Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Bastard Children of Harrah's

(UPDATE, 8/7/07: See this post for a clarification of a portion of this post disputed by Ms. Jones.)

So I'm working on a feed to an immigration-bill story for Saturday's New York Times and was interviewing Harrah's VP Jan Jones on their company's reaction to the legislation's failure. While I had her on the line, I asked why the Imperial Palace and Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon (nee Barbary Coast) are not present on the Harrah's website or integrated into the Total Rewards program, the company's groundbreaking frequent-players club.

Jones was surprisingly frank: "If you owned Imperial Palace, would you want it in your rewards club?"


She told me that they bought both properties for their land -- no surprise there -- and that the two bastard properties will limp along in their purgatory status for at least another year before, more likely than not, perishing from this earth. For one thing, she said, the cost of integrating those properties into the system would be too much to bother. And the company is likely to announce whatever its Big Idea is for all of that property from Bill's to Harrah's next summer, after the LBO is completed.

One challenge, she said, is how to do something ambitious while taking properties -- the IP, and Bill's -- off-line. It sounds like Flamingo Las Vegas is less likely to meet an implosion rig. Consider this exchange:

Friess: You've been putting a lot of money into the Flamingo lately, so it's unlikely you'd knock that down, right?
Jones: Yes.

She said the IP and Bill's do produce modest profits for the company. But I suspect that it's shutting down Harrah's (if they ever do; see clarifying post here) that would be the bigger cash-flow problem. Should be interesting since, despite their enormous status in Vegas, Harrah's has never built a single building in Las Vegas. Everything they have has been acquired.


Is Poker Over?

I don't really think so, but I have been surprised in the past couple of days to find my editors at The New York Times and Newsweek completely uninterested in next week's start of the World Series of Poker's Main Event. All good fads must come to an end, sure, but I suspect that the ESPN's WSOP broadcasts get better ratings than some of the sports covered regularly by the Times -- tennis and NHL hockey come to mind. Plus, this year has so many great themes going on, what with the return of poker black sheep Jamie Gold (the NYT did let me break the story of his confessing to breaking rules last year) and the superhot question of just how the Congressional ban on Americans using their credit cards to play poker online will lower the WSOP Main Event population. Only USA Today really seems to "get" it -- they've run a special section at the onset of WSOP Season two years in a row.

We still care, of course, and I've got a really big piece on the Venus-and-Serena of poker, Annie Duke and Howard Lederer, coming out in this Saturday's Boston Globe. (They grew up in Concord, N.H., part of the Globe's New England reach.)

We've now posted both the Duke and Lederer interviews, both of them with a lot of interesting discussion of their odd childhood, their careers and the state of poker these days. Hear Annie here or right-click here to download it and listen to it whenever you want. And hear Howard here or right-click here to download it.

What do you think? Is disinterest from the mainstream media a sign that poker, at least as a national craze, has run its course?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"The Strip" is LIVE at 7 pm PT With Annie Duke!

Join us live at LVROCKS.COM to hear "The Strip" be recorded and chat with us! Plus, with the World Series of Poker's Main Event in the offing, we get into the spirit of the season with a revealing interview with the world's most successful female poker player, Annie Duke. Hear what she has to say about Jamie Gold, Ben Affleck, her strange upbringing and those nasty Internet rumors about her.

Come on down. Or catch the podcast on Thursday. Your choice!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pigeon Warfare

Amy of the "Grits to Glitz" podcast did this. It's very funny.