From a pure weather standpoint and how it affects living conditions, it’s easy to see why a poker-room executive may decide to make a career change (or least a venue change) from, let’s say, Atlantic City to South Florida. Stan Strickland did it in April by leaving the Borgata and taking the head job at the Isle in Pompano Beach. In the fall, Ray Stefanelli made a similar move from marketing director position at the Borgata to director of marketing at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. Now, a third gentleman with Atlantic City ties joins the South Florida poker scene, as Chris Loscalso took over as director of poker at the Miami and Ft. Pierce jai-alai facilities in January.
Loscalso is a bit different since his move came directly from a casino games consulting job at the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba (a little harder to explain) but he’s truly excited to be back in the poker world with a challenge ahead of him at the two Florida Gaming cardrooms. He has not been awarded the luxury of a planning period; he told me he’s learning on the run after flying to New Jersey from Aruba and immediately jumping into his car to drive to Florida.
“I stopped at every poker room that was near I-95 on the way down to get an idea what rooms were doing in different areas,” Loscalso said. “I haven’t stopped running since I got here, putting together a new strategy and a new focus.”
Loscalso broke in at the Atlantic City Hilton about a decade ago as a blackjack dealer, but realized immediately the more experience and knowledge he could gain about all aspects of the casino business would be his ticket to quick advancement. Becoming a poker dealer was the final step in getting a well-rounded education, and he moved from dealer to a floor position and then to tournament director in about a year. He moved to the Showboat and developed lifelong friendships in the poker world as a pit boss, eventually becoming poker director at Harrah’s Chester and later, the Horseshoe in Cleveland.
The challenge ahead of him at Casino Miami Jai-Alai’s Crystal Card Room will be to regain business lost to the new kid in town, Hialeah Park. The classic racetrack opened a beautiful room in August and has averaged more than $660K a month in poker revenue over the course of its first four full months. In that same period, Casino Miami Jai-Alai’s business has dropped off by about $80K per month, while the two other poker rooms in Miami at Magic City and Calder have seen even more precipitous decreases in revenue.
After enduring constant competition in saturated markets such as Atlantic City and Philadelphia while in management there, Loscalso feels he has an idea on how to improve business in Miami.
“We need a game plan. You’re always looking for a way to compete, so we’re looking at larger buy-in tournaments and big promotional giveaway days, trying to build a brand,” he said. Loscalso also will use social media to its utmost, saying the room has added almost 2K followers on Facebook since he arrived.
While there’s pressure to improve revenues as quickly as possible, Loscalso feels improving customer service will be the most important factor.
“The numbers are always important, but it’s not my main focus. People will show up for a good product,” he said.
Eventually, he would like to host some major events, but he feels there’s other work ahead of him now.
“We’d like to bring some regional attention to this place. Between here and Ft. Pierce, we have two stellar rooms and we have already talked about potentially doing something in conjunction with both rooms at the same time,” he said.
ISLE CLASSIC: Farid Jattin of Miami captured the $1,090 main-event title and $147,160, besting 565 players at the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach. He followed that up with a final table at the WPT Borgata Winter Open Main Event, finishing sixth for $174K.
CHARITY EVENT: Final preparations are under way for the fourth annual Tyler’s Team Charity Poker Classic at the Palm Beach Kennel Club on March 23. Buy-in is $60 with $20 rebuys and $10 add-ons. Players are treated to a buffet at noon. The tournament will start at 1 p.m. and there will be prize bounties on celebrity guests. The event will pay the top 10 percent of the field. Several ex-Dolphins, including Jim Jensen and John Bock, along with some top poker pros have committed to attend. The first-place winner will receive a seat at the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event in 2015 at PBKC along with a cash prize. There also will be a special 50-50 raffle and a silent auction. For sponsorship and general info, call Kevin McLellan at 561-215-3717, or visit tylermclellanfoundation.org.
— Email Dave at email@example.com.