Back in late September I discussed the inability of the Kansas Star Casino to spread Omaha high-low split eight-or-better poker games in an article addressing five ways to improve the poker playing experience there. I have been playing at the poker room since its February 29th opening and even then players were asking about the room spreading the game. The answer has always been that the game cannot be spread because the casino has not been approved to offer it.
I have had a difficult time believing what I have been told. It has never made sense for Hollywood Casino Kansas Speedway to be allowed to spread the game and not Kansas Star. After doing some digging in the Kansas Administrative Regulations (KAR) and issues of the Kansas Register, both accessible through the Kansas Secretary of State’s legal publications webpage, I have found substantial evidence to validate my skepticism.
The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission is identified as Agency 112 in the 2012 KAR Supplement. Specifics for poker room management fall under agency Article 108, Table Games, from 112-108-41 to 112-108-45 and is otherwise included in general table regulations within the Article. Found under Agency 111, Kansas Lottery, in the Kansas Register are game specific regulations by gaming zone. Article 501 is the South Central Gaming Zone. Kansas Star Casino is the state’s lottery facility in that zone. Volume 31, number 19, May 10, 2012, pages 620-628 of the Kansas Register supplies a substantial amount of information regarding games approved and regulations for running them. Article sections 111-501-82 to 111-501-87 pertain to “Texas Hold’em.” Article sections 111-501-88 to 111-501-93 pertain to “Omaha.” Article sections 111-501-94 to 111-501-101 pertain to “Omaha High-Low.” Every section in the Article, from 111-501-82 to 111-501-102 has an effective date of February 15, 2012…exactly two weeks prior to opening night of the Kansas Star Casino’s poker room.
One minor concern I did have was the language of the sections pertaining to “Omaha High-Low.” Those who are familiar with this form of split pot game know that technically, Omaha High-Low and Omaha High-Low-Split Eight-or-Better differ in that the former does not have the eight qualifier for a low hand. Fortunately, subsection (j) in section 111-501-99 on play of “Omaha High-Low” does detail the eight qualifier.
To say that my skepticism has been justified would be a substantial understatement. Not only is it clearly spelled out in the Kansas Register that Kansas Star Casino can spread Omaha high-low-split eight-or-better but it appears it could have been spread from the poker room’s first night.
Why wasn’t it? Hard to tell, there are many possibilities. Lack of communication can cause all kinds of mistakes in any organization and that can always be an option. Doubtful it was because of untrained staff. I knew all but one opening night dealer personally and each one of them was familiar with the game. One likely suspect could be lack of current documentation. When I last played, a week or so ago, I was discussing the Omaha issue with room management when one of them handed me a copy of Article regulations similar to what I found in the Kansas Register. These appear to be an in-house version of the regulations or a draft of some kind. There wasn’t a Kansas Register header and the footer read “Kansas Star Casino – Added 02-29-12.” The document was missing two important things, the effective date at the end of each Article section (there were blanks where information could be filled in) and the entirety of Article sections 111-501-94 to 111-501-101 pertaining to “Omaha High-Low” were not included.
What also is unclear is the possibility that a decision maker at Kansas Star may not have wanted, for whatever reason, to see the game offered. It is equally unclear as to whether a decision maker was familiar with the most current regulatory documentation. What is clear is a staff member handed me a copy of severely out-of-date and incomplete documentation and a game players have been repeatedly requesting has not been offered. I find it hard to believe that a decision maker did not know the current regulations regarding what games could be spread, because it would be disrespectful to co-workers running the poker room who have continuously had to tell players that the game cannot be offered because it has not been approved by the state when clearly it had! The regulations had an effective date two weeks before the poker room opened.
Unless there are some hidden internal controls or processes what matters most is that the answer to whether Kansas Star Casino can spread what is commonly called Omaha eight-or-better or Omaha eight is YES, it can! It’s spelled out in the Kansas Register.
Let’s hope that by opening night of the poker room in the permanent casino that not only will Omaha eight be offered, but there will be lists for limit and pot-limit varieties.