The World Poker Tour invaded the Midwest again for the Hollywood Poker Open at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., on March 24. It was the second year for this stop on the WPT schedule, and this time 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Greg “Fossilman” Raymer helped kick off the festivities.
Hollywood tournament director Kevin Dawn said Raymer was a joy to have around for the start of the event.
“He came down for about five days,” Dawn said. “He played in three or four of our events. He was a pleasure to have around. He likes to talk. He’s great with the people in the room and we’d love to have him back.”
The main event, which began April 9, started slowly with 79 entrants, including three returning final-tablers from last year (Ravi Raghavan, Chris Bell and Jerry Payne). WPT announcer Mike Sexton, WPT past champion Hoyt Corkins, Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler and eight-time WSOP bracelet-winner Eric Seidel also were in the field.
A North American Poker Tour stop at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut began on the same day, thus hurting the overall attendance at Hollywood, which is the largest poker room in the Midwest with 41 tables. Registration for the HPO main event was extended to April 10 to accommodate late entries.
Dawn, in his second year running this event, said that after running a successful tournament last year, the learning curve has definitely improved.
“We figured out some of the things we did wrong so we could start at a point way higher than we were last year,” he said. “We were doing everything from scratch last year. This year we were halfway into the curve instead of all the way at the bottom. I think it’s made things a lot smoother this year.”
In the end it was local player Mike Scarborough from Cincinnati who won his first WPT title, taking down an incredibly talented final table that was packed with poker pros, including Seidel, who finished second ($155,103) and continues his incredible 2011 run.
“This win is just a dream come true. It means so much more to me to win in my local casino,” Scarborough said. “Playing with Erik Seidel was very intimidating at first. The first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘What if he doubles-up again?’ But I just told myself to play like you would with anybody else.”
He donated $2,500 from his $273,664 winnings to the ALS Foundation for a Cure, which was matched by an additional $2,500 from the Hollywood Casino.
Scarborough capped what is one of the most remarkable single-week runs in recent memory. Entering the final table, he had already won two Hollywood Poker Open preliminary events and placed second in another.
PokerStars Caribbean Adventure High Roller champ William Reynolds finished third ($110,788), followed by NAPT champ Tom Marchese ($77,551), ClubWPT.com qualifier Andrew Whetstone ($62,041) and high-stakes pro Ali Eslami ($50,962).
The main event will air on Fox Sports Net on July 3 and 10. (Check local listings.)
DERBY TIME ALSO MEANS POKER: It’s May, and if you live in the Kentuckiana area (that’s a combination of Southern Indiana and Kentucky for you out-of-towners), then you know that can mean only one thing: Derby!
When you think of the Kentucky Derby you probably think horses, Churchill Downs and mint juleps. But did you know the Derby also brings thoughts of Phil Hellmuth? It’s true. For the past several years, Hellmuth, along with Robert Williamson III and Hall of Fame college basketball coach Denny Crum have joined forces to put on the Derby Poker Championship, a charity tournament benefiting Blessings in a Backpack and the Health and Climate Foundation.
Last year’s attendees included Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, Tiffany Michelle, Beth Shak and comedian Ron White. This year’s event will be May 5 at the Palace Theatre in Louisville. Entry for this event is $550 and $200 rebuys will be allowed for the first hour. You can buy VIP ticket packages for $225. Go to derbypokerchampionship.com for more information and to register for the event.
And that’s not all. The Derby Festival is holding a tournament on the Belle of Cincinnati on May 3. The buy-in is $125 with a $40 available add-on through the first level. First prize is $6,000 and bracelet. The event pays 24 spots with 325 entrants.
— Don Lawson is a part-time journalist and avid poker player. He can be reached at email@example.com.