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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Excalibur makes the move to electronic poker tables

18 Aug 2008

By Gary Trask

The days of live dealers and real poker chips at the Excalibur's poker room have come to an abrupt end.

The casino shut down its poker room Sunday night at midnight and is in the process on installing 12 PokerPro electronic poker tables from PokerTek. When the room re-opens Friday at 6 p.m., it will become the first in Las Vegas to host a poker room with exclusively electronic tables.

According to Excalibur's Vice President of Gaming Operations Todd DeRemer, the property went electronic in an effort to provide a jolt to a poker room that has been "on the decline from a customer base (standpoint)" for the last three years.

"In 2005, poker was going gangbusters and everybody added rooms," DeRemer explained. "A small supply of players got spread out between multiple rooms. From our point of view, bringing in the PokerPro tables gives us an opportunity to pique the interest of a different kind of player."

And that kind of player, according to DeRemer, is one who was born during the online poker boom or one who simply isn't comfortable sitting at a live poker table.

"We think there's a segment of people out there who like to play online poker, but would like the option of playing with real stakes and have human interaction," he said. "This provides our customers a chance to play poker and not be intimidated."

Excalibur is one of 11 casinos in Las Vegas that is operated by MGM Mirage. Scott Ghertner, MGM's senior vice president, said that the poker room transition at Excalibur is "not a trend throughout the company."

"It's a great fit for Excalibur," he said. "The Excalibur is a low-end kind of room, as far as stakes are concerned. We think this product fits that group of players."

DeRemer said that he visited Fantasy Springs Resort-Casino in California this past winter to see a PokerPro poker room in action and was impressed with the atmosphere in the room.

"It's the kind of client-base I would expect to see at Excalibur," he said.

The staff at the Excalibur before Sunday's shutdown was around 50 people -- 40 of them dealers. The new electronic poker room will be staffed by just 18 "poker hosts."

The majority people that lost their jobs at the poker room have been shifted to other positions within the organization, DeRemer said.

Excalibur will continue to offer low stakes games in the range of $2-$4. During off-peak hours there will even be games as low as 50 cents-$1. DeRemer said that in order to generate interest in the new format, the casino will also offer "free rolls" with $250 going to the winner.

Texas Hold'em, Omaha and Seven-Card Stud will be offered. In addition, the rake in the poker room will drop from $4 per player, per hour to $3.

Earlier this month, PokerTek installed its PokerPro tables at the new Horseshoe Casino Chicagoland in Indiana. It has also opened poker rooms in Montreal, Michigan, Connecticut and Atlantic City. Overall, the company has installed 230 PokerPro tables worldwide. PokerTek CEO Chris Halligan said that he is "delighted beyond words that an operator of Excalibur's quality is opening a 100% PokerPro poker room on the strip."

"It is commentary on how far PokerTek and automated poker have come in such a short time," said Halligan. "The acceptance of the game has grown substantially in the last year and continues to grow as our footprint expands."

"I've run poker rooms for 20 years, and I can't wait for players to see what Excalibur and PokerPro will offer them," added Vito Casucci, PokerTek's Western Regional Director and former poker room manager. "We're going to have a great daily tournament schedule, tremendous player promotions and, more than that, we'll be laying down games that manual rooms just can't. For example, our Pot Limit Omaha games will be getting out 30 hands per hour. That is unheard of for a game as popular as PLO, and only PokerPro can offer that kind of speed."

 
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