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The Casino City Awards

20 December 2010

The Casino City Gang (Dan Igo, Vin Narayanan and Aaron Todd) voted on the first-annual Casino City Awards this week. Here's who made their nice list:

10. Best low-roller poker game – $1/$1 no-limit Hold'em at Bally's AC
If you're looking for a good low-limit poker game, it's going to be hard to find a better one than the $1/$1 no-limit Hold'em game at Bally's in Atlantic City. Featuring a tiny $40 buy-in, the game is filled with poker neophytes and reckless gamblers. Play tight ABC poker and you're almost guaranteed to profit, you'll still earn $1/hour in comps, and you'll have a shot at getting a piece of the Bad Beat Jackpot, which gets big quickly now that it is linked at all the Caesar's Entertainment properties in Atlantic City. – AT

9. Best online gambling innovation – Live dealers
One of the great aspects of online gambling is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home. However, nothing beats going to a live casino. Luckily, a few online casinos have been able to bring that live experience into your house. Live dealer casinos might not be a brand new innovation, but their popularity has certainly expanded in the last year.

DublinBet does a nice job in this area, and they have a number of live dealer games. One of those games is live dealer roulette, which features friendly live video of the wheel. You place your wagers on the screen. The screen will inform you when you can place your bets, and when there are no more bets. You can also tip the dealer.

Live dealer casinos are perfect for online gamblers who want the experience of a brick and mortar casino without having to leave their bedroom. Expect this innovation to continue to gain in popularity in 2011. – DI

8. Best 180 – Harry Reid
For years, Sen. Harry Reid opposed licensing and regulating online gambling in the U.S. Then Harrah's and MGM helped Reid win a bruising re-election campaign over Sharron Angle by donating more than $250,000 to his campaign coffers, and he started pushing legislation that would license and regulate online poker at the federal level. It doesn't look like Reid will be able to attach his online poker to bill to must-pass legislation (which is the only shot for it to become law before the next, more Republican leaning Congress is sworn in), but he's the first major political leader in the Senate to take up the cause for online gambling, and for that, Reid get's Casino City's best 180. – VN

7. Best new TV show – The PokerStars Big Game
Hands down, the coolest innovation in televised poker this year is the PokerStars Big Game. Lots of poker shows have adopted a game show type of format, inviting an unknown amateur on the show to take on the pros. But none have integrated the format as well as The Big Game. PokerStars stakes the amateur – called the "loose cannon" – with $100,000 to play against five pros in a cash game format. After 150 hands, if the amateur has made a profit, he gets to keep it. Otherwise he gets nothing. The game is pot-limit pre-flop and no-limit after the flop. When the show gets close to the 150-hand cap, it makes for some interesting decisions for the loose cannon, because if he's stuck, he has to start playing very aggressively to try to double up and finish with a profit. It also helps that Phil Hellmuth has suffered some brutal beats at the hands of several loose cannons. -- AT

6. Best political debut – Ray Lesniak
Rep. Barney Frank has been trying to regulate and license online gaming at the federal level ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law in 2006. Reid has been trying to get online poker legislation through the Senate this month. Neither have succeeded. In fact, the only politician in the United States that has successfully passed pro-online gambling legislation (sorry, horse racing and lotteries don't count) is New Jersey State Sen. Ray Lesniak. Last month, the New Jersey State Senate passed a bill authored by Lesniak that would allow Atlantic City casinos the ability to offer online gambling to New Jersey residents. The New Jersey Assembly is on track to pass Lesniak's bill in January. And if it's signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, Lesniak's legislation will make New Jersey the first jurisdiction in the United States to license and regulate online gambling at any level. – VN

5. Most exciting poker hand – Jarvis vs Mizrachi
This year's World Series of Poker Main Event final table will be known for a number of monster hands, including Jonathan Duhamel taking down a WSOP-record pot of 180 million chips against Joseph Cheong.

That being said, the most exciting hand of the year occurred hours earlier, after Matthew Jarvis pushed all-in with pocket nines against Michael Mizrachi's ace-queen. Mizrachi hit two queens on the flop and was an overwhelming favorite to take down the pot. That changed when a nine hit on the turn. All of a sudden Jarvis seemed to be in a perfect position to double up. But it was not to be for the Canadian, however, as an ace hit on the river to give Mizrachi a better full house. Jarvis was eliminated in eighth place as a crazed Penn & Teller Theater went wild. -- DI

4. Best WSOP intro – Nolan Dalla
It's a well-known fact that we at Casino City love WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla. We even devoted an entire top-10 list to his write-ups from the WSOP earlier this year. So it's no surprise that he would end up on our year-end top-10 list. His introduction of John Racener and Jonathan Duhamel at the media event the day before heads-up play began at the World Series of Poker Main Event was truly epic. Watch it below, courtesy of the folks at – AT

3. Best online poker innovation – Rush Poker
The online poker industry has been around for about a decade, and since the first room opened, there haven't been that many innovations, outside of's 3-D online offering. This year, Full Tilt Poker bucked that trend by offering Rush Poker. When playing Rush Poker, players are whisked away to a new table with new players immediately upon folding. There's no need to wait for the hand to be completed, and you have a blank slate against the opponents at the new table. Positions are random, except that players are dealt into the blinds at regular intervals. Instead of averaging 50-60 hands per hour, players can average several hundred hands per hour. Full Tilt has applied for a patent, so it's unlikely you'll be able to find this type of experience at any other online poker room. – AT

2. Best sports betting innovation – Leroy's Blackberry App
If you're in Nevada and you have a Blackberry, you can now use it to bet on sports. How cool is that. Here's how it works:

1. Open up an account at a Leroy's Sportsbook. They operate a bunch of sportsbooks in Nevada, including ones at the Riviera, Sahara's and Hooters.
2. Give them your ID and money to fund your account.
3. They'll send you the Blackberry application, and you can start betting right away, just like you would in a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

You can only place a bet if you're in Nevada. And Droid and iPhone versions of the application are on the way.

So if you need to bet on a game, but you can't make it to the sportsbook, try the Leroy's Blackberry app. It might change how -- or how often -- you bet on sports. And it gives a whole new meaning to the term 'Crackberry.' – VN

1. Best Pai Gow Poker tables – Gold Coast
In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare told us "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." He's clearly never played Pai Gow. The best place to play Pai Gow Poker in Las Vegas is not on the Las Vegas Strip. It's at the Gold Coast, and in the end, it's no contest.

Pai Gow on the Strip is a bit antiseptic. Sure, it's pretty. But there's no character. You can get the usual bonus bets for getting a straight or quads. But good luck trying to find Pai Gow insurance (a bonus for getting the worst possible hands) – you just don't see it much on the Strip. And the dealers interact with you, but they don't show any warmth or affection.

It's a bit like dating that hot rich girl you used to dream about as a teenager only to realize that no matter how much you sleep with her, you're never going to really like her -- not when the pretty girl next door is still waiting with open arms for you.

In November, on consecutive weeks, I went on two Pai Gow benders. Pai Gow benders, by the way, are sessions that last more than three hours at a single table. One bender took place at the Gold Coast. The other took place at Aria.

I rarely play the bonus side bets, but I do like having the option to do so. In fact, I once bankrolled an entire trip by successfully playing the Pai Gow insurance -- and yes, I tipped the dealer well for spectacular run of "bad cards." But on this day at the Gold Coast, I wasn't playing the side bets. And the dealer never let me forget about it. Every time I had a hand that qualified for a side bet, she'd point the payouts sign and tell me how much money I just didn't make on that hand. And she also kept a running tally for the session, updating it every time I could have won more money on a side bet. But it was fun. She and I were having a good time playing Pai Gow. I teased her about cards and hands. She teased me. We made fun of my friends. They made fun of me. We laughed about the commotion in the sportsbook behind us. We debated about the right way to set hands. It was all good fun.

The next week, I tried my hand at Pai Gow at the Aria, but it just wasn't the same. The seats were plush and comfortable. And I had a good time. But it wasn't nearly as fun as the Gold Coast. There was no Pai Gow insurance at the table, and believe me, I would have played it that night. But more importantly, I never felt like I got to know the dealers. Most of the dealers in the rotation didn't talk much, despite my best efforts to engage them in conversation. I did get some interesting people at the table, but they only stayed around long enough to keep things interesting.

My experience at Aria is typical of my other Pai Gow experiences on the strip.

But none of that would ever happen at the Gold Coast. Pai Gow isn't a transitory game there. It's a way of life. Players sit down to play and socialize, not pass 20 minutes of time. Dealers keep the game, and the socializing, moving along at a good pace. And of course, it has Pai Gow insurance.

There is no doubt Pai Gow can be a cruel mistress. Just when you think you have a winning hand -- trip jacks on the bottom and kings up top -- you run into the dealer's baby flush with aces up top. But I'd rather have that happen in the warm bosom of the Gold Coast than any other place in Vegas. – VN
The Casino City Awards is republished from
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital
Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital
Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for, USA WEEKEND and CNN.