I’ve been living the poker dream lately. I’ve taken a couple of months off after the Ante Up Poker Cruise to just float around Mississippi and reconnect with poker rooms I haven’t had the chance to visit while on the road. I had the opportunity to sit with Steve Reed, the poker room manager of Harrah’s Tunica. The timing was excellent, too, because all sorts of exciting things are happening at the north end of the state.
For ages, Harrah’s poker room has been co-managed by Reed and Chris Griffin. Though this was a slightly unusual arrangement, it worked. Griffin was always more into the administrative aspects of managing the room, while Reed liked to be working hands-on with the guests. This all changed recently when Griffin took an opportunity to advance with another casino, leaving Reed to commandeer the room.
He’s off to a fantastic start. When I visited, seven games were in full swing of varying limits and talent. For Tunica on ANY night, this is an accomplishment. He’s going to maintain the momentum by introducing a tournament to rival any other in the region. Starting around the first of November, every Saturday, Harrah’s Tunica will feature a $15,000 guarantee, $150 buy-in (re-entry permitted) tournament with 20K chips and 30-minute levels. Though this alone would be a compelling draw, Reed is sweetening the deal by putting every entrant into a drawing where multiple ring-event and main-event seats will be awarded for use at the January-February Tunica World Series of Poker Circuit event.
Reed anticipates 120-150 players for this event, and hopes to draw more action to the north end of the state.
During our hour-long chat, he commended his staff; citing he has one of the best-looking rooms in the area and most professional poker team. With supervisors such as Steve Batewell, Kelly Brackin, Ross Carroll and Nolan Guy leading the team, I can’t disagree.
The bad beat recently hit in this room, and as they tend to go in streaks, there really isn’t a better time to stop in and visit. When asked about the amount of the jackpot payout, Reed said it was a $34,000 score with straight flush over straight flush and the large end being awarded to a local player. He said he prefers to keep jackpots in moderation, instead filtering the bulk of the jackpot money into daily promotions such as the Spin to Win promo. Players enjoying the action between 1 a.m. and 10 a.m. every hour can win a chance to spin a wheel and win $500. During the hours of 3, 5, 7 and 9 a.m., you can win $1K. Every player has a shot at not only a big windfall with the bad beat, but to participate in regular daily promotions with lots of added value.
Reed believes royal flushes always should be celebrated, and each one pays $250. There’s a running quads progressive with each denomination of quads starting at $25 and growing daily until they hit a max value of $250. Both hole cards must play, but a pocket pair isn’t necessary.
In closing, we chatted about changes in Tunica over the years. We discussed how the growth of poker has slowed business in Tunica, but how Tunica poker remains untouched in quality and quantity. He attributes it to a dedicated staff that has an unending love for the game, and the historical generosity of the comp system. You may not win every hand during your visit, but you’re not going to go hungry or without an excellent room rate.
We also have the Winter Classic to look forward to at the Gold Strike in mid December. This one has some exciting events, such as the Monday Winner-Take-All tournament, that will mix things up a bit from the usual event-tournament schedule. I look forward to seeing you this way soon. Stop in and see Reed and tell him we sent you!
— Jennifer Gay is Ante Up’s Mississippi Ambassador. She can be contacted at facebook.com/aceofjewels or at firstname.lastname@example.org.