Exciting year in store for poker in Mississippi

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The weather was a balmy 70 degrees on the Gulf Coast during the Million Dollar Heater, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the beach outside the Beau Rivage. Poker players had come from far and wide to compete in the largest of the MGM Regional Shootout Series events, and all of them were crammed into the second-floor ballroom. What started with poker room manager Johnny Grooms and tournament director Eric Comer redesigning their tournament series to reinvent what was the World Poker Tour Southern Poker Championship has grown into a viable independent series that continues to draw some of the largest fields in southern poker. By the time this column hits the stands, the Million Dollar Heater will have crowned new champions, kicking off the Mississippi Tour to begin again with qualifiers for the 2014 championship. The first stop is a returning favorite: the Spring Break Classic at the Beau Rivage (March 21-31). A schedule of events and blind-structure information is available at beaupoker.com or in our February issue.

After the Beau, the action will be at the Gold Strike in Tunica for the Delta Gold Classic (May 3-13), but then Mississippi takes a break to allow for solid representation at the World Series in Vegas, only to reconvene at the Gold Strike for the annual World Poker Open (July 18-Aug. 5). The year will wrap up in the south at the Gulf Coast Poker Championship (Aug. 22-Sept. 2), and at the north end of the state with Gold Strike’s Winter Classic (Oct. 31-Nov. 10). All of these are guaranteed to be excellent events and will be worth the trip.

After the Million Dollar Heater, you can bet every player with a buy-in will be headed north to Harrah’s Tunica for the WSOP Circuit (Jan. 24-Feb. 4). This event is a regional “who’s who” with all of the more prominent circuit grinders competing for points in the annual race to the national championship. It won’t be an easy field by any means, with familiar faces at nearly every table, but there will be massive prize pools and bragging rights up for grabs.

Back down south, another poker room is on the brink of opening. At the current Isle Casino location, the Golden Nugget has planted roots in Biloxi and is promising all the poker action and promotions it’s famous for in Vegas and Atlantic City. The first phase includes moving most gaming tables and machines to the first floor, with the final phase (expected to be completed by March 2014) including a renovated poker room that will be adjacent to an events center and board rooms. The proximity will make it easier to host a tournament series. The property will remain Isle Casino until the first phase is completed, with an anticipated rebranding expected as early as this summer and no later than Labor Day.

On a side note, in January, I had more and more readers approach me to let me know they read the column, inquire about Ante Up Poker Cruises and the Ante Up Poker Tour, and let me know they enjoy the magazine. It’s ever so appreciated. We love to hear from you. Please email your questions, bad-beat stories and requests to the below email address or look for me at any of the above mentioned events. Looking forward to seeing you on the tables!  

— Jennifer Gay is Ante Up’s Mississippi Ambassador. She can be contacted at facebook.com/aceofjewels or at jennifergay80@hotmail.com.

Winter Poker Classic, Gold Strike, Dec. 14-22

Event 1 • $230 NLHE
Entries: 184 • Pool: $35,696
Ricky Taylor, $11,776
Event 2 • $400 NLHE
Entries: 65 • Pool: $22,698
Josiah Burdette, $6,390
Event 3 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 240 • Pool: $69,840
Jerry Thielemier, $23,048
Event 4 • $230 Omaha/8
Entries: 87 • Pool: $16,878
Brandon Boman, $6,077
Event 5 • $120 NLHE
Entries: 213 • Pool: $20,661
David Rylander, $6,818
Event 6 • $230 Omaha/8
Entries: 73 • Pool: $14,162
Herb Tapscott, $5,099
Event 7 • $230 Seniors
Entries: 173 • Pool: $26,578
Michael Budde, $8,770
Event 8 • $120 WTA
Entries: 37 • Pool: $3,589
Loi Hoang, $3,589
Event 9 • $120 NLHE
Entries: 161 • Pool: $15,617
Terry Stuhldreher, $5,154
Event 10 • $230 Stud/8
Entries: 31 • Pool: $6,014
Hod Berman, $2,406
Event 11 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 119 • Pool: $34,629
Emmitt Humphrey, $12,467
Event 12 • $230 O/8
Entries: 55 • Pool: $10,670
Robert Heard, $3,841
Event 13 • $230 NLHE
Entries: 157 • Pool: $30,458
Barry Schultz, $10,053
$800 Main Event
Entries: 260 • Pool: $189,150
Jonathan Taylor, $56,746