All the fun in Las Vegas has come to an end. In some places this means a much-needed break for the circuit players. In Mississippi, things are just getting started.
The Gulf Coast Poker Championship starts at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi on Aug. 25. Last year I made the six-hour trek south for this event, along with local player Scott Williams and a few others from the Tunica region. The Beau was above and beyond our expectations. Hands down, the Beau is the most beautiful casino resort in Mississippi. The oceanfront property has an amazing outdoor deck where guests can walk off the bad beats and catch a glimpse of the abundant local dolphin population. You can’t beat that.
The event was a prolific gathering of who’s-who in the southern poker scene, hundreds of familiar faces and a healthy crop of tourists as well. I think everyone in our group cashed in at least one event. I enjoyed the 7 p.m. nightly survivor tournaments, where I only had to make the top 10 percent for an even chop. I found it easy enough to get near the chop-bubble and then rely on my charm and ability to be less annoying than the other people at my table to secure myself a cash. This worked multiple times. Though I imagine after writing this it will be much less effective.
This year’s lineup includes a $3,125 main event on Sept. 4, which is reduced from 2010’s $5K buy-in. The main event drew 109 entries last year and I can only imagine the reduced buy-in will result in a larger field.
This event, as with all the events at the Beau Rivage, always has been organized and led by the MGM management team of Johnny Grooms and Ken Lambert. Things will feel a bit different this year as Lambert recently resigned from his position of director of poker operations for the Beau and Gold Strike, Tunica. He will be taking over the poker room manager duties for Choctaw Casino in Durant, Okla.
Though this is a loss for Mississippi poker, this is a big step for Choctaw. World Series of Poker tournament director Jimmy Sommerfeld commented on Lambert’s move: “Ken was the first manager that I worked for in this business. He helped develop my knowledge of the poker business. He was instrumental in bringing poker tournaments to the height that they are today. … He coordinated the first-ever Jack Binion World Poker Open, and helped bring big-time poker to Tunica. Ken knows the business and will be a great asset to Choctaw Casino. I look forward to working with Ken again to make Choctaw a poker destination like we did in Tunica.”
We’ll miss Lambert in the cotton fields of Tunica, but thanks to the recent addition of a WSOP tournament stop at Choctaw, we’ll get to see him again soon. At this time, Gold Strike has not identified a candidate to fill his position.
While we’re on the subject of changes in Mississippi poker, I got a chance to catch up with Robert McGovern, floor supervisor and dealer for the IP Biloxi. While we discussed what changes would be in store for poker at the recently renovated IP (now that Boyd Gaming has bought the property), the WSOP Circuit stop was mentioned. This year’s series is scheduled for Oct. 27-Nov. 7, ending with a $1,600 main event. All events start at $300.
Last year this was a big event for Biloxi, and one of my favorites on the circuit. Definitely one you want to hit if you’re in the area late October-early November.
If you’re going to be hitting the scene in the Magnolia State this fall, drop me a line and let me know. I want to hear about your wins, see your funny event pictures and maybe even listen to a bad-beat story or two. I’ll see you at the Beau Rivage.
— Jennifer Gay is a poker journalist, poker supervisor and player local to the Mid-South region.She can be contacted at facebook.com/aceofjewels.