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A Conversation with Mirage Poker Room Manager Chris Coffin

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LasVegasMichael sits down with Mirage Poker Room Manager Chris Coffin and talks about the new direction that the Mirage is going in.

When one thinks of The Mirage poker room, they often recall a time when it was the ‘be all end all’ of Las Vegas poker. A time when it was home to the Big Game, and every poker pro in the city called it home. This is forever immortalized in the dialogue of Mike McDermott in Rounders. Now, in 2011, the Mirage has adapted to the changes in the poker landscape of Las Vegas, and changed directions in order to remain competitive and appeal to more recreational and tourist players.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Coffin, The Mirage Poker Room Manager. I have known Chris a long time, and it was a real pleasure to get the chance to speak to him in person about The Mirage and the new direction that he has boldly decided to take the room.

Please tell us a bit about your history and how you came to be running historical The Mirage Poker Room.

Poker for me started as a child, playing with my Dad in the military. He taught all of us to play poker. I helped my family move to Las Vegas when he retired, and I stayed. Got into the poker business at 27. I played poker (professionally) from 21 to 27. I started dealing Downtown and then after 5 years I moved up to The Mirage to start dealing. 5 years later Bellagio was opening and they were needing help in training dealers, and I volunteered to help, which then led to me being promoted to Training Manager for The Mirage. After that, I helped run the first 2 WPT events….I discovered through a customer service class being held at Treasure Island one day that they were going to open up a poker room, and I pursued getting that room. Before that, during the course of years from Bellagio opening to when I got the TI in 2006, I worked as the office clerk, office coordinator, training coordinator, cashiering, chip runner, special events manager for poker, shift manager, assistant shift manager, floor person…Did and learn everything there is about the poker room from behind the scenes to the front of the scenes. Which led to me getting the TI poker room in 2006, which 3 years later when an opening came up at The Mirage I was able to get that position also, and moved over from there, just after Phil Ruffin had purchased the TI.

You decided to change the direction of The Mirage Poker Room when you took over. What has changed?

The big difference is understanding that there is only so much high end market out there. The mass of the market is low end, capped NL players and Limit players. Recreational players. Even within the realm of recreational, I consider many people who play on an everyday basis still to be recreational. They’re actually enjoying their time. They’re not just here to make money. They’re here enjoying the game of poker. They’re not just here grinding away a living. Understanding that that is the bulk of the market, instead of just trying to focus on just high limit when we have multiple big rooms in town that have captured that market pretty well, I started changing the room to focus on the more recreational, every day player, and offering them what they want. It was non-stop, people asked, “I don’t get anything for my quads? I don’t get anything for my Royal Flush?” So we started jackpots. And with the jackpot money, we have done many different promotions for holidays, for football, for any special event.

During our freeroll, I handed out a survey to all the players that were in the tournament, which they absolustely loved the fact that we were asking for their input, which is one of the big things that I always do is that I listen to the players.

2/5 NLHE is not very common in Las Vegas. Last I checked, there were only 8 rooms spreading 2/5 with daily regularity. Why do you think that The Mirage has been able to start getting 2/5 NLHE again?

The freeroll is what really spurned it off and our decision that we do not rake the game until it is 7 handed, and we also have the slowest rake on the game. We take a $3 max (plus jackpot), and we do not take that 3rd dollar until $100, and we’re doing $1.50/hour comps on that game. $200 Minimum, $750 Maximum buy in on our 2/5 game, with most people buying in for no more than $500.

What is the #1 reason someone should choose to play poker at The Mirage?

The #1 reason is we are the most comfortable, friendliest, funnest room in town. Comfortable, fun, and friendly.

To discuss or comment on this article please click: HERE

A version of this interview by LasVegasMichael was published in Ante Up Magazine.

--LasVegasMichael

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Comments

  1. Chris is one of the nicest poker room managers around. Other managers could learn a thing or two from him. He is doing a great job with the room. The Mirage is one of the places I feel the most comfortable playing when I come to Vegas.

    -Ryan

  2. @CRM114FGD135

    +1. Let me add that the Mirage poker room has another real nice guy working there but his name escapes me right now, a real short guy (sorry pal if you read this). Mark? They also have a great dealer, Kristi, aka Alaska Gal. She is not only a great dealer but a nice person and fun follow on Twitter. These 3 are just a few examples of the great people I have met because of AVP, people I would otherwise never have been blessed with knowing.

    I can't wait to play Mirage next week when I am in town for AVP XV!

  3. What a very nice read and common sense appoach to a Poker room, the game and it's participants.

    For my two penneth, It's also my favourite room, most comfortable to play and the dealers and managers are always very helpful and friendly.

    I have never met or been playing when Chris was on, but Mark has been everytime I have played there and he is a real professional, calm, friendly and efficient Manager.

  4. @vinnyboombots

    +1. Let me add that the Mirage poker room has another real nice guy working there but his name escapes me right now, a real short guy (sorry pal if you read this). Mark? They also have a great dealer, Kristi, aka Alaska Gal. She is not only a great dealer but a nice person and fun follow on Twitter. These 3 are just a few examples of the great people I have met because of AVP, people I would otherwise never have been blessed with knowing.

    I can't wait to play Mirage next week when I am in town for AVP XV![/quote]

    I agree that Chris is about as good as they come in terms of running a room. The Mirage was rock bottom on my list of Poker rooms in Las Vegas prior to Chris coming over to the Mirage. The difference is like night and day. The customer service has improved 100%. Dealers attitude has improved which I use to think wasn't possible. I use to avoid the Mirage, now I will play at the Mirage when I am in town (And I have even stayed at the Mirage and not played in the room prior to Chris coming on board). And if your lucky he will sit behind you and do his best Norman Chad impression while you are playing a tournament.

    Only difference I can find in my opinion and Chris' is he lowers the buy-in of tournaments, or max-buy in of cash games if the numbers are lacking. I get the philosophy with tournaments- that makes sense to me. Lower the buy-in, draw the players back and decide if you can move it back up. Makes sense. And he offers a pretty darn good tournament in terms of value based on the buy-in amount as well- another plus for Chris. With cash games I don't buy-it as much. I think there is a time and place and it makes sense some of the time. Maybe it would be an interesting dicussion topic of what amount people think is acceptable buy-ins or how the limits impact their choice in game selection. Never been an issue for me, and hey maybe it is just me.

    Like I said Chris is about as good as they come in terms of running a poker room in Las Vegas. He has made the Mirage a place worth playing.

  5. I enjoyed very much playing at the Mirage last time I was in Vegas. Very comfortable, friendly and well run. I didn't feel like a sardine and the table was well run, from the dealers to the manager in charge..It is on my list to return to (when I finally get to come back!).

    Great article Michael. I look forward to them.

  6. The focus on everyday recreational players didn't seem to include the Stud players. Yes, some of them were a pain, but there were a steady crowd, and there were actually some young players sitting in to round out their HORSE game. It's an odd coincidence that around the time the stud game ended the room seemed to get a smaller crowd overall, probably just the competition of the larger rooms. Once the Stud game went so did I, no longer do I play there or stay there, I can stay anywhere and play Hold'em.

    mattt

  7. I really enjoyed the article, I may just check out the place when I come to town in a couple months. How up to date is the room profile? There's talk of $2-5 NL here but the profile doesn't show that information. Also, the profile doesn't seem to reflect the difference in comp rate either. Too bad about the Stud/HORSE play, I'd be all over that.

  8. I am impressed with many of LasVegasMichaels' articles lately. This one is very interesting because the MIRAGE is my all time favorite Room.

    Chris is right that the MIRAGE is the most comfortable Room in town. It is very relaxing, and I've done very well over there. I used to go every day. I'm like one other member I read about on here... That usually when I go there, it's Mark who is the manager. I like him very much. Also I like Gina & Julie and the dealers. I don't really know how to explain it, but I feel very badly somehow that I don't perceive the promotions there as a value to me. I miss it there very much.
    I don't feel at all comfortable playing in tournaments. I have never gotten close to winning one, plus I never seem to get any royal flushes or bad beats. Therefore, I'm stuck in my own intelligence in knowing I better not drop my dollars down the slot, because I don't believe that I'm going to get them back. Maybe it's all in my head. I wish I could just let it slide & get to play in the comfortable place I enjoy again. But I need the money too badly. It's all I do now. The money is too important for me even if it's just $300 or $400 extra dollars a month.
    It's not their fault, but the BTL burger place raised their prices for my favorite (2 veggy salads with chicken breast)... I like to get one for me and my girl friend once in a while. But now it's $34.00 to get them. I have to play 34 hours there to get it... makes my girl friend very happy though when I bring them home. She loves them, as do I. Also, I really like that one cocktail waitress who gets the strawberry jubilees with whipped cream for me. They're so good !!!

    I am really loving hearing about full games of 2 - 5 no limit with lower rake if it's only seven or less players. I'm actually considering that in my head right at this moment. Glad I found out about that. I've been considering moving up. I've been doing so well. I've been playing down at the LUXOR. They only have the 1 - 2.

    Someone was talking about the limits to buy-ins on the cash games. I really don't like too low of buy ins because it's more fun if you can play your connectors and suited cards as well as the pocket pairs. See, if the stacks are too low, you can only play like AK AA KK QQ, etc. and it's alot better if you can play more hands. Otherwise, it gets very dull. I usually start off with $260.00 MIRAGE always did seem alright with the stacks. I want to scope out the 2 -5's there some night. Thank you for the excellent article.

  9. Oh, one more thing. I just forgot to explain myself... when the free rolls comes along and takes three days to play... See, I could easily make $200 in that time frame by playing in some cash games. So for me it's really hard to take that time away from my specialty, which is Cash Games. If I wanted to play in tournaments, I wouldn't be playing in the cash games all the time. Actually the last couple times I was there, there didn't seem to be all that many tables going. I don't know... it just seems to me that the whole place would be packed up if they had the real high hands... all the players like me would go there. I mean who wouldn't when it's the best & most comfortable place to play? And then if it was profitable as well, it seems to me the whole place would be packed. They could still have tournaments for the tournament players at the same time.

    Or actually, I would even start going back probably almost full time... even if they decided to cancel ALL promotions altogether. That way nothing would be lost for anybody... No drop at all... No worries of losing the money.

    But the real high hands would still be exciting without losing the value for anybody. Even the Tourists & Occassional Players would be at no disadvantage in those types of promotions, and the regulars I'm sure wouldn't mind playing with them

    Once again I love the article and the others as well... that LasVegasMichael has been writing. This is the way I like to see the Site running... with intelligent people being serious and interesting about poker in Las Vegas... just like it should be !!!

  10. Since I played in the room a fair bit 'till recently, I don't think I ever mentioned: Though I'm generally not a real big fan of really big freerolls, I did like the Mirage's event I played in last fall a lot more than most (and not just because it paid my light bill). The tweaks that've been made since tend to make it more appealing to me personally (as freerolls go) rather than less. Unfortunately I just don't have time to do it now as my time is tied up with other things lately, but given that there IS a freeroll in my opinion the room has done an above average job of putting it on and thoughtfully considering how to structure it to be an mostly an asset instead of a liability to the largest part of their potential players. And, I think it is the one and only time any poker room has systematically solicited my opinion and preferences on any such thing. The very idea of doing that was met with approving (and surprised) remarks all around the table I started at.

  11. @Robbydog

    +1 (vehemently)

  12. Is Chris Coffin still the Mgr at The Mirage? I work on the TV crew for the rodeo and we are staying at the Mirage...I love that room!

  13. @paulco58

    No, Chris Coffin left the property several months ago.

    The new manager is Susan Sandberg, formerly of the Monte Carlo.