Poker – When is a guarantee not a guarantee?

I enjoy playing Poker and started playing about 7 years ago.  Like most or all players I was horrible when I started playing and have gradually and steadily improved.  While in a perfect world I would play in larger events my very meager bankroll only allows me to play very low buy-ins.

Okay, who am I kidding my bankroll is not just meager but pretty much non-existent.  I play though because very often even playing very cheap tournaments I can and do make more money in a 4-8 hour period than I do working 40 hours in a week.  I study and analyze the game and also am very selective regarding the type of tournament I choose and try and select solid structures and whenever possible guarantee tournaments.

As an example of how I can make more money in a few hours than I do in one week, on Monday I played a tournament at Commerce Casino in LA and won more in just over 4 and half hours than I make in one full week.  In 2008 after I went through the most devastating layoff I had ever experienced and I have gone through more than I care to remember, I booked my largest single win, placing 3rd and winning over $12,000.

In fact I was still not very good as a player, and yes some might argue I still am not very good, but I would of course beg to differ, I made a really, really bad mistake and actually gave a pro named Matt Stout a gift of about $11k.  It was so bad a mistake that it literally was like I said hey Matt you seem like a really nice guy and despite the fact that I recently lost my job and need this money I am going to hand you $11k.

Sadly he was really rude and nasty to me, which made no sense to me since he should have been grateful that my poor play benefited him greatly.  But that wasn’t really the topic for today.  I mention all of this just as background.

So we fast forward to the present.  I am a solid player but have no bankroll, so when I do play I have to be very selective to ensure that I am maximizing my potential and the few dollars I can afford. 

I have played at Morongo Casino in the past and a couple of days per week they have a very good structure that is very affordable.  I had not played there in months and noticed on their website that they were now offering a guarantee of $3,000 for their Tuesday tournament.

Now for those of you that do not play Poker, let me briefly explain what that means.  A guarantee means that regardless of how many players show up for the tournament the casino will guarantee that there is at least $3,000 total in the prize pool to be divided amongst all the players.  Now usually there is some stipulation that you must have a minimum amount of players, and generally it would be about 9 players to at least make up 1 table.

Occasionally in a tournament there will be what is known as an overlay, which is great for a poker player.  What that means is that there are fewer players than needed to meet the guarantee.  So if the buy in for the tournament that goes in to the prize pool is $85 as an example then there would need to be 35 or more players to ensure that there was $3,000 in the prize pool.

Since the casino advertised and agreed to a guarantee than that means that if there are only 20 people that show up, there would only be $1,700 in the prize pool and the casino would have to make up and eat the $1,300 difference.

Well, that is what is supposed to happen, but Morongo almost cancelled the tournament because they didn’t want to lose money.  What happened was this, I showed up very early for the tournament and paid for my seat.  They moved to a much smaller Poker room a few months ago and the tournaments used to fill up quickly so I wanted to make sure and get a seat.

I came back ten minutes prior to the scheduled start time and they only had 18 people registered and they said they would not run the tournament if they didn’t get at least 27-30 people.  I was NOT happy about this at all, and I asked them how they could do this when their website and printed material had no disclaimer and they just mumbled that they were not about to lose so much money.

They said that in the past they had lost money and still ran the tournament but this was too much for them to lose.  I told them fine then remove the word guarantee moving forward and they said we are not going to do that.  So here was a large casino that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars per year and they were worried about having to dig in to their gold and silver lined pockets for about $1,500.

Are you fucking kidding me?  What kind of a Mickey Mouse operation are they running?  I have NEVER seen a casino anywhere not honor a guarantee.  I have played in many places in the US and remember when I was back east the Borgata which is one of the best places to play Poker in my opinion have to eat tens of thousands of dollars in meeting a guarantee. 

Did they cry and whine?  No, what they did was adjust for the economy and lower the guarantee in future tournaments.  This is good business folks, period! 

They started advertising the tournament in the room and they finally got enough players and started the tournament but the fact that had they not gotten more players they even considered telling 18 players that showed up to play sorry we are not going to run this thing I found to be disgusting and deplorable.

This has left a really nasty taste in my mouth for Morongo and I really don’t know if I will go back.  Quite frankly if I had a proper bankroll I wouldn’t even screw around with these little tournaments.

Carpe Diem,


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