Gold Strike WPO turnout impressive in Tunica, Miss.



The World Poker Open at Gold Strike Casino in Tunica had a turnout beyond my wildest expectations. Actually, one I stood to lose money on, but thankfully didn’t. Just days before the first noon event, I had a friendly Facebook wager with one of the floor personnel.

We do love a side bet, and I was willing to wager $1,000 that the turnout for the first Saturday noon event would be fewer than 300 players. Fortunately, we never laid out the terms exactly, and it saved me a healthy chunk. The first day, more than 400 showed up for their shot at the glass trophy. (Results can be found at the end of this article.)

The momentum continued through 18 days of nonstop tournament action. It wasn’t just the tournament play that exceeded expectations, but the live action that packed the room every night.
Local favorites practically moved in to Gold Strike for the duration of the series, determined to book a win.

Notable wins include Alan “Tank” Downey, a well-known face in Tunica poker rooms, snapping off a victory in a $125 event for $6,103. Anthony Daher of St. Louis earned $33,295 for taking down the first Saturday event. Goran Meskovic was victorious over the field in Omaha/8 and now has $7,753 to show for it. James “Sarge” Quick, who never met a stranger, cashed an impressive $11,000 in the Aug. 1 no-limit hold’em noon event.

Vanessa Rousso was seen here and there, in town to promote her boot-camp classes. Mitch Harris of Tupelo, Tim Burt of Biloxi and Ryan “Corinth” Enis all had successful runs but didn’t quite match their past wins at Gold Strike.

One of the greatest things about events in Tunica is the familiarity among the players. It isn’t just about the money; this is about getting the best of a friend and braggin’ rights.

The $3,120 main event drew 149 hopefuls. Among the crowd was Team Bustout’s Smilin’ Don Norman, who would cash third and earn $43,359. Multiple WSOPC ring-winner, Kyle Cartwright of Bartlett, Tenn., was just behind him in fourth ($34,687). Heads-up play would be between bracelet-winner and local favorite David Diaz of Memphis and Dylan Hortin. Diaz would reign victorious for $139,182.
Everything this guy has touched this summer has turned to gold.
He’s grown into a local celebrity following his bracelet win, and the dozens of people railing the final table remained late into the night to watch him win showdown after showdown.

The touring staff for Mississippi MGM properties never fails to deliver. This event was no exception. Tournament director Eric Comer said he couldn’t have been happier with the turnout.

Beau Rivage manager Johnny Grooms was on hand because of former director Ken Lambert’s recent departure, and any concerns the event would suffer in Lambert’s absence were quickly put to rest.

One of the things I enjoy most about the MGM series between the Beau Rivage and Gold Strike are the personalities of the touring crew. Floor supervisor and larger-than-life personality Brannon Kingston will be taking a break after the WPO to work in Ireland for a while. Though we’re all envious, we’re happy he’s livin’ the dream. The events won’t quite be the same without his “single-table-satellite” sales pitch. If you haven’t heard it, you’re missing out.

During a particular 7 p.m. event, in which I was part of the four-way chop for the money, Troy Jenkins and Josh Cooper dealt to me. Jenkins is one of those professional dealers who set the standard for all others. Cooper dazzled with his skills and excellent guest service.
Everyone has read complaints online and in the blogs from players disappointed by the competency of temporary event staff. Not with these guys.

Though these two are just a small example, I highly recommend playing any event run by this crew. They set the standard and when a game runs smoothly, and cocktails are readily delivered, even the bad beats seem less abrasive.

It would be Cooper, in fact, who would eliminate my regular poker counterpart Scott Williams on the bubble for the main event. The hand was queens vs. aces on a low irrelevant board. But we don’t hold it against him.

Overall, the WPO was a success. Now, it’s off to the Beau Rivage for the Gulf Coast Poker Championship, which concludes in early September.

Before I get ahead of myself, there is another small bit of news relevant to the Miss Poker column. I have resigned from my position with Horseshoe Tunica and I’m headed to Vegas to live my dream.
My goal always has been to work in every capacity in the poker industry, and this will give me the opportunity to continue to grow my resumé. I will still be doing column coverage for the great state of Mississippi.

This is my home, and I’ll still be attending the events. To keep up with my trials and tribulations in Vegas, you’re invited to follow my blog at I’ll still be around, so continue to send me your bad-beat woes and success stories.

I want to thank all of you who have stopped in over the past year at the Shoe to say hello. We appreciate the support. Thanks especially to the staff of Horseshoe Tunica for the education, the experience and the opportunity.

— Jennifer Gay is a poker journalist, poker supervisor and player from the Mid-South region.She can be contacted at



EVENT 1: $230 NLHE
Players: 211 • Prize pool: $18,236
WINNER: Houston White

EVENT 2: $230 NLHE
Players: 361 • Prize pool: $61,304
WINNER: Trent “Tab” Bennett

EVENT 3: $130 w/rebuys
Players: 110 • Prize pool: $25,268
WINNER: Michael Prichard

EVENT 4: $340 NLHE
Players: 440 • Prize pool: $128,040
WINNER: Anthony Daher

EVENT 5: $230 Omaha/8
Players: 160 • Prize pool: $31,040
WINNER: Paul Honas

EVENT 6: $340 NLHE
Players: 208 • Prize pool: $60,528
WINNER: Juston Grider

EVENT 7: $230 Ladies
Players: 86 • Prize pool: $16,684
WINNER: Judy Nargi

EVENT 8: $230 NLHE
Players: 186 • Prize pool: $36,084
WINNER: Kerry Dawson

EVENT 9: $230 Stud/8
Players: 71 • Prize pool: $13,774
WINNER: Paul Honas

EVENT 10: $230 NLHE
Players: 179 • Prize pool: $34,726
WINNER: William Matula

EVENT 11: $125 NLHE
Players: 196 • Prize pool: $19,012
WINNER: Alan Downey

EVENT 12: $340 NLHE
Players: 134 • Prize pool: $38,994
WINNER: Chase Osborn

EVENT 13: $230 Omaha/8
Players: 104 • Prize pool: $20,176
WINNER: Glenn Kiersky

EVENT 14: $340 NLHE
Players: 160 • Prize pool: $46,560
WINNER: Douglas Bruce

EVENT 15: $230 Stud
Players: N/A • Prize pool: N/A
WINNER: Mark Stevens

EVENT 16: $230 NLHE
Players: 247 • Prize pool: $47,918
WINNER: Roy Watts

EVENT 17: $130 NLHE w/rebuys
Players: 85 • Prize pool: $21,583
WINNER: Joseph DeMarco

EVENT 18: $340 NLHE
Players: 335 • Prize pool: $97,485
WINNER: David Hobson

EVENT 19: $340 Omaha/8
Players: 74 • Prize pool: $21,534
WINNER: Goran Meskovic

EVENT 20: $230 NLHE
Players: 212 • Prize pool: $41,128
WINNER: Bryne Wilson

EVENT 21: $340 NLHE
Players: 105 • Prize pool: $30,555
WINNER: James “Sarge” Quick

EVENT 22: $340 PLO/8
Players: 67 • Prize pool: $19,497
WINNER: Marion Tallent

EVENT 23: $230 NLHE
Players: 137 • Prize pool: $26,578
WINNER: James Lester

EVENT 24: $550 Heads-up
Players: 41 • Prize pool: $19,885
WINNER: Steve Hipes

EVENT 25: $230 NLHE
Players: 157 • Prize pool: $30,458
WINNER: Glen Satterfield

EVENT 26: $650 6-Max
Players: 82 • Prize pool: $39,524
WINNER: Alex Moore

EVENT 27: $1,080 NLHE
Players: 133 • Prize pool: $129,010
WINNER: Michael Berra

EVENT 30: $230 NLHE
Players: 66 • Prize pool: $22,116
WINNER: Daniel Doucet

EVENT 35: $230 NLHE
Players: 114 • Prize pool: $22,116
WINNER: Jay Friedman

EVENT 36: $230 NLHE
Players: 82 • Prize pool: $15,508
WINNER: Francis Anton

EVENT 37: $125 NLHE
Players: 79 • Prize pool: $7,663
WINNER: Ozgar Kazil

MAIN EVENT: $3,125 NLHE • Players: 149 • Prize pool: $433,590
1. David Diaz, Memphis, $139,182
2. Dylan Hortin, Tempe, AZ, $78,913
3. Donald Norman, Marionn, IL, $43,359
4. Kyle Cartwright, Bartlett, TN, $34,687
5. Ronnie Sewell, Shelby, NC, $26,015
6. Don Willis, Muscle Shoals, AL, $21,680
7. Alex Moore, Athens, GA, $17,344
8. Galen Kester, Tunica, MS, $13,008
9. Ted Heinig, Knoxville, TN, $8,672
10. Robert Richardson, Memphis, $6,504
11. Lacey Coffey, Houston, $6,504
12. Michael Berra, St. Louis, $6,504
13. Scott Ryals, Harvey, LA, $5,637
14. Chris Trotter, Ringo, GA, $5,637
15. Colen Beck, Vally, AL, $5,637
16. Doug Hazer, Gautier, MS, $4,769
17. Wilson Carnes, Knoxville, TN, $4,769
18. Chris Thompson, Fayetteville, TN, $4,769

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine