Gitto Talks Taj
Tom Gitto has been in the casino business for 25 years. It's the kind of story where he had to walk 25 miles in the snow, without shoes up the boardwalk each way, just to get to work. In his early career at Resorts International, Tom was a blackjack, craps and roulette dealer, but moved up the corporate ladder to supervisor before making his way into the inner circle of "The Donald", helping Trump to launch the extravagantly gilded Taj Mahal in 1990.
By 1993, Atlantic City could hold back poker no more, and Tom transferred to the newly formed poker department where he was grand-fathered in as a Poker Supervisor in the 50 table room, despite having never dealt a game of poker in his life.
"A crew from out west actually had to come in for a month and teach us how to run a poker room in a mock poker room. That crew left after we opened up and opened Hollywood Park . I became the Poker Room Manager in 1995. Now I'm the Top guy in the poker room." Now Tom is busy completing the Taj Mahal poker room's latest expansion, taking the room to 70 tables.
Tom estimates that since inception, his card room has always controlled 50% of the market in AC. But success doesn't come cheap and he attributes the room's achievement to its sheer size, gigantic chandeliers, and million-dollar location.
"Donald Trump always wanted to have the biggest and the best poker room in town, and that is what has made it a success. Donald put the room right at the bottom of the escalators, and he made it the most beautiful poker room around." But besides that, Tom makes sure that he offers a selection games running at any one time, so players always have a variety of different poker games to choose from.
Tom knows that the west coast rooms have an advantage over those in the east. With the Casino Control Commission keeping a tight rein on what AC card rooms can do, Tom shows the green eyes of jealousy when he talks about the rooms on the 'other side'.
"On the west coast, card rooms have more flexibility in the rules. For instance, they can offer things like a bad beat jackpot, which we aren't allowed to offer here in Atlantic City . Out west they seem to do what they want."
But the biggest shift in poker isn't East/West, its generational, and we are not just talking Moet verses red bull and vodka at the tables.
"Our room was 75% 7-Card Stud when we opened, and its now 85% Texas Hold 'em. It's all because of television. Poker used to be on television, but until they invented a table with a glass bottom so you can see the cards, nobody watched it. Now the average person watches poker and enjoys the excitement from the player's point of view; and they're saying 'hey if that guy can do it so can I'".
And with TV comes the cigars, handshakes and orthodontically perfected smiles of the meet and greet couture. "My job has changed dramatically. Lately all I'm doing is PR stuff. Everybody has an idea; everybody has a tournament they want to run, or a television show, all with different angles. CNN was here a couple of days ago; the Wall Street journal is here with a TV crew tomorrow. I've got Mike Caro downstairs in the room right now with a film crew doing a DVD instructional video. Then Mike is running a seminar at 4:00 this afternoon on poker tells. Every magazine out there is doing stories on our players, our dealers, and our tournaments. It's just gone crazy.
"At 6:00 at night, I have 200 people standing in lines to play in tournaments. I have all my dealers working overtime, and we are doing all we can to get more dealers hired fast. It's a crazy, crazy time in poker right now."
Poker is red hot, The Donald is red hot, and that makes Tom t the hottest guy in the business of east coast poker. Tom, you've got 200 people lining up to get into your room, ESPN paying you 6 figures to bring cameras in, and cute dealer girls lining up for jobs - It makes me wonder if its better to be a dealer than a player?nah!
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