View Full Version : The Question of Poker Railbirds

04-14-2002, 11:07 PM
In today's Las Vegas Review-Journal, Barry Shulaman, the Card Player Publisher, gave an interesting interview where, among other things, he stated the following:

Q: "Are there concerns about poker crowds? Is there an unsavory element associated with poker?"

B. Shulman: "Poker has railbirds. These guys are totally broke. They don't work, they are not retired and they are bad people. We have done a poor job as an industry keeping railbirds from polluting the major-tournament scene."

I wonder if this is the prevalent sentiments among the poker players, tournament and side game alike, towards the railbirds.

What you think about it?


04-14-2002, 11:38 PM
Re: railbirds- It seems to me that if these "birds" could fly they would be playing poker instead of watching poker. I don't know if they could be called "bad people"- perhaps they are just "bad poker players"?. I'm sure it is annoying to have these characters gawking at you while in a "serious" game -- but then again....how is that different from you and I watching the final day of the WSOP from the stands? Does it make it different because we aren't broke and we are sitting instead of standing? I'll see ya there...Babe

04-14-2002, 11:54 PM
While I agree with what Shulman says, I also think that the problem is improving. The main defense against this problem is the cardrooms themselves. They need to be aware of who the undesirables are and talk to them about cleaning up thier acts, and even barring people on occasion.

I remember the old days in Gardena where I first began to play. It was awful. It seemed as if everyone, including cardroom employees, had a hand out. Even a cup of coffee was 50 cents, and we had to regularly pay for new decks. So if the cardrooms were doing this, how could they stop undesirable customers from doing the same.

Today it is much different. The cardrooms are cleaned up, and the undesirables are much better controlled. Of course nothing is perfect and more work needs to be done in this area.

04-15-2002, 12:36 AM
Barry Schulman, that worthless piece of human debris, can kiss my ass.

04-15-2002, 12:48 AM

What's wrong with railbirds? I think there is a difference between spectators and undesirables. Personally, I like to watch players play poker. But, quite a few card rooms feel they have to give players privacy. I noticed this when I visited the Bellagio last year. It is very difficult to observe the higher limit action, unless you are in it.

Furthermore, I noticed the Mirage likes to put the bigger games up behind the Keno section, so you can't see anything.

Anyway, I've had railbirds ask for handouts and you just don't give them anything. If any of you players are have lived in a big city you would notice that the bums are much more aggressive.

Good Luck


04-15-2002, 03:22 AM
Barry Shulman is a regular player at The Bellagio and plays in lots of tournaments around the country. So you should be able to see him some time in the future. Why don't you and him have a conversation where you can make that offer to him directly. I bet you don't have the nerve. It's one thing to get on a forum like this and post anonymously, and I'm not very impressed.

04-15-2002, 11:12 AM
Daniel Negreanu wrote a Card Player article about 6 months ago about this. Apparently railbirds hurt him just a tinsy bit.


I read it with some delight. Interesting. My only experience here in Minnesota is not like that at all. We have observers at the final tables in our tourneys, but no vultures waiting for handouts. I don't mind players watching, but yeah, looking for the winner to hit him up would be a pain in the ass.

No one EVER gets a handout from me...and I don't want anyone staking me either. I want ALL the benefits of winning.


04-15-2002, 01:16 PM
Whiskey--Yes, that was an excellent article by Daniel. I agree...there are NO handouts or deals in poker! Babe

04-15-2002, 05:30 PM
i think roy cooke mentioned this very thing in an article about negreanu.


04-15-2002, 09:18 PM
If people wouldn't be idiots and give them money, they would stop asking.

04-15-2002, 10:03 PM

I just was curious to see what some people think on this subject. Apparently, there are some sad stories/experience out there concerning railbirds. Actually, per above narratives, railbirds come closer in definition to exemplify homeless or panhandlers than the passing, curious poker observers. Maybe that is what B. Shulman meant when spoke so harshly about them.

I think Mason said it well when he referred to the whole issue of reailbirds as that of poker room management's responsibility to identify the problem-causing individuals and deal with them appropriatly.

My personal experience with railbirds is, perhaps, most uncomfortable when playing at Binion Horseshoe, in downtown Las Vegas. When you play red chips game in the seats 1, 2, 9, or 10, the number or railbirds standing, seemingly for hours at the time, and breathing over your sholder is way too close for comfort. I am plainly affraid to leave my chips on the table unattended.

Did any one of you observe, or experience something similar?


04-16-2002, 01:03 AM

I agree that if they look filthy, security should kick'em out. It's pretty easy to tell who the customers are and who are the bums, so I think it would be an easy job for security at the casino to put pressure on these guys. But, I do like the layout of the poker room at Binion's compared to the Mirage or Bellagio. Binion's makes it easy for the tourists to observe the games.

Good Luck


04-16-2002, 09:56 AM
Am I to believe that Daniel Negreanu lost a huge portion of his bankroll after the WSOP because of loans to railbirds. He is such a nice guy that he just gave away tens of thousands of dollars to folks he barely knew. I'm purely a low limit recreational player, but a faithful reader of poker "stuff." No disrepect meant toward Mr. Negreanu, but that story sounds a little farfetched.

04-16-2002, 11:05 AM
Luce's post reminds me of the ad gw bush ran against John McCain in the NY primary in 2000. It claimed McCain was against curing breast cancer. I would have loved to see ol' silver spoon say that to McCain's face.

Good response, Mr. Malmuth.

04-16-2002, 12:59 PM
Not all spectators are railbirds, and not all railbirds are spectators. I am sure the people that Barry referred to are the non-spectators.

In a way I do agree with what Barry was trying to say, however, I wish he would have worded it just a tad bit differently.

I have no problems with Barry, I think he is a great person, a great player, and a great ambassador to poker. I just wish people would stop over-reacting to what he was trying to say before they think the whole thing through.

04-16-2002, 02:09 PM
I read this article with great interest. I didn't see it so much as about railbirds as being the parable of the Young Man, probably from a good background, in the big city. Railbirds are everywhere. In poker rooms, pool halls, country clubs; in corporations big and small. Everywhere you go, there is somebody trying to mooch his way through. Learning to say no is stage of life everybody goes through sooner or later.

Now if you are talking about railbirds getting in my personal space, sending my hand over, or insulting people, I have no problem asking management to boot them. I often wonder how women or the elderly feel about some of the characters I see hanging around poker games.