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Daniel - Poker Journal

Crown Plaza Corruption

03 Mar 2011


I tweeted that I would write a blog about the corruption that takes place at Crown Plaza hotel which is connected to the Commerce casino, so here goes:

I'll start by saying that the Commerce has always been my favorite poker room in the whole world, I've been saying that for years and that hasn't changed. If online poker didn't exist, and I ever needed to go back on the grind, that's where you would find me. The facility is really practical, which is a big plus for someone as anal as me. Also, with Matt Savage doing the structures for the tournaments, you always know you are going to get a ton of play in the tournaments. It's the perfect place to play live poker and I've been going there for almost 15 years now.

When I started going there, they didn't have a hotel connected to the casino so I'd stay at Wyndam hotel (now the Double Tree) and would do the 8 minute walk to Commerce. Since the hotel was added, I usually stay there whether it's for a Commerce tourney, or even for the WPT event at the Bike. I'd never really had a problem with the hotel before, but this year, some pretty shady activity came to my attention that just absolutely needs to stop.

After shooting The Big Game myself, Phil Hellmuth, Joe Hachem, Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly, Jason Mercier, and Brian Rast all got on a plane to LA since no commercial flights went out late enough for us. We all had rooms reserved at Crown Plaza. This wasn't at all a case of "big time players" waltzing in at the last minute trying to steal someone's room, quite the contrary.

When we arrived, we were told that all our reservations were canceled! Also, there was only one room available at Double Tree which wasn't going to work. Tilly and Laak went home, Rast and Mercier stayed with friends, and Hachem took the room at Double Tree which left me and Hellmuth without any place to stay.

So how did this happen? A corrupt practice that entails greasing the right palm which will allow you to flat out steal a room from someone with a reservation. February is Crown Plaza's busiest month and they'll often overbook as many as 40 rooms which creates a bit of chaos. Now, Vegas hotels may often tell you they are sold out, when in fact they do have rooms reserved for potential high rollers, but no Vegas hotel will tell someone with a reserved room that their reservation has been canceled.

Worse yet, at Commerce, people have literally been kicked out of their rooms in order to make room for someone who greased the right guy. I did a bit of research and found that this practice has been going on for years at the Commerce. It used to be a guy named Juan. If the place was sold out, you call Juan, give him a few hundred dollars, and he'll get you a room.
The new guys name is Rodney. Give Rodney some money and all of a sudden rooms that were once reserved are canceled and "voila" you have a room.

I was absolutely not OK with the idea that they'd kick someone out of their room for me. No chance, that's just flat out wrong. Me and Phil packed up and looked for a place to stay. Rather than getting a good nights sleep in preparation for LAPC day 1, we were in a car roaming around LA looking for a place to sleep.

I spoke to the owner of Commerce the very next day, and along with apologies for what happened, he also explained to me a little bit about what happened and that he is not at all OK with this practice.

He gave me an example: during the tournament, say 40 rooms are reserved for people they know will be coming. They confirm those reservations with players (myself included) and assume that everything should be taken care of. Then, Rodney, or whoever is on the take at Crown Plaza, essentially steals that room and gives it away to whoever shows up with a few hundred dollars.

Now, I live in Vegas. I get it. I understand how greasing a doorman can get you a table at a club, etc. What's happening at Crown Plaza, and has been for years apparently, is a very different thing. Reserved rooms are being STOLEN.

In doing some research on it I heard plenty of horror stories. The owner of Commerce was aware of these stories after last year, and thought everything was addressed for this year. Well, it hasn't been.

If I was told before flying out there, "Sorry, we are fully booked and there are no rooms," I would have made other arrangements and realized it was on me for not booking sooner. That's totally fine. I don't need preferential treatment, and I certainly don't want to steal anyone's room. I just want to be treated fairly and I assume that's what most of you want as well. It's a corrupt practice and it needs to stop.

I am not blowing smoke when I say I love playing at Commerce, but the Crown Plaza is now part of the experience and they need to be held to the same high standard as the casino itself, and that's not the case at the moment. I'm hoping they can fix that for next year.

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NBC Heads Up event starts tomorrow and as always there is plenty of controversy in regards to how players are selected to participate. People have asked me, and unfortunately, I have absolutely no clue who is on this committee, or if it even exists, and based on some of the selections I don't feel like I understand "what it takes" to get an invite.

I get that they aren't trying to put together the best 64 players, and instead more focused on entertainment. That's cool, but then how do you explain leaving Tony G and Luke Schwartz off the list? I really don't want to start any trouble, and don't want to name names, but there are WAY too many "old guard" players in this event that offer neither recent results, nor entertainment. Now, I'm not suggesting these two for inclusion, but old guard players like Dave "Devilfish" Ulliot and Men "The Master" Nguyen are a lot more entertaining to watch than some of the dry toast old school players on that list.

The biggest snub is obvious. Carlos Mortensen is on the verge of winning his 4th WPT, is the WPT all-time money leader, and has a dynamic style of play that's fun to watch.

Kathy Liebert is also someone who has been very vocal about being excluded from these types of events. She ranks #1 on the all-time money list for women, and if I'm not mistaken, she's never taken part in this event. I don't know if it's personal or not, but you would think she'd get an invite at some point out of respect for her accomplishments.

Mike Sexton is also an old guard type player that deserves an invite, in my opinion, based on what he's done to promote the game and he's certainly a familiar face to the average viewer, and an easy guy to root for.

There are loads of players left off the list that I'd invite, and loads I'd eliminate, but I don't think it's all that productive to call people out when it's not their fault they got an invite.


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