Industry Insiders: Hollywood Casino’s Mike Williams Helps Set Missouri State Record

Industry Insiders: Hollywood Casino’s Mike Williams Helps Set Missouri State Record

Mike Williams (pictured right)

The St. Louis market is a robust, albeit often overlooked, poker market. The area has half a dozen casinos, including the Hollywood Casino & Hotel St. Louis, which was formerly a Caesars Entertainment property. The old venue used to play host to the World Series of Poker Circuit, but now it’s home to the Heartland Poker Tour (HPT).

In fact, the HPT was there back in March which is when Bill Byrnes topped a 444-entry field to win the $1,650 Main Event for $$148,587. Craig Welko also won three side events during the stop including Event #1: $350 NLH, a tournament that attracted a Missouri state record of 1,283 entries.

PokerNews recently had the chance to chat with Hollywood Casino & Hotel St. Louis poker room manager Mike Williams (pictured above far right next to Bill Byrnes and VP of Casino Operations Hollywood/River City Lowell Jacobsen) to learn more about the stop and poker in his part of the country.

PokerNews: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

"21 years old and I’m supervising a poker room, this is it, this is where I want to be."

Williams: I am a gaming industry lifer. I started working in the gaming industry essentially straight out of high school and don’t have any plans of leaving any time soon. In my off time, I’m either playing poker, bass fishing, or reading about one of those in an effort to increase my knowledge and skill set. The thing that engages me to poker and fishing is in order to be successful at either, you need a lot of the same attributes: patience, dedication, reasoning, the ability to forget what you know, and evolve; to name a few.

When and how did you enter the poker world?
I became very interested in poker/cards at a young age. I can recall my grandma showing me how to play five-card draw, Stud, and even hold’em back when I was five or six years old. We started playing weekly games and I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to be around cards. Fast forward a decade and a half to 2004 when I enrolled in poker dealer school at this property (Harrah’s at the time).

Within three months of becoming a poker dealer, I was promoted to Dual Rate Supervisor which was a huge deal to me; I was so excited. On one of my first days on the floor, the other floor person went to break leaving me to watch 12 games and I remember standing at the front of the room watching over the games and thinking to myself, 21 years old and I’m supervising a poker room, this is it; this is where I want to be.

Within three months, I was promoted to Full-Time Supervisor. Then, six months later, to Shift Manager. In 2010, my friend Randy called me and said he was just named poker room manager at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and I really needed to come check the place out. So I headed out that week. I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of foot traffic and action that place drew in. At the time, the poker room was 24 tables and it was full at almost any given time, I just had to get in on the action. Not long after that, I headed back out to interview for Poker Shift Manager. I received and accepted a job offer.

HPT St. Louis Day 1b
The HPT St. Louis field.

What led to you taking a position at Hollywood St. Louis?

I moved back to St. Louis in 2014 to be with my friends and family and took a job as Poker Supervisor. During this timeframe, the poker manager was let go and Table Games was overseeing poker in the interim. I had a good working relationship with the director of table games from when I worked here previously so she leaned on me quite a bit with poker needs. After a short amount of time, the poker manager position was posted and I applied. After a few rounds of interviews, I was offered and accepted the position.

What sort of promotions does Hollywood St. Louis offer poker players?

We have such a great offering for poker players it actually makes me jealous that I can’t play here. Every day we start with 21 “Made Hand” jackpots and 13 “Sets Cracked” jackpots worth at least $100 each (more if they carryover), not to mention our Bad Beat Jackpot.

"The poker team here on property coupled with the temp HPT staff handled this influx better than any group I’ve ever seen."

We offer players a $15 food voucher for four hours of cash play in addition to their hourly comps. We award tier points for poker play which helps “level up” your rewards card, earning you more benefits at all of our properties nationwide. We also host fourteen tournaments every week with buy-ins ranging from $60 to $550.

You recently hosted your first HPT. How did that go and how did players respond?

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to host/facilitate the WSOPC and the Hollywood Poker Open and I have never seen anything like the HPT at Hollywood Casino St. Louis. We had just completed orientation with the final group of HPT staff and we walked out to the tournament area at 9:55 a.m. on a Wednesday to find almost 100 players already registered to play the $85 satellite to Event 1. I immediately turned to the shift manager, Joe Hahs, and said this whole series is about to go off twice what we expected; start calling dealers and changing schedules! The poker team here on property coupled with the temp HPT staff handled this influx better than any group I’ve ever seen.

In your years in poker, what is the wildest thing you’ve ever seen?
I remember a floor call I took in 2009. It was the final table of a tournament, and I hear the dealer say “Um, floor” then a Player A jumping up and saying “BS I had the nuts,”

I approach the table and ask the dealer what happened. The dealer said Player A bet, Player B raised, Player A went all in, and Player B called. Player B flipped over a straight. I said ok, what did Player A have? The dealer responded, “He doesn’t have cards.”

I said, “Ok, sir (Player A) how did you intend to win this pot at showdown?”

He said: “I was going to turn over my cards but now they are gone and I had the nuts.”

We took a peek under the table and the rail, nothing. I had the dealer count down the stub and muck to find out the cards were in fact somewhere. I happen to glance at a rolling table behind him and noticed it had a fresh beer sitting on it. I asked, “Sir did you buy that beer?”

He said: “Yes but I’m not drunk, I just lost my cards. Don’t disqualify me.”

I said I need you to stand up, which he did. I said take out your wallet, which he did. I said: “Now take the {9-Clubs}{10-Clubs} out of your wallet.”

He was starting to say “Why the…” as he opened his wallet to find the {9-Clubs}{10-Clubs}. It was the closest I’ve ever been to performing a magic trick and the biggest cheer I’ve ever received from making a floor call. Don’t worry, Player B got the pot.

Lead image courtesy of HPT.

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