Recently I visited one of my favorite places to play poker – Atlantic City, New Jersey. As usual, I stayed at one of the Caesars Entertainment properties; this time around it was the Showboat, right on the Boardwalk. While playing poker there, I inquired if it would be possible to snag an interview with someone in management. These are exciting times for poker in the U.S., New Jersey in particular. As a matter of fact, legal online poker (and online casino games) debuted today in New Jersey!
As such, I figured the readers of this poker blog would be interested in getting a bit of an inside look as to what’s happening behind the scenes with the biggest poker and casino operator in the Garden State. I was referred to Dan Morelli, the Manager of Caesars Entertainment Poker Operations. Dan was kind enough to agree to be interviewed for Cardplayer Lifestyle.
CPL: Thanks Dan, good to speak with you. So, for how long have you been working in a poker-related capacity for Caesars Entertainment? Do you have any prior poker room work experience?
Dan Morelli: Thank You Robbie it is nice to speak with you also.
I have been in the casino industry for 30 years. I started in table games back in 1984 and moved over to work with poker from day one. I worked my way up through the ranks as a dealer and as a Poker Supervisor in both the Tropicana as well as the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. I came on board as a Shift Manager for Caesars Entertainment in 2008. I was promoted to Poker Manager for Showboat Atlantic City’s poker room in 2011 and to my current position as multi property Poker Manager for Caesars Entertainment Atlantic City in 2013.
CPL: What are the main responsibilities of your position at Caesars Entertainment?
DM: I am responsible for the day-to-day poker operations here in Atlantic City for Caesars Entertainment. I am responsible for the budgets as well as the revenue. I, together with the lead Shift Managers from each of the four properties, get together to create all the promotions that run in the poker rooms as well.
CPL: What would you say are the best parts/perks and the most challenging parts about your position?
DM: I would have to say that having the freedom to be creative with promotions and other revenue-generating events relating to the game of poker are the best part of my job. I get to see the results and my ideas come to fruition. I am able to make the adjustments that I see fit in order to make them successful and appeal to diverse crowds of players.
The most challenging part of being the Poker Manager for Caesars Entertainment is the stiff competition in the poker industry. Poker is a growing market so neighboring states want in on the business, this makes it imperative that we stay on top of delighting our customers and continue our stake as a leader in gaming.
CPL: In your opinion, what sets the Caesars properties in Atlantic City apart from (a) one another (b) other Atlantic City poker rooms, and (c) makes them unique in general/overall?
DM: There are a couple things that set Caesars Entertainment’s “Total AC” Poker Rooms apart from its competition. Not only does our Bad Beat jackpot grow faster than any other in the region, it is a multi-property Bad Beat. That means that no matter what Total AC property you are playing at when the Bad Beat hits, you will also get a share of it. We pay not only the Winner and the Loser of the hand, we pay those at the table it hits at an additional 5% while the remaining 50% of the total jackpot is divided equally and paid out to everyone else playing in all of our rooms.
Each of the four rooms has a great staff who know and care about our guests. No matter which room you choose you will be treated like one of the Total AC poker family.
CPL: Would you say your Atlantic City rooms cater more to locals/regulars or tourists – and why?
DM: We try and make all of our guests feel special. We run some promotions that reward our guests based on the amount of hours that they play in a given month, so that would target our repeat customers. While we also run hourly High Hand promotions that are paid out based on nothing more than the highest hand for the individual hour, making it equal to all.
(Ed. Note: Last week I wrote up the story of how I just missed out on the High Hand jackpot; grab your tissues.)
CPL: New live poker rooms have popped up over the last few years in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and other areas in the Northeast region. What have you done to keep the Atlantic City poker rooms competitive?
DM: We have approximately $200,000 in giveaways each month. No one comes close to these reward amounts. Not only do our guests get their hourly rate, but we also give them bonus dollars as well as rake back comp dollars. Keep in mind, all of this is while also having the chance to win $500 each hour during the daily promotions and a shot at the fastest growing Bad Beat jackpot in the region.
We have a big change coming in the near future that we think will drive many of our competitors’ players over to Caesars Entertainment and make them loyal Total AC guests. Players can expect us to announce in 2014.
CPL: Legal online gambling debuted in New Jersey today. What effect do you envision this having on live poker in Atlantic City and on your four poker rooms in particular? What sort of feelings would you say your rooms’ regular live poker players have about the debut of online poker?
DM: I have heard concerns from players that feel this could cause us to lose business. I believe the opposite will in fact be true – I feel this can actually give Atlantic City a big boost. I am working with WSOP.com on a consistent basis in an effort to make online gaming a win-win for both online and brick and mortar properties.
CPL: What’s the most important tip you would give a recreational poker player visiting one of your Atlantic City properties for the very first time?
DM: I would tell the recreational player to make sure they stay within their means until they are comfortable.
CPL: In an ideal scenario, where would you like to see live Atlantic City poker headed over the next couple years, and in what way do you feel that online poker will fit into that picture?
DM: I believe we will have a couple of large rooms here in Atlantic City that online poker will feed. People still want to play live action games and Caesars Entertainment intends to give them a premier place and top-notch experience to do just that. Atlantic City might have a couple boutique style rooms just to offer poker but one or two will dominate the market; that’s my prediction.
CPL: Thanks so much Dan for your time and best of luck to you. I look forward to visiting your Atlantic City rooms again soon.
DM: Robbie, it was a pleasure speaking with you and I look forward to meeting you on your next visit to AC.