Monday, November 30, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Inside one of the many conversations spawned by the many messages I received encouraging me to stick with it and not give up there appeared a list of questions about what being a prop actually entails. Since I am in the process of shifting to zombie time and was planning to write a post tonight anyway (either about this batshit insane guy I played with today, or one regarding Pete running AA into QQ on a TT3-Q-A board that I've been meaning to write, or perhaps one going through my results and figuring out what's going on with this whole "30/60" thing) but didn't really feel up to fleshing out any of the topics I just mentioned, I'm going to take this and run with it. In general if you have something you'd like me to write about, just ask. One good way to get me to actually do it is to somehow include a list. I like lists; they are simple, completable, and do not forget things.

From a friendly neighborhood two plus twoer via PM:

Can I make a request (for your blog or on PM, whatever)? Can you explain exactly what it is that a prop does for those of us who don't know exactly what goes on?

- You mention shifts, but what if no games need propping? Do you sit around or are you free to play whatever you want? Do you have set shifts or are you on call?

Most props have set shifts during which they are expected to show up at the casino and be available to play in games. Bay 101 (at least) has some "special" props that don't seem to have a set schedule. I don't know if these props are on call, or if they function more as game hosts, in that they try to gather the troops to get the 80/160 going, or if they really just show up whenever they want. Chuck Thompson once told me his duties as a prop at Bay 101 basically entailed glad handing high rollers during the Shooting Star. The other 50 weeks a year he pretty much has no responsibilities whatsoever. But back to me and my super junior level prop status. If no games need propping props seem to be able to mostly choose what they want to do. If they want to sit out, they sit out. If they want to play 20/40, they generally seem to be able to do that. I have a set schedule to work Friday - Tuesday, 11pm to 6am. As with most jobs that run 24 hours a day, when you first get hired you work grave. If they need somebody on days, they move someone on grave and you take his place. My goal is to be off graveyard within 4 months, if I make it that long.

- Do you get assigned to specific games by the floor, or are you assigned to a specific limit? Can you table change as a prop?

This varies by shift. The day time Garden City props pretty much start games. When they want to fire up a new 20/40 but don't have quite enough customers, they put 3 or 4 props into the game to get it going. Once there are customers waiting, the props may or may not pick up. Some do, some don't, and it seems to vary from day to day. One thing that does get them up is when the floor wants to start the 40/80 game. Then you'll see Frank, Magic, and Eric all pick up out of the 20 and move to a new table, and the 40/80 game will start. Once it's full and there is a list, they are welcome to pick up but also seem to be allowed to stay. As a graveyard prop I'll probably do the opposite. At some point the 40/80 game will get short, and I'll be picked up out of whatever game I'm playing (hopefully 20/40, but perhaps solitaire on my iPhone) and sat in it until it either fills up (at which point I'll be like the day time guys above) or breaks. The bay 20/40 props do table change, some quite frequently (Mila) and others basically never (Steve). Just like some players :)

- What's the lowest limit that they prop? (Aside: does the Oaks prop the 6/12? A non-dealer with an employee card the other day showed up when our game was shorthanded.) Might you end up propping NL/SL? Non-Texas Hold 'Em (stud, Omaha, lowball)?

A friend of mine who props at Garden City shared his November results with me, and he had a non-zero number of hours played at every game spread in the casino except the 10-200 spread limit game. A prop position (and it's rate of pay) is defined by the biggest game the prop is willing to play. At Garden City right now I believe there are 3 levels, 40/80, 20/40, and 8/16, and I think a similar thing happens at Bay 101 (with the obvious change that they have some props who play the 80/160 game). The higher you play, the more you are paid. I will be expected to play every poker game in the casino (with the possible exception of the 10-200 spread....I'm not sure if I have to gamble with those guys...if I do you will see a grotesque display of short-stacked nittery the likes of which have never graced the felts of Garden City). The Oaks I believe also has 3 levels (30/60, 15/30, and "small"), but I think all those guys are expected to play Stud and Omaha (but not the absurd self dealt 60 lowball game where check/raise is not permitted). This is not a problem at Garden City, since there is no Stud and seldom if ever Omaha. And if there is I'll gladly play 4/8 Omaha.

- Will you not be on the graveyard shift someday, or are daytime props not generally needed? Did you request the graveyard shift or was it assigned to you?

It was assigned to me, and I'll be on grave 5 days a week. Switching back and forth between shifts is not something I'd really go for if graveyard was involved (mixing and matching day and swing shifts might be fact my friend does that currently). As I said above, if they need somebody on days, they move somebody from grave and hire a new person on grave.

- Are you allowed to play in GC apart from your prop shift? Will you be playing when off-duty, or are you going to limit your poker to the prop shift?

The only rule is that I have to wear my badge whenever I am on Garden City property. Also the employee handbook talks of the "10 hour rule", basically saying they want all employees to leave the premises 10 hours before the start of their next shift in order for them to show up at work well-rested and the like. I don't think this is strictly enforced by management or the floor, but I could be mistaken. I don't plan to play much at all other than the 35 hours I'm on duty. My hope is to use this set schedule ramp up my reading of 2 plus 2, join deuces cracked, and start playing more hands online. Might I take one for the team and continue playing past 6am once and a while? Perhaps if I'm in a good game, but I don't plan to make a habit of it.

- You are not a shill (playing with casino money), right? You play with your own money and get paid on top of whatever you win or lose?

Yes. I play with my own money and am expected to be bottomless. If I am stuck 6 racks and the game is 6 handed, my choices are to keep playing or punch out. Obviously punching out (and not getting paid) is frowned upon, but it's a big trump card that I assume I could play every few months if need be. I don't think it'll come up very often. When my shift ends, however, I can quit a guy HUHU and there ain't shit he can do about it.

- How many props does a casino employ? By my calculations, the rate of pay for a single prop eats a considerable portion of the rake a table generates, so having 3 props at a table means virtually no profit for the casino.

I don't have an answer to this question, but my general sense at least for Garden City is "too many". I've thought about this a lot and props have both short and long term value for the casino. In the short term they keep games going and allow the casino to generate more rake per hour by having more games running. But as you point out this value is limited, since the props do get paid a non-trivial sum (20/40 props generally get paid a fair bit less, as I mentioned, and the green chip props again take another pay cut...this is simply because there are more people willing to prop the smaller games I think). Long term value is what Garden City is going for by hiring all these new 40/80 props. If you think about it, there is a single unstable point of equilibrium for a given poker game, whereby it just barely avoids breaking everyday and two brave souls soldier on HUHU in the wee hours of the morning until other customers get up the nerve to sit down and play 3, 4, 5 handed and the game eventually fills up. If the game gets any weaker than this, it breaks everyday and you have to go through the hassle of starting it back up, which can be difficult and frustrating. Players will show up and there will be no game. They will be told "we'll start one soon" but they won't know when soon is or what, and when it goes they'll be asked to play potentially 5 handed with a bunch of props. Sometimes it won't go at all. Garden City's goal is to get the 40/80 game strong enough that it never breaks, running 24/7. This makes their customers happy, as they know they can show up any time, day or night, and make big gambooool.

I hope that was informative. Or interesting. Or some other i-word at least.


Alan Bostick said...

Here's some tips to help with living on graveyard shift:

Daylight is what sets one's body's circadian rhythm. The schedule I am on is to wake up early to middle afternoon, be domestic or social then and in the evening, and hit the cardroom from 11:30 PM to 6:00 AM. I try to get home and into bed before the sun rises. AND, not long after I get up, I make a point of going out for a walk in the daylight. That helps to remind my body what time its "morning" is supposed to be.

jesse8888 said...

I just realized that Alan works my exact schedule voluntarily. I am in awe sir.

CT said...

interesting and informative, thanks :)