Downstream Casino poker manager has big plans

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Oklahoma saw major changes to key properties in 2011 (management changes), but that hasn’t dammed up the flow of players to Downstream Casino. New poker room manager Dale Hunter has brought a new feel to Downstream, ensuring his players another exciting year of action.

I recently chatted with Hunter, 27, who attended Missouri Southwestern, to get the scoop on how he got into poker, how he acquired his position and what he plans to do for Downstream in 2012. Here’s the scoop:

How did you get into the poker industry? I have played poker since I was young and have always enjoyed it. I started dealing at a local casino when I was about 21 and I stayed there for four years until Elliott Schecter hired me as a shift manager. I have been here at Downstream for about a year-and-a-half.

When Schecter left, was it an easy decision to apply for the position? Yes. In fact, I worked very closely with Elliott so I felt confident about applying for the position when he left. I actually accepted the job the Friday before our last Heartland Poker Tour main event. My GM took me to dinner, offered me the job and I accepted immediately.

So do you still have time to play poker now that you’re running the cardroom and if you do, what do you play? (laughs) Not as much as I used to. I do visit other cardrooms on occasion to play, but the new position is demanding. I don’t have as much time now to indulge in a game. I prefer Omaha $5-$10 no-limit over hold’em. I don’t have a problem with the other games; it’s just my favorite.

Speaking of Omaha, isn’t there a $6-$12 Omaha/8 with a kill going on right now in your room? Yes, actually that game runs every Thursday and it has really created buzz in the room. That game is a good example of the great year we have in store here. Bigger, better for 2012. That’s our goal. We will be getting players excited about other card games aside from hold’em and introducing those games this year. In the past we have not done as many weekly tournaments, but players can expect to see more of those on this year’s schedule, too.

What about your long-term goals? We plan to dominate the market and stand apart from Tulsa. Downstream continues to grow and we will continue to bring exciting poker to this region by reinventing Oklahoma poker.

So what changes have you made that have improved the room since you have taken over as manager? That’s a good question. We’ve got a great group of people here, players and staff alike and boosting morale is important. Players can expect a warmer welcome than in previous years and our friendly atmosphere will make regulars feel at home, new players feel like regulars, and when they leave and return again, we will still know their name.

I remember that theme song from the show Cheers. Yes, like that. We are a poker family here and it is going to be a big exciting year for Downstream. We have our Heartland Poker Tour event coming up Feb. 16-26 and we have implemented a new event for this tour and that will be a re-entry H.O.R.S.E. event. We also have our Four States Poker Championship in May-June, a big event in August (details to be determined) and a winter event in November. It’s a great opportunity to show players that change is not always a bad thing. Just like in poker, change can mean your hand has improved.

When players ask why they should play at Downstream Casino, what do you tell them? (laughs) What reasons can you come up with NOT to play at Downstream?

Seriously, though, our customer service is fantastic and it continues to improve. Game integrity is very important to us; we have great dealers, efficient staff, a wonderful variety of regulars and part-time players. We have excellent games at a variety of stakes. We are where poker players like to be and you don’t have to take my word for it because we will show you as soon as you get here.

• River Spirit Casino recently paid the biggest bad beat in Oklahoma worth $274,178. At 6:44 p.m. on Christmas, Jason Miller’s quad kings were beat by a club royal flush. Poker room manager Justin Buckley described the moment: “The board was {a-Clubs}{q-Clubs}{8-Spades}{k-Clubs} with the {k-Diamonds} coming on the river. The table went nuts, yelling and screaming and jumping out of their chairs.”

The opposing player held {j-Clubs}{10-Clubs} and earned $54,838. Miller received $109,676 while the other 32 players in the room each received $3,427. River Spirit’s bad beat is now around $105K and building every day.

• One of the largest tournaments in the state returned to Hard Rock Tulsa on Jan. 26 for the seventh annual Oklahoma State Championship of Poker. The series had 21 events in 10 days, with buy-ins starting at $125. Though most of the events will have been concluded by press time, you can still make the $100K guarantee on Feb. 2.

For more information call (918) 384-6648.

— Crystalynn Harris is the Ante Up Ambassador for the Oklahoma-Kansas area. You can email her at crystalynn@anteupmagazine.com.