Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This Probably Counts as News about My Life

And so far, it's bad news, although I'm not reacting badly to it, at least yet.

About six months ago, I said something on a craps table that got me in trouble. Specifically: My boxperson and floorperson were both women, and were both complaining about how cold they were. I suggested that if they make out, they wouldn't be cold. Neither of them was offended by this. But the pit boss, who theoretically has a whole lot of tables to watch and shouldn't be paying attention to just one, overheard, and was offended on their behalf. All three of these people were people I joke around with, and the two women who the comment was about, weren't offended, as I said.

Nonetheless, the pit boss made everyone fill out an "incident report," which isn't a write-up but looks like one, and HR made me attend "sensitivity training" because of my comment. At the time, I thought, okay, this is bullshit, but at least everyone realizes that it's bullshit, I'll go watch their video and be done with this.

Fast forward to a week ago, Friday. Now I'm playing poker at the casino, I'm not even on the clock. I'm playing, having a pretty good day, enjoying the fine microbrews on tap at the bar closest to the poker room. One of the "poker hosts" (the closest analogue is to a brushperson at a poker room with actual dealers) is flagged down by someone else at the table, who wants to know how the list for Omaha, that he started, is faring. (They handle the lists for "other" games badly there, but that's outside the point.) The host says that she's "on top of it." Okay, now that's a straight line just too good to pass up, and I say that she "likes being on top."

The host, again someone who I joke around with, spins around and says, "You're crossing the line, there, buddy," and after a moment I'm convinced that she really was offended by me saying that. Okay, whatever. On my way out, after I'm done, I'm walking to the podium, where she is, intending to apologize, when I'm stopped by her boss, someone I've talked to a bit but don't know very well. Her boss informs me that the host was upset by my comment, and I said, basically, "Well, yeah, I know, I was going to apologize, but you just stopped me, and she went that way." Eventually I found the host and apologized. She said, verbatim quote here, "I accept your apology."

I'm back Saturday playing at the casino. Mind you, I'm a player, a guest at the casino at this point; I'm not on the clock while any of this is going on. I'm having a darn good day, up nearly four buyins. Now one of the shift supervisors for table games taps me on the shoulder and says that she needs to talk to me for a minute. This is somebody I know not at all; she's not on my shift and so I wouldn't know her. It develops that the host took things to the next level, filed an "incident report" on me, and I was being asked to fill out my own "incident report." The only people in the office with me are the table-games shift, the poker-room shift, and me, there are no other men in the room (which only occurred to me later, that men would think this is bullshit and it never would have gone as far as it did). I'm being told that this is not a write-up, yet, this is just an "incident report," it will go to HR, and they'll decide how to continue. But in the meantime, I'm banned from the poker room. (This last might have been important, but turned out not to be except in an offhand way.)

Now it's Sunday morning, and I report to work. I'm put on "High Tie Blackjack," a blackjack game with a side bet, that I don't deal a lot. As with all games I don't deal a lot, I'm winging it, and I'm not the smoothest dealer you've ever seen. The stupidest thing I do is that, on autopilot, I deal out a hand of baccarat, which is entirely the wrong game. Fortunately, the supervisor is standing right there, and it doesn't become an issue, other than to laugh about. (My guess is that since I was sitting down, my "autopilot" was set to "baccarat," and being distracted or whatever, I dealt out that hand on autopilot.)

Now it's about six o'clock, and I've been there for two hours. Another dealer taps me on the shoulder, which if it's not my usual relief usually means they need me for another game, generally craps or baccarat. Instead, I was sent to the shift office. My own shift manager and assistant shift are both there, regarding the "incident report" from a few hours earlier. Now, these are both men, so I expect to hear about how this is all bullshit, but instead, I hear that it's "out of our hands, out of our hands, out of our hands," which, reading between the lines, sounds pretty bad.

But it gets worse. As we're discussing this, my shift asks me "if, honestly, you can tell me that you're 100% sober right now." I say, "of course, sure," but as we're discussing how much I've had to drink and when, I end up deciding that it's possible I might blow a point or two on a breathalyzer, but nowhere near .08%. My shift supervisor—who, the whole time I'm there, everyone keeps praising as someone who'll go to the mat for his dealers—seems to believe that I'm drunk, and I end up getting escorted by security to the LaPorte hospital to blow a breathalyzer. It comes back .000%. I come back, and continue working. Nobody offers me an apology, anywhere up the chain of command that would have reported that I was drunk.

Monday and Tuesday are my days off, and I don't hear anything, so I go to work on Wednesday, which is a normal day other than all of my co-workers asking me, "Dude, what happened?" I discuss with a couple of people what my options are if I were to get canned over the situation, but otherwise it's a normal day. Oddly, I'm in the high-limit pit, so I go from being thought too drunk to deal, to being thought worthy of dealing to black-chip players.

On Thursday, I report to work, and sit down for my usual cup of coffee before I report onto the floor, shooting the shit with my co-workers (including about my situation). Then it's time to get up and receive our table assignments. I'm not assigned a table. This by itself isn't that unusual; often there are several extra dealers who do a bit of busy-work before sending home the people who've asked for an "early out." Once most of the dealers are on the floor, the "pencil," who assigns everyone to their tables, told me to go to the shift office. In the whole scenario, this is the only thing that I felt was actually handled well.

The shift manager and assistant shift are there waiting for me, and they tell me that HR told them to "SPI" me, which means that I'm "Suspended, Pending Investigation," which everyone in the room knows is code for "you're fired." It takes HR until this morning to actually call me and let me know that I was terminated, but that is the result nonetheless. (At no point during their purported "investigation" do they talk to me, so my "incident report" is the only time I get to put my two cents into the situation, and I had to argue with the other shift manager to be allowed to write the incident report the way I wanted to.)

A Political Rant

I'm calmed down now, but at the time I was pretty hot about all of this. I never went off on anybody, but it seems to me that I was treated pretty shabbily. First, there's an "incident report" about something that nobody was offended by, and then there was an "incident report" about something that should have ended with the apology. And I'm fired.

It's impossible to claim that either incident was sexual harassment, a claim of which is certainly what they feel they're protecting themselves from. First, neither incident was quid pro quo, meaning there was nothing offered for sexual favors, and second, I could not be said to be creating a "hostile work environment." In both cases, what I said was much milder than the things that are said to me and about me all the time, including on the very game where I made my initial comment. In the second case, both comments were made on the casino floor, where players say things that are worse than either comment every few minutes. If any of the women (or even men) involved were to press a sexual harassment claim, she'd have a tough row to hoe for that reason.

But that's not the point of my rant. My point is this: Are women equal in the workplace, or aren't they? If they're not equal, fine, let them go back to being secretaries and kindergarten teachers, but only until they get married. If they are equal, then they need to grow the fuck up about this shit! Neither comment would attract any attention if a man said it to a man, or even if a woman said it to a man. Only when a man says it to a woman is it a big deal. But if it's going to be a big deal, then women don't belong in the workplace.

A friend says that in an earlier age, this wouldn't be a problem, because people were taught a natural chivalry toward women. And that's true. But in that earlier age, women, by and large, weren't in the workforce! And even now, I am one of the few people I know my age or younger who actually do watch what I say and do around women; the small extent that I follow the code of chivalry is much greater than I observe anybody else doing. And yet I get fired over this.

I find it interesting that the casino was so worried about heading off a sexual harassment charge, that they wander into territory that is, at least, very close to being actual sexual discrimination. Men talk to each other that way all the time, and it's fine. Women talk to each other that way all the time, and it's fine. Women talk to men that way with frequency, and nobody complains. But if men talk that way to women, it's sexual harassment? That is the essence of sexual discrimination.

One has to look at the drunk thing, as an attempt to get me fired over something real, because they know or knew that their reasons for firing me are weak otherwise. A dealer at another casino, an old-timer, suggests that I should sue Four Winds for harassment, seeking money damages. I'm tempted, but one caveat is that unless the case can be filed in federal court, I'd have to fight the tribe in their own court. If someone here is a lawyer I'd be interested in hearing his opinion of the case.

Now What?

For the first time in a long time, I have enough socked away that I can ride out being unemployed for a while. Two options suggest themselves: I can go to work for another casino in this area, or I can go to work for another casino somewhere else, probably Las Vegas.

The closest casino to me that isn't Four Winds, is in fact hiring, and I have an application in there right now, but I haven't heard anything. My limited experience wouldn't be a handicap there; most of their dealers aren't brilliant. The Horseshoe, which is nearly an hour away, is expanding in August and opening a poker room, so if I wanted to get into poker, I probably could. I haven't applied there because of the distance; I'd have to figure out transportation if I were hired.

I'm also leaving tomorrow for Las Vegas, which was planned anyway for somewhere around now, and being fired frees me from having to ask for time off. While I'm there, I do plan to see if I can't talk myself into some auditions, somewhere off-strip probably. I put an application in with all of Vegas' Station casinos this morning, and (surprise!) haven't heard anything yet. (Most of their positions are listed as "on call," which I don't know what that means in regard to hours.) I attempted to apply at the Boyd casinos in Vegas, but my application in Michigan City interferes with that (same corporate parent, and the Web isn't that smart). I might apply at some of the lesser Strip properties, but really I need more seasoning before I'm ready to deal at a "real" casino.

All told, I think it's about 75% that I'll end up at either Blue Chip or Horseshoe around here, and about 25% that I'll end up in Vegas. But if I talk myself into an audition out there and it comes through, then I'll probably move (back) out there, making more money than last time at a job I enjoy more than last time.

On a whole 'nuther tack, it's also World Series time there, and there are several events going on while we're there (although not the Main Event). I may try to satellite into one or more tournaments. I don't have much expectation of finishing deep, but it could happen. If I make it deep into one of the tournaments, and make deep money, I'll have a whole other set of things to think about.

It'll be good, though.

I Thought This Was a Poker Blog?

Truthfully, not really, not even when that was all I really wrote about, and despite the name. But I do have things I could say about my game.

Fixed-Limit holdem seems to be dying out in this part of the country. Of the four poker rooms in the area, one has occasional $3/$6 games and one deals $5/$10 to $20/$40 pretty regularly. But the other two spread any fixed-limit rarely, if ever. What's taking over is max-buyin no-limit, particularly $1/$2. Over the last couple of months, I've taken the opportunity of a reasonably healthy bankroll to really spend some time at no-limit, specifically not playing any limit while I do this. It's taken a couple of months, but I do seem to be winning pretty regularly at the game now. I do have the occasional bad day, but it seems like most days I end up winning a buyin or two. I'll be interested to see my results while I'm in Vegas.

I've also played more tournaments lately than usual, and I think I'm doing about average at them: The occasional cash, and one win about a month ago. Despite my ambition to play a WSOP event, I really don't consider myself a tournament player. Gil says he enjoys them more than cash games, but I'm not sure even he could articulate the reasons why.

I actually stopped reading a poker book recently, one I borrowed from Gil so at least I didn't waste any money on it. It's something like Mike Caro's Most Profitable Hold’em Advice, with a subtitle about the "missing arsenal" or something like that. The problem I kept having with it is that he says "X is profitable," which is counter to accepted teachings and indeed to common sense, and then fails to explain it. One example is that he says you should check the river in last position if your opponent never bluffs. The only argument he offers is that by never bluffing, your opponent is playing incorrectly, so you benefit. This doesn't say anything about whether your opponent would call a value-bet, or anything else. You're left with the choice of taking his advice blindly, or ignoring what might be something real, because he doesn't explain it.

I'm taking Gus Hansen's book with me to Vegas.