Also does anyone understand how google places chooses who gets lettered/ranked?
Yeah, that's a tough question to answer succinctly. It has to do with your Places/Google+ page, your website, and citations... and a whole bunch of other junk. I personally have found it pretty easy to rank in Places but difficult to target specific keywords. If you want to really dig into it I can give you a few resources:
What Google says: https://support.google.com/places/answer/7091?hl=en
David Mihm's Local Ranking Factors: http://www.davidmihm.com/local-searc...-factors.shtml
Local Search Forum: http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/
Mike Blumenthal: http://blumenthals.com/blog/