Mike Smith leaves Isle Pompano for Maryland Live

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Most people are on a constant search for their dream job, though few ever find themselves in such a position. For Mike Smith, the third time at the Isle Casino was the charm. After leaving the Pompano Beach facility twice — he spent time at the Grand in Biloxi, Miss., and at the Seminole Hard Rock in South Florida — he returned in 2007 as the beautiful room on the second floor of the Isle Casino was getting ready to open and began a six-year run at what would quickly become a highly respected poker room and top revenue producer in Florida.

And you’d think he’d stay there for as long as they wanted him … that is, unless someone else wanted him more.
When Smith’s good friend Rob Norton, the president of the Maryland Live casino in a southwest suburb of Baltimore, reached out to him to offer a position as director of poker for a new 55-table room, Smith saw an outstanding challenge and could not resist.

“I never had the opportunity to open a poker room that wasn’t already existing,” Smith said the day before his resignation took effect in late March. “You get to pick the tables; you get to pick the chairs; you get to hire the entire staff.”

But as excited as he is about taking on this new challenge, he leaves Florida with a tinge of sadness.
“I love Florida and hate to leave it, but this is an opportunity for the future, and I’m not as young as I used to be.”

Maryland Live Casino is a gambling and entertainment complex in Hanover, adjacent to the Arundel Mills Mall, owned and operated by the Cordish Co. The casino opened in June last year and after starting with 3,200 slot machines and electronic table games, added more than 1,500 last September to bring the total to 4,750 machines. After a voter-approved measure in November to expand gambling in the state, the casino has opened 122 table games, including blackjack and roulette. The poker room is set to begin construction soon, with a target opening date of Aug. 1.

About 75 miles from Charles Town Races in West Virginia and Delaware Park (both with established poker rooms), Maryland Live will become the second poker room to open in Maryland. Hollywood Casino in Perryville (closer to Wilmington than Baltimore) opened March 6 with eight tables.

Smith is no stranger to competition after battling numerous poker rooms for business in South Florida, and he’ll see more in mid 2014 when a Horseshoe Casino is slated to open in Baltimore. Therein lies a successful aspect to Smith’s stint in South Florida, where he hosted four successful tournament series each year without any WSOP or WPT associations.

“We’ve accomplished a lot here without going out and purchasing a brand name,” he said. “I think we’ve listened to what the players have asked for mostly. I think most of what we do with tournaments is considered top-notch, and I think the floor decisions are consistent. I don’t have a bad-beat jackpot because I want the players to get their money back; I’m concerned about things like that.”

But as is his custom, he also defers credit to his exceptional staff.
“This is a great team here, and I wish I could take the entire team with me, but I can’t. It’s been a good run here; I’ve been very fortunate; this is the best job I’ve ever had.”

So as Smith moves into the next era of his career, his successor will be the former director of another of this country’s largest and most respected poker rooms. Stan Strickland of the Borgata in Atlantic City, who left there April 6, will take over as director of poker at the Isle. Strickland had managed the 85-table Borgata room since 2006.

TYLER CHARITY: Marcus Ivy won the third annual Tyler Team Charity Classic at Palm Beach Kennel Club, earning cash and a World Series of Poker Circuit seat at PBKC in February. The event attracted about 70 players but it was Jeff Charlton that Ivy beat heads-up for the seat and cash.

— Big Dave Lemmon is Ante Up’s South Florida Ambassador. Email him at bigdave@pokeractionline.com.

Battles at the Beach, Isle Pompano Beach

Event 1 • $330 Seniors
Entries: 87 • Pool: $26,100
Mitchell Matin, $5,299*
Event 2 • $330 NLHE
Entries: 146 • Pool: $43,800
Ilia Lekach, $8,665*
Event 3 • $550 NLHE
Entries: 129 • Pool: $64,500
Victor Figueroa, $23,626
Event 4 • $1,100 NLHE
Entries: 61 • Pool: $61K
John Pizano, $21,686*
Event 5 • $150 Bounty
Entries: 278 • Pool: $22,290
Jorge Vaca, $2,200*
Event 6 • $430 NLHE
Entries: 540 • Pool: $216K
Haim Toorgeman, $32,600*
Event 7 • $200 PLO
Entries: 68 • Pool: $28,940
Cory Blum, $9,341
Event 8 • $350 Bounty
Entries: 133 • Pool: $29,260
Matthew Bray, $9,362
Event 9 • $330 NLHE
Entries: 143 • Pool: $42,900
Erin Steinberg, $12K
Event 10 • $1,600 NLHE
Entries: 87 • Pool: $87K
Leo Emperador, $22,961*
Event 11 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 215 • Pool: $17,400
David Gries, $2K*
$3,300 Main Event
Entries: 163 • Pool: $501,600
Stephen Bokor, $155,496
Event 13 • $340 HU
Entries: 53 • Pool: $15,900
Steven McKoy, $5,088*
Event 14 • $150 6-Max
Entries: 131 • Pool: $16,375
Juan Tambolini, $2,375*
* Denotes chop or deal; series ran March 4-19