Poker at racetracks destined for profit or failure?

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine under the title “Are poker clubs at racetracks destined for profit or failure?”

I guess you’ve heard that a poker club has been approved for the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood, California. There’s another one possible at the nearby Los Alamitos track in Cypress. The card club industry is currently debating how successful such ventures will be.

Different folks. Some types of activities go together and some don’t. Fishing and hunting appeal to mostly the same group, although a few fishermen certainly hate hunting. But fishing and water skiing are seldom passions of the same person, even though both have lakes in common. Fishermen hate the waves and the noise that water skiers make when splashing by. And water skiers see fishermen and their boats as annoying obstacles.

In 1976 I met twice world poker champion Doyle Brunson, now a key member of the Poker Hall of Fame at Binion’s Horseshoe. Back then, Doyle was planning what is now the definitive book on poker, called Super/System—A Course in Power Poker. Some folks were pressuring Doyle to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into promoting this single book. Doyle—well, you know Doyle—what did he care? He had the product and he had the money.

Destroying Doyle’s dollars. A year later, I had the privilege of burning up a lot of his money. Against our best judgment, we mailed to lists of craps shooters, roulette players, and more. You try selling a revolutionary poker book to a hot list of roulette players! Too complex for them. That was Doyle’s opinion and mine. But others argued that gambling was gambling, so Doyle spent the money. The results were dismal. Doyle decided to continue the mailings, explaining, “Mike, you and I know who buys poker books. They don’t know. I’m fixin’ to let them learn. Then they’ll know how to make me some real money.” Doyle was right. They finally figured it out and eventually he made money.

Brainless games. If you’re marketing poker, try sport bettors, doctors, lawyers, blackjack players. That all works. Stay away from roulette, craps, bingo, and lottery. Those are brainless games, alien to most poker players.

Horseracing? Yes! You can sell poker to horse players. And you can sell horseracing to poker players. Why? Because a lot of thought goes into the betting process. These are people who try to win by being smart.

So, will card clubs at racetracks be successful? Because of the intense crossover between horseracing and poker, you can bet they’ll be hugely successful. Is that my opinion? No! As the Mad Genius, I don’t traditionally give opinions. But that’s the answer. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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