Jeremy Ausmus Says Vegas Casino Rules “Killing the Poker Dream”
Jeremy Ausmus began a debate on whether restricted access to private card games in Vegas casinos is good or bad for poker. According to former WSOP Main Event final table participant Jeremy Ausmus, such games are “killing the poker dream”.
It’s a controversial position, which pits Ausmus against many high stakes card players and the Las Vegas Strip casinos. Scott Burnham, a Gonzaga University professor and Card Player columnist, disagrees with Ausmus. In fact, Burnham says that gaming law is against Jeremy Ausmus.
First, it might be helpful to spell out the argument. Jeremy Ausmus, a high stakes poker player, claims that Wynn Las Vegas and Aria turn away top poker players from high dollar games. Better put, those casinos have relationships with certain poker players and those players control who plays at their table.
In essence, the high stakes card players use public casinos as their own private poker rooms. They choose who sits at the table. Ausmus’s implication is pro poker players turn away top competition so they can feast on the fish.
How Vegas Poker Rooms Work
For players on the outside, it keeps them from achieving success at the highest levels of the game. Jeremy Ausmus’s version of the “poker dream” therefore is a chance to win recognition and high dollars because top players avoid competition.
Ausmus explained how the game works at certain Vegas Strip casinos. He said, “At Aria, they don’t have to have a list. They can lock up seats. I had someone who went to play one the other day and it was four-handed.”
“He wanted to play and they told him ‘You can’t play.’ Then two more people came and they basically said ‘Yeah, they can play.’ I heard that Wynn has a similar thing.”
Private Poker Room Regulations
Scott Burnham says Las Vegas casinos have every right to pick-and-choose which players sit at their tables. When asked about Jeremy Ausmus’s contention, Scott Burnham said, “As far as I know, there are no regulations on how a cardroom maintains a list. It would, of course, have to conform to other general regulations, including anti-discrimination laws.”
Thus, poker rooms can set the rules as they see fit, so long as they do not discriminate against broad groups of people. If they want to turn public poker tables over to private individuals for promotional reasons, it’s legal.
Giving an example, Professor Burnham said, “If the Elks were having their convention in town, for example, I see no reason why a cardroom could not spread a game that is restricted to Elks. This is discrimination, but discrimination is only illegal when there is a prohibited basis for discriminations such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
Barring Card Counters
The Gonzaga professor gave other examples in which casinos can discriminate on a person-by-person basic. Comparing the case to card counting, he said, “This is probably analogous to the question of whether the casino has the right to exclude blackjack card counters. In most jurisdictions, including Nevada, a property owner has the right to exclude any person as long as the exclusion is not on a prohibited basis.”
“In New Jersey, however, in a case involving the famous card counter Ken Uston, the [New Jersey] Supreme Court held that in the absence of specific regulations addressing the matter, the casino could only exclude patrons if they were disruptive.”
Chad Power and MGM National Harbor
Though it might be legal to bar players from high stakes games, it might not be the norm in the poker community. Chad Power, who made a deep run in the 2015 WSOP Main Event, runs a high stakes poker game at MGM National Harbor. Power said — in Maryland at least — he does not have the kind of power Ausmus describes.
Chad Power said, “You can basically start any game with a number of people. Let’s say I want to play $100-$200 [no-limit hold’em], which is the game we generally play. I can come in with eight or nine people and we’ll all get a seat in the game. If there is a list with one or two people on it, we’re essentially jumping them because that game is clearly not going to go. They will be at the top of the list for our game.”
Of course, the MGM National Harbor might not have poker games for the kind of stakes seen in top Vegas poker rooms. While Chad Power plays for $100-$200 limits, the high stakes games in Las Vegas sometimes range into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. When the stakes are much lower, players and casinos likely will be much less discriminating.