Mississippi warms my poker heart

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Since leaving the great state of Mississippi to travel around and deal poker, I have developed a strong appreciation for what I left behind. Poker in Mississippi is different. I’d always taken it for granted that poker players eat free and hotel rooms are discounted everywhere. Not so, outside the South. Comps are a sort of commodity that elude even the most dedicated player out West.

The action is different, too. The pro-to-casual-player ratio is significantly favorable for making money in Mississippi. The further west you go, the ratio starts to tilt, until you find yourself at a poker table with eight players who identify themselves as professionals.
Most of all, I think the absence of southern friendliness and hospitality in general reminds me that Mississippi has the best cardrooms in the country. That and the fact you can order sweet tea and not have to explain what it is. Bonus!

My sabbatical is short-lived, as I will be returning to the Mid-South this month for a lengthy visit. Too many excellent poker events are closing the gap from fall to winter, and I don’t want to miss out.

A few months ago in this column we hinted that a deal was in the works between Boyd Gaming and the IP Biloxi property, but nothing official had been released. The deal is done and the IP has joined Sam’s Town Tunica and all of the Coast Properties in Vegas as part of the “Be Connected” casinos.

Though no guarantees have been made for future events, for at least the upcoming World Series of Poker Circuit stop at the IP (Oct. 27-Nov. 7), all events are on schedule and greatly anticipated. Last year this event fielded huge numbers, some of the largest the region has hosted for a tournament. The live room was packed around the clock, and staff worked overtime to accommodate all of the visiting players.

The IP Biloxi, not to be confused with the IP Vegas, is nice. Really nice, actually. Having had a major full-property renovation in recent years, this is one event where you actually want to stay on property. The hotel is beautiful, the restaurant options are varied and the gaming floor is expansive.

This upcoming WSOPC stop is a Jimmy Sommerfeld event, meaning you can look forward to the same structures and buy-ins as other regional WSOPC stops. If last year was any indication, you can look forward to a highly competitive race for points where the southern pros will be vying for entry into the national championship million-dollar freeroll.
At the northern end of the state you can look for me at the Magnolia Fall Classic (Nov. 4-13) and the Winter Classic (Dec. 1-11) at Horseshoe and Gold Strike Tunica, respectively. Both series field smaller numbers, primarily catering to locals in the immediate tri-state area. For out-of-towners, hotel rooms are deeply discounted this time of year and as I mentioned earlier, no one ever went without food in Tunica. If you enjoy lower buy-ins, friendly competition and fields significantly smaller than the ring events of the WSOPC, either of these tournaments would be a great investment.

I’ve enjoyed Las Vegas and Reno, touches of California and everything in between. Most of all, though, I look forward to coming home to Mississippi and donating my chips to all of you fine people. … unless we’re playing in a 7 p.m. event. Then you’re in trouble.

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