy of finding a wormhole from the Dollar Store to TV and the five star resorts, without having to ever put on a suit or kiss an ass.

I won about $800 in a lower section of a chess tournament once, and winning it was pretty strong drugs. That was only possible, though, because I didn't have to play against anyone who was actually good. I've played against strong chess players, and they buried me. One of the marks in the article sounded like he has actually not yet perceived, much less accepted, that he is not very good at playing poker. It's beyond knowing the odds and being able to calculate: the pros are better than him in many other ways, too. That makes me sad for him. Maybe he can afford his losses, maybe not. Not everyone is able to just step away.
posted by thelonius at 7:54 PM on April 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

codacorolla: " People don't recognize this for what it is, a tax on the poor, but instead think of it as a good way to get revenue for schools"

Heh, heh, yeah, revenue for schools. That's how gambling was pitched in Missouri. And indeed, most of the gambling taxes go to the schools. Except, school funding from the general revenue were cut by the same amount; schools wind up with exactly the same amount of money. And then, because the generally lower-income populace is funding more of the schools via the casinos, income taxes on the rich can be cut.
posted by notsnot at 8:05 PM on April 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

Gambling is actually fun for many people. It's not about "a few seconds hope" or whatever desparate addict imagery you chose for most gamblers, especially in a game like Poker. Gambling is as good as any other way to spend your entertainment dollars.

after all you're still in chain store capital of the world, Howard County

Maryland Live is at Arundel Mills Mall, which is is Anne Arundel County.
posted by spaltavian at 8:21 PM on April 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Want to make money from the fish? Fold when your hand sucks. When your hand is good, bet like it is, and the fish will fail. So many people have watched the WPT on TV, they all think they are clever like the pros...

Seriously, a tight player will clean up against players who know than can play as well as the pros.
posted by Windopaene at 8:28 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gambling is actually fun for many people.

Suire, I have friends who enjoy it. They budget a stake and go off on a gambling vacation a few times a year, no problem.

But I could respect states taking a house percentage off of casino card games, or even running horse races, more than I can the lottery industry, which offers the worst odds of all games, I am told, and which drives compulsive players with scratch-off tickets that are growing more expensive. They have $20 scratch-off tickets up at the market I use, now.
posted by thelonius at 8:30 PM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Gambling is actually fun for many people. It's not about "a few seconds hope" or whatever desparate addict imagery you chose for most gamblers, especially in a game like Poker. Gambling is as good as any other way to spend your entertainment dollars

Go to the slots parlor and say that.

Maryland Live is at Arundel Mills Mall, which is is Anne Arundel County.

Technically, yes, vernacularly, no. Also, comme ci comme ça.
posted by codacorolla at 8:30 PM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's nothing venacular about it. It's Anne Arundel County. That's why it's called Arundel Mills Mall. It's not even on the line or anything.

Go to the slots parlor and say that.

You'll note I said "especially Poker", but let's stipulate I'm aware of slot parlors and still said that. Some people have problems with gambling, some have problems with food and some people have problems with porn. I maintain that if you like gambling, it's as valid as a way to spend entertainment dollars as anything else.
posted by spaltavian at 8:42 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's the worst when they prey on unmarried old ladies who go to the casino and spend all of their hard-earned pension on gambling instead of building savings in a bank, and paying taxes on their inherited parent's home which is now in disrepair and condemned because banks can't be trusted, but casinos are friendly.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:25 PM on April 20, 2014

The first time I walked into a casino to play poker, back in 2006, I had to go past the slot machines at Harrah's in East Chicago. Rows and rows of elderly people smoking, slack-faced at these defeafening machines. What really jarred me, though, was that they had cords going from their waists straight into the machines.

After a bit of wheeling back around and looking surreptitiously, I saw that they were ATM cards plugged into the slot machines, with cords attaching the them back to their belts so they wouldn't get lost.

There was a bit of this situation going on at the 3/6 limit tables, too. Elderly people that looked like they might not be able to afford it playing all night without thinking, simply paying to see extra cards. It was, however, a lot slower and less intensely rat-brain-manipulating than the slots, which look flat-out dystopian. There was conversation and eye contact, too.

I think this is what makes California card less depressing. No slots, no smoke. Much less noise, much less zombiesqueness.
posted by ignignokt at 9:48 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re: the article's premise that there's more fish live because of the demise of US online poker: Is this generally agreed upon among poker players?

A year after UIGEA passed, poker rooms seemed emptier and tougher. I figured that the drop in online availability meant far fewer people were able to take that $0.05/$0.10 baby step into the game, and thus a decline in the general player population. A friend of mine was in Vegas recently, and the Bellagio was dead on a Saturday night.
posted by ignignokt at 9:54 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even before UIGEA, Washington State made it a class C felony to play online poker! The number of people in the poker rooms dropped almost immediately, and the play with those that remained was much tougher. The casinos that pushed for the online gaming ban actually shot themselves in the foot. Online and live play feed each other.

ignignokt, those weren't ATM cards...those were player cards. They keep track of how long you play and there are kickbacks from the casino for length of time. Many poker rooms have a player card that they track similarly that gives you free meals and entry into a monthly freeroll tournament based on length of play. For example, at a nearby poker room, the top 75 people with the most hours at the poker room gain free entry into a poker tournament with a payout of something like $2000.

Poker is a game of skill, not gambling. There is an element of chance, but the best players almost always beat unskilled players. A poker tournament is no different than a backgammon, bridge, or scrabble tournament where money is awarded to the winners. All of these have elements of chance, but usually the best players win. Having poker outlawed, while allowing these other games makes no sense.
posted by Xoc at 10:13 PM on April 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

Except that you don't play backgammon, bridge, or Scrabble in casinos, at least usually.
posted by Small Dollar at 10:20 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

where he feeds on fish who are happy to lose a few hundred dollars an hour playing No Limit Texas Hold ’Em

I'm not a gambler, I get no buzz from it, but I've got a very good friend who is a degenerate gambler and so I've spent some time on the floor and at the tables, mostly observing and talking to people. And having fun. The experience as a whole is a definite buzz. You meet some real characters sitting round the table and for me this is more than worth the price of admission. What I see is that the secret of casino gambling is making a loser aware that there are bigger losers than he is. It's a brief respite from reality, where a pretty girl who wouldn't talk to you in the real world, smiles at you and offers you free drinks, where serious looking security guys call you sir and treat you respectfully, and where you can feel for a moment that you are in control and on top of things, and not as stupid and as gullible as those other people who, unlike you, are just throwing their money away. The thing is that most of these "losers" are totally aware of this, they know they are losers playing a losers game with other losers, but the feel good effect is there anyway. It's a drug that works. And it works like a Korean grocer: all the time.

The best thing is that this illusionary feel good effect extends even outside the casino to polite spaces where smart people can feel validated and smug, mocking all of those losers and the industry as a whole. You don't even have to take this drug to get a feeling of well-being. It's enough that other people take it.

But if you look at it as a drug, a bar with entertainment where a drinker can pass a few hours drinking with ordinary people of all ages and backgrounds, playing a staggeringly simple game of cards, without the usual aggressive bar shit, like most drugs, it's a damned good time so long as you don't overdo it.
posted by three blind mice at 12:47 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Obviously as soon as I leave the Maryland poker scene not only gets legal it becomes hip. Fuck.

I played in illegal card rooms run out of everything from random Tattoo parlors in DC to Congressmen's kids garages in VA to mobbed-up veterans halls in Arbutus. I've played in basements with Navy captains while their kids slept in the next room and in high rise apartments with Chinese wannabe pros who provided a plate of strawberries for refreshment instead of pizza and beer. I've probably played with most of the regulars at that card room. And here are the facts about it.

1. The biggest fish are rich foreign businessmen, restaurant owners, and military/Defense Dept guys without families spending their hazard pay. Very few poor people getting fleeced in an MD game. Except for the drug dealers I guess, which I don't have sympathy for either. Oh and college kids who have watched too much Durr on HSP and think every call is a hero call and every reraise needs to get blasted over. Yum yum.

2. These games have been going on in MD for a long time. It's a gamble-happy area--ask a 2/5 table in AC where everyone's from, you'll hear a lot more Baltimore than Philly. Poker used to be semi-legal, played in firehouses across the state. Then when it got popular cops started to bust those and everything got driven underground. This casino just means no more of my friends have to get robbed or arrested, so that is fantastic.

3. I hope this casino treats its players with more respect than Charlestown did, man that place sucks. If they promise to open more than one table 5-5 PLO regularly I may have to start driving down from New York.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:31 AM on April 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

If you're decent at poker and play cautiously, it's possible to play a long time and lose money very slowly. If you're a little bit better at poker, you can start making riskier plays, so you can start stealing hands and actually turning a profit, and that's where you get taken for big money by sharks who are just flat out better than you. I think playing at a casino would be too stressful for me, because I'm comfortable enough with the numbers to make some big bets, but I'd still get taken by the pros.
posted by empath at 2:45 AM on April 21, 2014

The two most important skills in poker are game selection and bankroll management, both of which also known as Don't Play Blackjack.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:51 AM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seriously, a tight player will clean up against players who know than can play as well as the pros.

I dunno about live poker, but this just isn't true online any more. No money in .5c/.10c, everyone's solid.

Poker is a game of skill, not gambling. There is an element of chance, but the best players almost always beat unskilled players.

In the long run, sure. But in the short term, chance can allow even the biggest sucker to prevail over the most skilled professionals. That's what keeps the fish coming back. Without that, the flow would all be in one direction and losers would just stop playing.

That said, people wildly overestimate their skill, and underestimate the fact that they've had a run of good luck. Just look at the numbers of high stakes TV players who've gone busto in recent years, particularly since Full Tilt turned off the spigot diverting cash from punters to pros.

Which reminds me of this documentary.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:52 AM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Great poker players are never gamblers, and the only person worse off than a gambler who thinks he's good at poker is a gambler who really is -- that's just fuel to the fire.
posted by MattD at 4:27 AM on April 21, 2014

Thanks, xoc, that's a relief to know! Although I have no doubt slots makers do want to cross that line someday, at least they didn't cross it eight years ago.
posted by ignignokt at 4:47 AM on April 21, 2014

So many people have watched the WPT on TV, they all think they are clever like the pros...

Yup. Read your Lou Kreiger, your Sklansky and Malmuth, your Doyle Brunson, dive deep into rec.gambling.poker posts from the '90s (before poker on TV rocketed into popular culture) and pay attention to the little anecdotes.

You will learn two things:

1) How to play poker well, and put up a reasonable showing at the low limit table or in a tournament. (I made it to the final table at the first tournament I entered, and my brother flat out won. Lou Kreiger's books are that good.)

2) Eventually, you're going to go broke if you try to do this to make money instead of play a game. All of the "greats" went bust at some point, usually at or shortly after the height of their success, or they slowly lost their mind grinding out a living at the low limit tables. (My brother was on track to lose every last cent he won at the tournament in less than an hour at the high limit table, and he knew why he was losing and why he should walk away. Lou Kreiger's books are that good.)

Poker is a lot of fun, because you are playing against other players and not the house. There is strategy, tactics, limited information and probability. It's chess with a pulse. It's still gambling, and it will bite you and hard if you don't budget for it as a recreational expense.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:02 AM on April 21, 2014 [13 favorites]

The beat-up Corollas with one black fender, the Echos with no hubcaps and three dozen bumper stickers, and the rust-riddled late-eighties Civic sedans with duct tape repairs

That pretty much jibes with my experience with the Indian/pueblo casino gambling in New Mexico. To be going to visit with family and see the casino lot full up at 8:30am on Christmas morning has to be one of the saddest things I have ever seen.

But if you really want to see pure distilled despair, just wait until the Horseshoe casino opens in Baltimore city. Dropping a casino into that location -- enabling already poor/desperate people to now conveniently go and lose what little money they have -- then selling it as a "job creator" or "economic engine" is craven, calculating politics at its very worst.

If New Mexico taught me anything about casinos, it's that there are "winner" casinos (e.g., the Sandia Resort/Casino in Albuquerque) and "loser" casinos (e.g., San Felipe Casino Hollywood). The Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore will be without a doubt the latter.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I sent this to the two people who play the most at Live!, and they said the following:
Guy 1
Cool article. I haven't played higher stakes than $1/2 but I find his story to be completely at odds with what I've experienced there. Since theres no free alcohol, almost no tourists, long wait lists, and no one spending the night at hotels there, i found players to be mostly pretty knowledgeable regulars; not great, but no major flaws and they play enough to not really be fish. Although he seems to be playing the $10/$25 game which could be a whole different world, if you have several $k to sit down with. Yet he says the table is 7 pros and 2 fish...not sure i like those odds.

Oddly too the main guy doesn't seem all that believable, and says he wins $150/hr at $5/$10, which is 15BB/hr. I thought that was a ridiculously high amount for live poker but could be wrong.

my take is low limits is retirees, people new to the game, and people like me that dont play all that often to have a big bankroll but study the game. high stakes is pros, and people with a lot of money to burn that want a shot to take on some pros. i'm more curious what the middle stakes are like.

i think what's surprising to me is that MD live would have enough high-stakes fish other than an occasional friday or saturday. those fish are generally known to not play all that often, and even if you're rich it has to get old dropping $20k a night like this article seems to suggest. i also thought a lot of rich fish play in semi-exclusive home games instead, for privacy and other perks.
Guy 2
Several things:

1. There probably is a shit load of money to be made at mid to high stakes if you have the bankroll and can tolerate the variance. There are a lot of people with money in the area who want to play poker, but don't know how to.

2. Low stakes like $1/$2 is also beatable but again high variance. Probably much higher relative to the stakes. I agree with what Guy 1 said. Nearly everyone playing $1/$2 is there specifically to play poker. They are coming for a few hours after work etc. instead of spending a weekend gambling and getting drunk at a resort like AC. I find $1/$2 games in AC to generally be much weaker.

3. 'One of the largest poker rooms outside of Las Vegas'. I am pretty positive Live has bigger poker room than any Vegas casino, except at the Rio during the WSOP.

4. The online username that he mentions 'Potripper' was one of the UB/AP superuser accounts that could see players cards and cheated them out of millions of dollars. The other username 'Crazymarco' was one of Potripper's victims who realized something strange was going on and brought it to everyone's attention.
Guy 1 again
Agree. Yeah the oddest part of the article is how he talks about playing a low variance game, which most pros agree will give you a much lower profit in the long-run, and will make you easily exploitable. He is playing a lot of hands vs the "fish" as well he states, so I wonder what he does when he three-bets T9s, flops top pair, and the fish over bets the pot for $20k. I cant imagine he could call if he is low-variance, so I'd think he would lose a lot of ~$1k pots, and occasionally hit a $20k pot. Sounds pretty high variance to me.

A few weeks ago I looked for a list of poker rooms by table amount and couldnt find a comprehensive one. Cardplayer last month had a neat sidebar about table quantity/stakes with some cool facts that they pulled from Bravo, I dont have it with me but the gist was that only Maryland, California, and Las Vegas had high stakes games going most of the time. Guy 2 is right though I think MD Live's 52 tables is only beat by like the Borgata, Foxwoods, and probably 2 in Cali like the Bike. Thats some lazy reporting.

Looks like he also just pulled some online names from some lazy googling, or watching Runner Runner. It would have made more sense for him to mention names such as "OMGClayAkins" or some of the other top pros who have insane names.
posted by codacorolla at 8:09 AM on April 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

I think poker is just like any other televised risk-taking experience, it makes the weak-headed among us say to ourselves, "Well Hell, I can do that!"

It happens with house flippers, or storage locker buyers or restraunteurs.

You see shows on TV about these things and we see the fools who according to the TV are making a mint and we can't help but compare ourselves to those people favorably.

The people who are good at these things have inate talent, years of experience, extra money to blow and can afford to take a loss if they have to.

We all love to dream about hitting it big and not working a day job again. What needs to happen though is that we keep that in the proper perspective. Sure, this professional can make money, but how much did he lose at first, to get to this level of play? And do I have the talent, smarts and money to do the same?

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:40 AM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

While there may be some people playing at Maryland Live who can afford to lose money, I voted against gambling because I was afraid of the damage it would cause in low to middle class lives. I live I Maryland, and have never been to the casino, but have driven through the area on many occasions. Sonascope writes brilliantly about the very depressing scene.

What is even sadder? At least seven children have been found, sometimes hungry and cold, abandoned in cars outside Maryland casinos in 2013: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Children-Left-in-Cars-While-Parents-Gamble-248921491.html. I have heard about these children on the local news and had no idea there were so many. There are probably many people playing these games who can afford to lose; but, with the high cost of living in the greater DC area, there are many who believe that lotteries and gambling are their only shot to live a middle class life.
posted by bessiemae at 11:22 AM on April 21, 2014

There was a line in a gambling article that I read a few years ago that really jumped out and caught my attention. It was about those blackjack card counting teams that were working the casinos a while back.

I forget the exact words, but it was something about the casino not immediately noticing how the games were being beaten, but they noticed something was up because "people with positive self esteem were spending more time than usual at the tables".
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:46 AM on April 21, 2014

Re: the article's premise that there's more fish live because of the demise of US online poker: Is this generally agreed upon among poker players?
Absolutely not. In fact, most everyone I know in the poker community believes that live poker used to be easier to beat before the influx of online poker refuges. Live poker has always been easier to beat at comparable stakes to online -- as the televised poker boom swelled, live poker was just as full of poor players as online poker. Most of my friends preferred to play online because you could play 8 or more (some people much more) tables simultaneously, which meant that if you were a winning player, you could win much faster because you saw many, many more hands than you could in years of casino play. I was always astonished at the horrific play of live players at remarkably high stakes. Nowhere is the effect of the end of online poker more clear than at the bigger rooms in Las Vegas or LA. Higher stakes cash no-limit games are indisputably much harder to beat than they were three or four years ago.

Many of us never really transistioned to live play because we had "real" jobs and didn't live close to a casino or didn't enjoy the atmosphere of live play. What I always enjoyed about internet poker was that I could squeeze in an hour or two of play anytime I had the free time -- there were high stakes games going pretty much around the clock. Now I'm back to the way it was before the internet -- playing much more infrequently and working vacations around the big WSOP and WPT events.

It should also be noted that you can choose what stakes you want to play in the poker room. If you play at the lowest priced tables, you won't find players like me -- although I could win at a very high rate at those kind of tables, the small amounts at stake are just not worth my time. With a few exceptions, most of the players at the higher stakes tables are ones who have moved their way up by winning at smaller stakes or people with a lot of money to lose who like as not would have given it to the casino at the blackjack or craps tables if they didn't lose it in the poker room. No regular middle class Joe is going to sit down at a table where they have to buy in for $10,000 or more. They are going to stick to the tables where you buy-in for $100 or $200.
posted by Lame_username at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just like alcohol, and eventually marijuana, gambling is fun for a lot of people and mostly doesn't cause any harm for them.

But just like alcohol, the gambling industry gets a high percentage of its revenues from addicts. That incentivizes them to cater to addicts and create systems which efficiently get as much revenue as possible from addicts. Gambling itself may be a pleasant diversion for many, but the industry should be much more regulated to stop them from taking advantage of their best, and weakest, customers.
posted by cell divide at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some of you may be interested in the story of the 'fish' who lost $127 million in casinos a few years back. At the time, my experience at a Harrah's casino wasn't that old so I wrote up a comment about what it's like as an employee to deal with problem gamblers who can't quit. There's an update on Watanabe's story (spoiler: he settled with Caesar's/Harrah's, paying back only a small sum of money, and Caesar's was fined by the Gaming Commission).
posted by librarylis at 3:54 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Howard County is the second most affluent in the country (I know, Anne Arundal, but Arundal Mills it's closer to the HoCo/Laurel sphere of influence than it is Annapolis or Glen Burnie/Baltimore). But then AA is the 18th and all the other counties close by on that list, it's no wonder the sharks go there.
posted by stbalbach at 8:13 PM on April 21, 2014

Lots of fascinating links and comments here. Rounders, one of my favorite movies, had the best take on "check raising stupid tourists."
posted by ob1quixote at 9:56 PM on April 21, 2014

Howard County is the second most affluent in the country

I would be curious to know how many people from Howard County spend any time there, as the well-deserved reputation of Arundel Mills among the HoCo high end demographic is as a giant, trashy, jarring, noisy mess with mediocre stores and the atmosphere of a low-end Carnival Cruise ship. You're far more likely to find folks from Glen Burnie and Severna Park slouching around AM with the airport hotel crowd than the high-and-mighties from Columbia.

The folks I know who are there for the casinos are virtually all DC-orbit citizens, whether of the poverty gambler variety from PG County or the government subcontractors from Montgomery.

Your mileage may vary.
posted by sonascope at 4:25 AM on April 22, 2014

stbalbach: (I know, Anne Arundal, but Arundal Mills it's closer to the HoCo/Laurel sphere of influence than it is Annapolis or Glen Burnie/Baltimore

No, it really isn't. It's 12 miles by car from Baltimore City Hall to Arundel Mills. Baltimore has billboards for the mall. Glen Burnie is literally just on the other side of the airport. We're tallking a 10 minute drive on Dorsey Road. Arundel Mills is the major mall for northern Anne Arundel County (Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Severn, Millersville, Odenton, etc) having supplanted the old Marley Station Mall. South of that, people are going to Annapolis Mall. The main mall for Howard County is the Columbia Mall.

Why does that matter? Because, if people from Howard and PG County are coming to Arundel Mills, they are coming for gambling. And this is because the Laurel horse track didn't get a slots permit. So, if we're talking about a social "good", we have to factor in jobs for people in the greater Baltimore, and money coming in from more affluent parts of the state, along with social costs to the decidedly more middle-class region it's located in. Arundel Mills is in the Baltimore part of the state, not the DC part.

We'll see how it plays out when the casino at National Harbor gets going. That's where affluence and poverty will really collide, far more than Arundel Mills. After all, Anne Arundel County is by no means poor.
posted by spaltavian at 6:06 AM on April 22, 2014

sonascope: That was a beautiful little piece of writing. Thank you.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:42 AM on April 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

spaltavian, I guess you're right (and I don't even know how to spell Arundel). This supports the theory of an ancient east-west culture divide along I-95 (between DC and Baltimore), not that the road created the divide or it's the sharply defined. I-95 runs along an ancient coastline (fall-line) so the soil is different on each side, and the early settlers practiced different methods (larger corporate slave holdings to the east with cotton and tobacco, smaller family farms to the west in the hillier frontier, land of the Quakers) which created different institutional values and populations in each county.
posted by stbalbach at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2014

There's something to that divide, and it's interesting (and for me, a little unnerving) seeing the DC suburbs come to such prominence in the state.

Greater Baltimore started metaphorically drifting northward upon industrialization, while the tobacco/horse country in what today would be considered the DC suburbs maintained its Tidewater character. (Different than a "Southern" character, though related.) Baltimore became, in economic terms, a northern industrial city, and developed the machine politics and population to be the poltical base of the state.

Then Baltimore fell in the same rust-belt depression that hit other northern and mid-western cities, while greater DC, fueled by a larger federal government, developed a service and government based "new economy". Which sort of mirrors the Research Triangle in North Carolina or Atlanta's economic growth. Areas without a big history of 20th century industrialization, and perhaps more importantly, unionization, are very attractive to service-based economy colonizers.

A lot of the old power brokers are still from Greater Baltimore, but the clout of Montgomery, PG and Howard counties have grown considerably. (History side note: Howard was only split off from Anne Arundel in 1851.) I find it jarring when out-of-state people refer to Maryland in an "outside DC" way, rather than an "around Baltimore" way. Suburban DC doesn't really "feel" like Maryland to me anymore, and so many of the McMansion owners there are transplants have no connection to the state, other than not wanting to commute from Virginia.

A lot of the "suburban hellscape" codacorolla refers to above reads to me as a DC-centric thing that's encroaching upon older communities of the state. The area west of the Patuxent and south of the Patapsco seems to lack the specific Maryland charm that even an otherwise benighted place like the Eastern Shore has.
posted by spaltavian at 1:04 PM on April 23, 2014

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