Kakon wins Battles in South Florida


Ante Up Magazine Southern Poker

William Kakon, a local player who works in real estate, picked up the trophy and the major portion of a three-way chop as the main event of the Battles at the Beach finished up at the Isle Poker Room in Pompano Beach.

With about a 4-million-chip lead over Carlo Rodriguez of Miami and Brayden Fritzshall of Boca Raton, Kakon took home a little more than $121K, while Rodriguez and Fritzshall settled for around $98K each.

For the 38-year-old Rodriguez, who is expecting his first child in mid June, the event was his biggest payday and told me his mantra to keep moving up the leaderboard was “Got a baby on the way and mad bills to pay.”

For successful online player Fritzshall, 22, it was his biggest payday in live action, but was dwarfed in comparison by his huge score online two weeks earlier in the ninth anniversary of PokerStars’ Sunday Million, where he completed 18 straight hours of play to become a part of a seven-way chop to collect more than $597K. Though he didn’t take home the biggest payout, Fritzshall, who played the event from a friend’s home in Toronto, collected all the chips when the group left $100K in play after the agreement and eventually captured the title.

The next major series at the Isle is expected to be the Florida State Championship, traditionally contested in late July through early August.

TYLER’S TEAM: Several former Miami Dolphins joined the festivities at the fifth annual Tyler’s Team Charity Poker Classic in late March at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. And while Jackie Stone of Port St. Lucie became the first female winner in the tourney’s history, the big winner was the Tyler McLellan Foundation. The foundation was started after the Kevin and Karin McLellan lost their 15-year-old son in an “Angel Flight” plane crash in Tampa on July 17, 2008.

Each year, TMF chooses a community organization to which they donate a portion of the proceeds. This year it was Bru’s Buddies Community Legacy Program under the direction of former Dolphins linebacker Bob Brudzinski. Bru brought along former teammates Mark Duper, Roy Foster and Jim Jensen to serve as bounties for the largest turnout in the event’s history, and 2010 Ante Up POY Walt Strakowski also took part.

As champion of the event, Stone took home the one-ounce pure silver coin commemorating the tournament’s fifth year, first-place cash, Tyler’s Cup and a $580 buy-in to the World Series of Poker Circuit at PBKC in August.

SEMINOLE COCONUT CREEK: The CoCo Spring Series, running at press time, concludes with a pair of sessions on May 2 in the Stax Poker Room. The series then finishes up with a big day on May 3, as players advancing to Day 2 return to crown a champion, while an $80 turbo starts at noon and a $240 black-chip bounty event starts at 6.

PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB: There’s a $335 WSOP main-event satellite on May 2 at 12:15 p.m. with three seats guaranteed. Besides the $10K buy-in for the main, which begins July 5 at the Rio in Las Vegas, the three winners will receive $1K for expenses.

North Florida

BEST BET JAX: The $1,100 WPT DeepStacks Tour recently concluded at bestbet Jacksonville after drawing 404 players to nearly double the $200K guarantee ($391K).

The final table was stacked with locals, including regular Jason Cummings, local pro Eric Tomberlin and Angel Vu of Daytona Beach, making her second deep run of the month. But the winner was George Wolfe, a poker pro originally from Ohio who’s mostly seen around bestbet Jacksonville making his living at the $2-$5 tables.

The $84K first-place prize was the biggest of his career and came just seven weeks after the birth of his first son. Career player Andrew Dykeman of Jacksonville won Player of the Series, nabbing two trophies and making him the player with the most career wins at bestbet. Other notable winners were Jeremiah Pierce and former WSOP November Niner Leif Force, who took down the $350 PLO/8 event for $6K.

• The bestbet bad-beat jackpot reached a state-record $509K at press time. When it hits, we’ll report on it.

• The second annual JAX Chamber Poker Classic to benefit the JAX Chamber Foundation ran March 26, attracting 187 players to raise $10,530 for the foundation.

• Bestbet promotions recently increased its high-hand giveaways. The morning high hand is $500 every hour throughout weekdays as well as a bonus $400 with $400 table share at midnight.

DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB: Poker legend Greg “Fossilman” Raymer made an appearance in March’s Great American Poker Tour main event, which drew 633 players for a $59K prize pool. Angel Vu, mentioned earlier, had her second finished fifth for $3K, bringing her tally for March at around $14K. Nathan Lee of Orlando took home an $11K first-place prize and the trophy after besting fellow Orlando native Guiliaune Starek. Raymer finished 21st.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: There’s plenty of excitement brewing in Ebro, but it’s all happening after press time, so be sure to look for results from the March Madness heads-up event and the signature Emerald Coast Spring Classic, which began on April 11.

GRETNA: There will be $50 satellites run on select Thursdays (7 p.m.), Saturdays (1 p.m.) and Sundays (1 p.m.) to get into the $20K guarantee on May 23. Or you can buy in directly for $250. Call the poker room at 850-875-6930 for details.

Central Florida

The Naples-Ft. Myers Greyhound poker room hosted its popular Naples-Ft. Myers Championship on March 27-28. The $1,100 NLHE championship attracted 186 players, easily surpassing the $100K guarantee, and saw Michael Laake earn the victory. Laake, who also won a recent High Roller at Derby Lane, dominated the final table with
3 million of the 3.8 million in play, and was awarded the title as second and third place chopped.

The $550 PLO event drew nearly 100 players and ended in an eight-way chop for just more than $5.5K each. The PPC will be stopping there in July so look for details to that event in a future issue.

DERBY LANE: On March 22, the poker room got together with some local businesses to host the third annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s poker event in memory of local player Tennessee Andy. More than 50 players helped raise more than $3,500 for the charity, the most ever.

OCALA JAI-ALAI: The PPC’s $250 main event drew 222 players with a trip to Aruba on the line. The event ended in a five-way chop and Russell Ketcham took home the $5K Aruba package and $12K.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The PPC North American Championship runs May 15-24 at the Silks Poker Room. This two-week event boasts a $50K guarantee ($175 buy-in), PLO and the main is a $150K guarantee ($440). Mark Hoke of Short Stacked Radio will be live at the event providing coverage. This event is one of the biggest in the PPC portfolio and is well-attended just before the WSOP in Las Vegas.

• A charity event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will be May 3 at 7 p.m. and includes dinner. The Silks provides every opportunity for players to help support the charity while providing enough play to make it more than a super turbo.


AMERISTAR KANSAS CITY: Frank Patti led from start to finish at the final table of the Heartland Poker Tour event to pocket $103K. The Gladstone, Mo., resident beat more than 300 entrants and said he plans to put the money to good use.

“I think I’m going to start a college fund for my daughter with the money,” he said.

Patti had more than a 3-to-1 lead over runner-up Matthew Lawrence when play reached heads-up. Lawrence of Tulsa settled for $65,415. Aaron Wilt of Kansas City was third ($43,805).

North Carolina

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE CASINO RESORT: The 11th season of the WSOPC will wrap up here under the bright lights of the ESPN cameras with the $1 million WSOP national championship July 29-31.

The series runs July 23-Aug. 2 with 13 different events, plus the national championship freeroll. For more information, go to wsop.com.


COUSHATTA CASINO: Michael Dunn of Katy, Texas, dominated the Spring Quarterly Classic in Kinder, La., on March 18-21. He had a first and second in the three-tournament series, including the $1,100 main-event title for $30K.
The series saw 219 players kick off Event 1 with a $300 mega-survivor satellite. Tournament director Danny Wade and poker room manager Randall Litterall created this unique tournament.

“The concept behind this tournament is simple,” Litterall said. “The final 10 percent of the field would receive enough tournament-entry chips to play the final two events, plus the remainder of the prize pool in equal amounts of cash to have something to show for their efforts regardless of how they finished in the other events.”

The final 24 players won $1,500 in TECs and $890 in cash.

Event 2 was a $500 event that had 210 entries and went to Wayne Lewis of Livingston, Texas for $18,742. Runner-up Dunn pocketed $13,118.

The main drew 149 players for a $134K-plus prize pool, and Dunn couldn’t be happier with his $30K win.

“It was a combination of playing well and getting lucky at the right times is how I did it,” he said. “I look forward to returning to Coushatta for the Summer Quarterly Classic.”

Second place went to Judy LeBlanc of Louisiana for $20,162.

“I’ve won tournaments before, but this is my biggest cash ever in a tournament. I’m very happy,” she said.

JENA CHOCTAW PINES: The poker room runs $40 daily tournaments (Wednesdays and Sundays) and high-hand promotions (Wednesday and Thursday). But be sure to call about the upcoming freeroll tournament, where the winner will receive a five-day trip for two to Las Vegas. Places finishing second through fifth will receive cash. Top 30 players with the most hours of live play will be eligible.


BEAU RIVAGE: The Spring Break Poker Classic wrapped up with an impressive main-event turnout of 292 players for a $208K prize pool that shattered the $150K guarantee. Dustin Wertz of New Orleans took the title and $62,454.
Day 2 of the main event brought back 76 contenders ready to fight it out on Easter Sunday for a spot at the final table. Midday familiar faces included Caufman Tally and Christopher “Nit” Sheffield. When the bubble finally burst, just after 5 p.m., leaders included Jonathan Greer, Eddie Rayl and local favorite Gabe Costner, who was chipleader at a final table made up predominantly of local players.

Costner relinquished his chips to Wertz, leaving him eliminated in fourth place for $14,574. On the next hand, Wertz eliminated Danny Drew in third, and not long after Ben Thomas would fall as runner-up ($33,311).

The next big event at the Beau will be in the fall for the Gulf Coast Championship.

Meet Scott Poole

Scott Poole is the director of poker at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.

With the live horse-racing season coming to end, do you worry about the dropoff in action over the summer? It’s hard to measure the effect the seasonal South Florida visitors have on our numbers, but this year we are up just under 20 percent since the race meet started. I believe most of that is from the tourists with a big crossover between racing and poker fans. We even see a big difference in the room between live racing days and dark days during the winter.

What are your thoughts on the ever-increasing landscape of poker promotions, such as high-hand giveaways, which seem to be almost out of control? It’s something we have been struggling with for a long time. Once we got full-blown poker in 2010, we did very well. Our nearest competitors felt they needed to add promotions to pick up business and we kept up with those. But every time we turn around, they keep raising the bar. There are comments around the country about what is happening in South Florida, because you don’t see anything like it anywhere else, even in other parts of Florida. When I look at the numbers, it doesn’t appear to me that they can be profitable, but I don’t have access to their business plans or how they look at profits in these smaller businesses. It must be something different than what we are doing here at Gulfstream Park. — Dave Lemmon

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine