Erwin put Thunder Valley poker on the map

May 24, 2014, Donovan Livingston  

By Donovan Livingston

This month we visit with Ben Erwin, director of poker operations for Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Ben is happily married with two beautiful children.

For years, Erwin has enjoyed working in the industry.

“I worked in bingo as a waiter at the age of 17 and then started dealing poker at 18,” he said. “Like most dealers before the poker boom, I really enjoyed the game and learned to deal the first chance I got. My first experience in management was in 2001 working as a poker supervisor in Southern California. I have been the director of poker operations at Thunder Valley since the room opened in the summer of 2010. I have a great support team around me, too, from my poker room staff to our general manager.”

When he’s not working, Erwin has a variety of hobbies to keep him busy.

“I enjoy poker, of course, off-road racing, which includes the Baja 500 and Baja 1000, cycling, boating and snow skiing with the family. We really enjoy the easy drive to the many ski resorts around Lake Tahoe.”
In the poker room, there’s no shortage of action.

“You can expect a wide variety of hold’em games,” he said. “Daily, you will find $1-$3 no-limit hold’em with a $50-$300 buy-in, $2-$5 NLHE with a $100-$500 buy-in and on some weekdays, but often on weekends $5-$5 NLHE that has a buy-in of $300-$1K, as well as $5-$10 NLHE with a buy-in of $500-$2K or the largest stack in play. Also, $3-$6 and $4-$8 limit and Omaha games are available.”

Sounds like a little something for every budget. If you prefer tournament poker, Thunder Valley hosts some of the best tours in the country.

“We offer daily tournaments and series events with the Ante Up Poker Tour since 2012, the Heartland Poker Tour with the two stops in the last year that saw well over 500 entries in each event, and we held our inaugural World Poker Tour event in March. WPT Rolling Thunder saw 465 entries that included many of the biggest names in the game. We are looking forward to hosting the Ante Up World Championship in August, and we are excited to have the winners from the other Ante Up Poker Tour events come to Thunder Valley and compete for the championship title. The final table will be in a unique poolside setting, in the shadows of our hotel tower. It will be a wonderful experience for the players and spectators alike.”

Erwin said outside of the casino is just as fun as inside.

“There is quite a bit of history to where the California gold rush took place in the late 1800s. We are about 90 minutes from beautiful Lake Tahoe going east and San Francisco going west, and surrounded by wine country. You can take a day trip to Napa, Alexander Valley or many other wineries along the way and be back at Thunder Valley for a night of great entertainment.”

Sounds like a great place for your next vacation. When you get there make sure you stop in and say hello to Ben; he’ll take good care of you.