Minutello brings poker experience to Golden Nugget

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Golden Nugget recently named Sam Minutello to manage its 13-table poker room in downtown Las Vegas. Minutello brings with him 20 years of poker experience.

Minutello started dealing poker in Florida before he turned 21 and got his first managerial job just three years later at a three-table room on a day-cruise boat. He moved to Las Vegas to work as a dealer and floor person at the Mirage. From there, he returned to Florida to be the assistant manager at Derby Lane, helping restructure the room after a liberalization of the state poker laws. He worked with state regulators to approve tournaments in Florida. In 2004, he ran Florida’s first legal tournament at a parimutuel facility.

“It was highly successful and paved the way for a lot of tournaments and the expansion of gaming in Florida,” he said.

While restructuring the Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs, the Mirage called Minutello, aka Sammy the Deuce, to help with a World Poker Tour event; he did all televised events. After that, he hopped over to Caesars Palace and worked a WSOPC event, which led to being lead supervisor for the WSOP for three years starting in 2005. He was the final-table announcer for all televised events during that time.

He returned to Florida to open the One-Eyed Jacks Poker Room at Sarasota Kennel Club. After seven years, he moved back to Vegas, working as a tournament floor at the Orleans and he worked the WPT event at the Aria last summer.
Minutello’s first big event at the Nugget was November’s $125 Golden Saturday. The 811 entrants crushed the $50K guarantee, pulling in $81K. At 4 a.m., a 12-way deal was made as chipleaders, Thomas Hunt and Christopher Go each got $4,900.

“I completely changed the structure,” Minutello said. “I can’t put a ($10K) structure out for a $125 buy-in, but I put something out there that was really close. I see the structures and the way other places are running their tournaments. I know if you put together a good product, you’re going to get a good turnout.”
Minutello also changed the daily tournament schedule.

“I noticed a lot of rooms don’t offer a lot of value for them. I wanted to lower the juice and let people know you could get value at the Nugget. The structures are very strong for daily tournaments. I like deepstack poker. The other thing I’m doing that no one else is doing is offering a tiered blind structure. The longer the tournament goes, the longer the blind levels get and the better the structure is going to get. You’re going to get rewarded for getting deeper into one of our tournaments.”

Tournaments run at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and have the best fee in town. The $55 ($47+$8) tourney starts with 9K chips, optional $5 dealer add-on for 5K more. It runs Monday through Wednesday at 11 and evenings at 7 except Thursday and Saturday. The other days, same time, there’s a $110 ($96+$14) tourney with 9K chips, optional $10 add-on for 9K more.

Minutello has big plans for the summer series that Golden Nugget offers. “There are a lot of people that come into town to play the WSOP, but there’s also a lot of people who come in just to see the WSOP, because they can’t afford to buy into those events,” he said. “We’re going to utilize the fact that there are people in town and we’re going to offer really good guarantee tournaments at really affordable prices with really good structures. We want to accommodate the players that can afford the $150 buy-ins all the way up to the $500 buy-ins. Everything will be revamped, the structures, the juice, everything.”

What about cash games? “We’re going to embrace the fact that Golden Nugget has been a no-cap room for a long time. We’re known for it.” He envisions $1-$2 game with a $60-$200 buy-in and a $1-$3 game with $100 minimum and no max.

“Eventually, down the road, I’d like to offer a $2-$5 game and make that the no-max game. But when you’re transitioning a poker room you have to be really careful. You have to make minor transitions, because you don’t want the local customer base, that’s been really loyal, to feel like we’re alienating them. I’m just trying to slowly transition the room to offer a little more variety than what’s been there in the past.

“I have a lot of passion and enthusiasm for poker and I’m elated that the Golden Nugget has given me the opportunity to share that with the Las Vegas market.”

STRATOSPHERE: John Bunch won the Heartland Poker Tour main for a $150K. Joey Brown took home $92K for second.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD: More than 1,000 entered the main event at the room’s first World Series of Poker Circuit event. The prize pool was $1.5M with John Eames taking first for $289K.

VENETIAN: The Deep Stack Extravaganza Main Event had 517 entrants and a $754K prize pool. Ryan Olisar ($161K) and Shawn Quint ($99K) took home the top prizes. The next Deep Stack runs Jan. 27-Feb. 26 and offers $2.5 million in guarantees. The $1,600 main event starts Feb. 20 with a $750K guarantee.

— Email Rob Solomon at rob@allvegaspoker.com. Follow him on Twitter @Robvegaspoker and read his blog at robvegaspoker.blogspot.com.