Hill Street Blues

There has been a lot of discussion in the Midlands lately about the demise of the Grosvenor Hill Street’s (H St) card room, so I’ve decided to write a post about it.

Jon Baker (ex-cardroom manager) is nobody’s fool and he saw the writing on the wall with some of the changes head office were inflicting on him and the cardroom.

We were all sad to see Jon leave but seriously can we blame him? The hours that cardroom staff work are not ideal for a someone with a young family, and the cardroom was under real pressure not just from its own head office but also from Resorts World and Dusk till Dawn.

Immediately after Jon left the downward spiral became a free-fall with several other key staff abandoning the sinking ship. It went quite a while with no one seemingly in charge of the room at all and it has suffered chronic staff shortages. So much so that it must have come a river card away from closing down completely.

Mark England has been handed the supervisors role. When I say handed, I mean when Grosvenor were passing the ticking parcel around Mark was the poor bugger left holding it when the music stopped. Be honest who’d want that job?

We all know that Grosvenor treat cardroom supervisors like sh1t. They want to pay them virtually the same rate of pay that dealers get, but lump a ton of extra crap on them. So the poor supervisors get sh1t on from above and moaned at from the staff below them.

Grosvenor need a fall guy to blame when everything goes tits up and be the poor sod who must stand there and defend the indefensible. The people in head office never have to listen to the moans and groans from customers (yes that’s what poker players are, customers) when their latest brainwave gets flushed down the u-bend in the players direction.

Let me be fair no one can moan like a poker player and I’m better than most at it, but just lately Grosvenor have given us plenty of ammunition.

They’ve had so many problems at H St that during discussions of the various options open to them, closing the card room for a while to regroup and staff it properly prior to re-opening was one of them.

Mark didn’t want to do that, and I totally agree that decision. Regular poker players know to check social media for Facebook groups like the Midlands Poker Forum and Poker Doctor, to see what’s on and check the schedules etc but there are a lot of casual players who just turn up every now and then, with no clue what’s on.

The worst thing would be having those types of player turn up to be told the card room is shut because they will never go back. Reopen the room to as much social media fanfare as you like, they won’t know about it and won’t be back.

I also think that if it closed “temporarily” it might never open again. Virtually every casino general manager in the country, given the choice, would rather not have a cardroom. Poker players are often viewed as the scum of the earth (a small minority justifiably so) but they are undervalued in my biased opinion.

I remember when the Broadway used to get 100+ runners for their Monday night comp. The place was buzzing and some of the punters would play house games and buy food and/or drinks. When non-poker players came in, the place looked vibrant and had a great atmosphere. Imagine walking in the Broadway now on a Monday night at about 9.00 pm. The place is empty and non-poker players who wander in can’t enjoy the experience nearly as much. Sitting in an empty casino on your own playing Blackjack must be the saddest thing ever.

So, what has is Mark done?

Well he’s put on a “temporary” schedule and let’s be honest by modern standards it’s utterly dreadful and Mark has taken some flak over it.

My view is though, that we (poker players) are aiming our anger at the wrong target. The shitshow at H St is not of Mark’s making. The poor guy is doing his best.

I must declare an interest and say I’ve sat at a poker table with Mark a few times in recent years and I like him a lot, I think he’s a really decent guy. As a player himself, he has an appreciation for the game and knows what players want. He also strikes me as a pretty smart guy, though the fact he’s taken this job makes me question that assumption.

Will he make a success of it? I would back him, though I’d probably lay it as soon as the price dropped!

Joking aside you need three things to be good at anything, knowledge, skills and attitude. He is currently lacking in the knowledge aspect of being a card room supervisor due to his limited experience in the role but his people skills are good and he is super keen to do well. Having a positive attitude and working hard will take him a long way I’m sure.

I really hope that he can bring H St back to something close to what it was and we all should. If H St fails completely and closes that isn’t good for any of us.

We need G Casino poker to flourish in the Midlands

Imagine for a moment if all G Casinos in the West Midlands closed their poker rooms (G Cov and G Walsall have all had problems in the not too distant past) and we were left with only Genting at Resorts World and DTD.

How long do you think it would be before Resorts World raised the rake on the cash games and tournament reg fees were increased? My guess would be about a month.

What incentive would they have to offer the very best tournament guarantees that they possibly can? Things would very quickly change if there’s no competition, if you don’t believe me read this example.

No competition is VERY bad for players

I won an Aussie Millions package for 2007 (thin) so got to play at the Crown Casino in Melbourne which is probably one of the top 3 casinos in the world, but for their cash game regulars it’s awful value.

When I arrived, I played a bit of cash the first day I was there. They started raking the pots which I didn’t think anything of, I think it was 10% capped at $5 or $10. What really shocked me though was when they asked me for a session fee as well. (I think it was $5 per hour).

I do remember saying I thought you were raking the pots? The dealer said “Yes, we do both”.

I was gob smacked but hey I was on holiday and didn’t really care too much. What really pissed me off though was when I ordered a cup of tea and the robbing sods charged me for that as well!!!

I couldn’t F’ing believe it and asked the locals why they didn’t go and play somewhere else. They all laughed and said the nearest casino is 600 miles away. I told them that where I live if any cardroom charged these rake/session fees and for soft drinks, they wouldn’t have a player in the place.

But in Melbourne it is play there or play nowhere. Apparently the Casino gets protected by the state legislator, so by law there can only be one gaming license in the whole state of Victoria.

Believe me when I say we need competition in the poker world to help drive up standards and increase choice for players. Every card player in the West Midlands owes a debt of gratitude to DTD, even ones like me who rarely travel there. (Its just a bit far for me)

DTD when it opened forced other casinos to start taking things a bit more seriously and upping their game.

Who should we be moaning at?

As I say poker players should be hoping that H St can be turned around and we should if possible, do what we can to support it. The people we should be moaning at are not the poor dealers at H St or Mark it’s those in the ivory tower at head office who should be on the receiving end of our anger.

Whoever thought it would be a good idea to get players to pay cash to enter a tournament and be paid out in Tesco Clubcard vouchers is the person who deserves a kicking.

Whoever thought that paying thousands of £££’s to get David Haye to play in this year’s Goliath deserves to get punched by a boxer.  

What was the person smoking who thought that was a good idea? I couldn’t give a flying fu*k if he plays the event or not. I’ve played the Goliath every year since it started and fully intend to play this year and so will virtually every other poker player in the Midlands.

How many people do you think will turn up to play the Goliath this year that wouldn’t have otherwise, just because David Haye is in it? My guess would be no one.

Seriously are the management punch drunk? For what they’re paying him they could drop the Goliath reg fee for everyone by £20 and we’d all be a lot happier.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen many adverts for Grosvenor this year it’s because they pissed the entire marketing budget for the whole year up the wall, on David Haye’s fee.

I don’t have anything against David Haye (thought I’d better say that in case I get drawn on his table) but he is the one person turning up to the Goliath who’s guaranteed at least 1st prize money!

I appreciate that he’s more likely to generate mainstream media attention for the event than a top poker pro, but personally I’d rather sit at a table with top poker player.

Self deal anyone?

They could have used the David Haye money to hire agency dealers for the Amateur Poker Association Poker Tour (APAT) team event in Blackpool in January earlier this year.

For those that don’t know, the APAT event was booked about a year in advance and Grosvenor are the event sponsors! The event is basically 280 grass roots poker players, the absolute perfect clientele for them to market themselves to, who were informed literally days before the event that they’d have to self-deal.

Those 280 players should be far more valuable to Grosvenor than any one ex-boxer. They are far more likely to visit a Grosvenor casino at some point in the future or not as the case may be.

Who else deserves our anger?

The idiot who thought that the Deepstack is a good value poker tournament. It’s just a deep pile of pooh.

See below when you compare the deepstack to the Titan which Grosvenor themselves also run at Grosvenor Coventry.

The deepstack has a lower guarantee and more than double the entry price, WTF?

The deepstack at H St held not so long ago overlaid absolute chunks (paid out in vouchers) because Resorts World offer comps with double the guarantee for half the buy-in. Absolute no brainer.

Coventry’s deepstack also really struggled because players with more sense than money will not play it unless they win a seat via a satellite. Why would you when you can play the Titan at Coventry which has a £15k G’tee and normally collects around £20,000?

Also can someone explain to me how they can run a 2 day Titan with a £7 reg fee but have to charge £15 for a deepstack?

One size does not fit all

The Grosvenors that do well with the deepstacks are the ones with no competition around them or those like the Vic where the customers have more money than sense.

The problem is that the ivory tower team see something do well at the Vic and think lets just roll that out nationwide, assuming it will work everywhere . Why don’t they ever ask/listen to people with local knowledge like Jon Baker before he left?

Grosvenor Hill Street going forward

I haven’t been to H St for a long time and the reasons were the traffic/roadwork problems in the centre of town mean I can drive elsewhere much easier. Also the fact there are no car jockeys anymore puts me off a bit as well.

I’m the wrong side of fifty and about 5 stone overweight so when I walk back to my car in the middle of the night in Brum, I’m too fat to run away from muggers and to old to fight them.

I will make an effort to pay it a visit in the near future though, because I really hope that Mark can start to rebuild it back to something close to what it once was.

Let’s not forget it wasn’t all that long ago that it was the best poker room in the West Midlands by some distance. As consumers we need it to be competitive again.

Post Update!

Added 27th March: Well that was quick, this post is only a day old and Mark has introduced some small guarantees again at H St. So that is a positive step forward. See latest schedule below.

Taken from Facebook post on the Midlands Poker Forum

Adding to the confirmation of £1,000 gte for Friday’s 23+7 and £1,200 for Saturday’s £33+7, we have now added a guarantee of £1,500 for Wednesday’s £33+7 big 8-max, starting tomorrow.

8pm start, 10.15 late reg, 25k stack + 2.5k early reg bonus, tables are played 8-handed, 24 minute levels until the break at the end of level 5 (2 hours); 20 minutes thereafter. 2 re-buys permitted, no add-ons.


    • Darren Sutton

      Wait till the charge for driving into Birmingham comes in on Jan 1st…
      And it is a pain to park now..when the roads are shut around Hill street.Dave is can end up parking a good 15 mins away.

  • Paul Wilshaw

    Excellent blog , and many valid points how I miss the old days at the Ricoh, hill street and Broadway…Blimey felt like a film star when the guys on the door would take your keys and park your car!
    Will Grosvenor see the light and reverse the exodus of players? As for your safety from muggers Dave, just tell a few of your bad beat stories and this coma inducing tactic will assist in your escape lol.
    Now I play once a week in a small genting card room in Coventry , which is more akin to a red tooth game but hey ho . See you at the Goliath with the wonderful overhyped David Haye zzzz.

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