Talking Stick Resort concluded its 11th annual Arizona State Poker Championship on Aug. 18 as Vance Fitzgerald of Surprise, Ariz., won the title and $253K at the Arena Poker Room.
The event had three Day 1s and a prize pool of more than $1 million, attracting 1,580 players, including such pros Dennis Phillips, Karina Jett and Kenna James.
Four-time World Series of Poker champion Tom Schneider emceed the event, including the final table, engaging spectators with his colorful commentary.
The final-table action was fast and furious, though it took three hours to determine a champion.
“The Arizona State Championship has become so popular they may have to consider adding another Day 1,” Schneider said. “This tournament was fun from beginning to end.”
Director of poker Tom Young echoed Schneider’s comments.
“This was a huge success,” he said. “We were pleased to see an increase in interest in the tournament this year, surpassing last year’s competitor count. Although we had several pros battling it out for the title, it truly was anyone’s game.”
In fact, most of the final table was comprised of local amateurs. On the final hand, Fitzgerald bested Chad Mizner with a pair of queens vs. A-K, earning a beautiful watch and customized trophy. Mizner ($189,600) and third-place finisher Jake Balsiger ($134,300) also earned trophies. They were followed by Matt Schultz ($98,750); Gail Getzwiller ($90,850); Hooman Nikzul ($75,050); Matt Elsby ($59,250); A.T. Gruzak ($43,450); Alex Shelton ($27,650) and Tom Uwanawich ($19,750).
In other tournament news, the Arena Fall Classic runs Sept. 11-13 with qualifiers currently running. See the ad on the facing page for more details. And don’t forget the 10th annual Arizona Ladies State Championships on Sept. 19-20.
BUCKY’S CASINO: NFL splash pots are every Sunday for all nationally televised games. The splash pots will equal $1 per yard for every touchdown, 50 cents per yard for every field goal and $50 for a safety on every active table. Also, a $25 random-seat bonus will go to one winner at every table, for all scores.
Also, look for results from the Northern Arizona Hold’em Championship in the October issue as the event was running at press time.
HARRAH’S AK-CHIN: WSOP single-table tournaments are running this month. Every Wednesday and Saturday between 5-9 p.m. there will be 10-player SNGs. Wednesdays are for a $1,500 seat for events at the WSOP while second place pays $300 and third is $200. The buy-in is $220 with 10K chips. Saturdays are for a $1K entry into the poker room’s $10K main-event satellite on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Second place pays $300 and third is $200. The $170 buy-in gets you 10K chips.
Marvin Caudill, a Harrah’s Ak-Chin regular, won the monthly Tournament of Champions. This is an invite-only event for anyone who won a tournament in the month or players who clocked 80 hours of live play. It’s the second month in a row that Caudill won.
HARD ROCK CASINO: RunGoodGear.com’s series runs Sept. 16-20 at the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa. Also, Hard Rock features different games throughout the week, including $2-$5 NLHE, $5-$10 PLO, $10-$20 Omaha/8, and $6-$12 Omaha/8 with a kill. Promotions include hour promos for freerolls, achievement jacket, cash giveaway entries and RunGoodGear apparel.
INDIGO SKY CASINO: Did you know the poker room has an email newsletter that includes monthly tournament calendar and upcoming promotional information? Contact poker room manager John Maurer to get added to the distribution list. And don’t forget Oct. 3-4 is the annual Fall Classic, though the schedule wasn’t yet available at publication.
RIVERWIND CASINO: The 17-table enclosed poker room offers great action. From $3-$6 limit to a variety of NLHE stakes, WinStar World Casino’s sister property offers a competitive environment and a comfortable waiting area until a seat opens.
CHEROKEE CASINO WEST SILOAM SPRINGS: The property hosted another successful Blast to the Past series in mid August. The series consisted of 13 events in 10 days, with buy-ins starting at $50. But it was Terry Presley of Huntsville, Ark., who captured the $330 main event, which drew 144 players for a $43,200 prize pool. Presley, who earned $10,368, was followed by Eric Thompson of Tulsa ($6,048) and Matt Ellis of Bentonville, Ark. ($5,270).
RIVER SPIRIT CASINO: Look for a variety of freerolls, splash pots and high-hand promotions. Common cash games include $1-$2 PLO, $1-$2 NLHE and $3-6 limit. The tournament schedule includes a $50 buy-in NLHE/Omaha event on Tuesday nights and a variety of tournaments with $20-$60 buy-ins. The room’s bad-beat jackpot was more than $51K at press time.
WINSTAR WORLD CASINO: The poker room’s regular tournament schedule resumes Sept. 12 with the conclusion of the River.
PRAIRIE BAND CASINO: The poker room continues to run a solid featured weekly cash game and tournament schedule. Games featured include $4-$8 limit with a kill, $5-$10 Omaha/8 and uncapped $2-$5 NLHE.
KANSAS STAR CASINO: The poker room continues to offer a weekly schedule of tournaments and its 13 tables have plenty of $1-$3 and $2-$5 NLHE, plus $2-$5 PLO and PLO/8.
HARRAH’S NORTH KANSAS CITY: The 13-table room offers $1-$2 NLHE ($60-$200 buy-in or 100 percent of the biggest stack) and $1-$3 (uncapped). The bad-beat jackpot was nearly $100K at press time.
KICKAPOO LUCKY EAGLE CASINO: The poker room has a new manager in Oresmo Anico, who was moved from another department, so his face is familiar to all regulars. Weekly tournaments at Lucky Eagle include Tuesday evening ($25 buy-in, $10 dealer appreciation, 15-minute blinds and unlimited rebuys for first hour) and Sunday afternoon ($120, $10 dealer appreciation, 20-minute blinds, no rebuys).
INN OF THE MOUNTAIN GODS: Ongoing qualifiers ($65 SNGs with one winner) at the Inn of the Mountain Gods allow winners to earn $550 seats for the Sept. 24-25 super qualifiers to the fifth annual Poker Championship, which has $1,100 buy-in on Sept. 26-27.
The One-Twenty Tournaments are doing well on Friday nights, with a $120 buy-in, unlimited $50 rebuys for one hour and late registration. Anyone who doesn’t cash in this tournament is entered into another tournament the next morning (Losers Lounge) at 11.
Players earn bonus chips for this tournament during live play Fridays after midnight.
Tournaments are every Sunday afternoon for $75 (no rebuys and no add-on). Players earn bonus chips for this tournament Sunday mornings during live play before the tournament.
ISLETA CASINO AND RESORT: The hot news in the poker room is all about player-rewards drawings as one hour of live play earns one drawing ticket. Hourly drawings are 6-10 p.m. Thursdays and they net each winner $200. Also new are NLHE tournaments Mondays ($500 added) and Fridays ($500 and $750 added on alternating weeks).
BUFFALO THUNDER RESORT AND CASINO: Kevin McBride of Santa Fe took first place and $4,608 in the $10K guarantee July 20. And if the name sounds familiar, it may be because it’s the same Kevin McBride who was second in the 1998 WSOP. The next $10K guarantee is planned for mid November.
But before then, the Power 106.7 bounty tournament with D.J. Lopez will be Sept. 26 with a $106 buy-in and $106 bounties on Lopez and possibly five other players.
Other events this month include a $100 Omaha/8 event on Sept. 13 (one re-entry and $100 added per table), a $100 bounty tournament with $10 bounties on Sept. 16 and the last Saturday of the month $150 deepstack is the 26th.
BLACK HAWK: Ameristar has started spreading different games, including $50-$100 limit and $30-$60 Omaha, which have been gaining popularity in the room. The room also offers an hourly high hand that can pay $300, plus royal flushes ($500) around the clock. … Lodge Casino’s quads over quads bad beat was at $62K at press time.Also, its high-hand promotion gives away $100 every 30 minutes. … Golden Gates will host the Mid-States Poker Tour on Nov. 6.
CRIPPLE CREEK: TheMidnight Rose mini bad beat kicks in at a $10K pool and starts with a kings-full-of-queens qualification. Don’t forget the long-standing promotion of a free hotel room after only four hours of live play Monday through Thursday. … TheWildwood Casino’s mini bad beat fires up at a $5K pool and reduces from kings full of queens one notch every 15 minutes. High-hand promotions are all the rage in Colorado and the Wildwood is no exception with $100 hourly for four hours each Thursday-Saturday. Call the poker room for times and details. You’ll also find a freecontinentalbreakfast on Sundays starting at 10.
Meet Kenny Brower
Big, good-natured Kenny Brower is sometimes compared to a sweet teddy bear. He’s one of the Inn of the Mountain Gods’ most popular dealers because of his quick smile, even temperament and because he knows his stuff.
Before he became a dealer, he played about three times a week. He lived in California, where he owned a business and worked as long as 68 days without a day off, before he moved to New Mexico. The stress and ulcers finally got to him so he moved to the Ruidoso area to be near his parents. He played in the Inn’s poker room, where personnel soon grew to know him well and the manager gave him a job as a chip runner. He taught himself to deal, passed his audition and has been a dealer for about eight years.
“Dealing poker is pretty personal,” he said. He added that there seems to be more regulars in this poker room and he has learned to care about their lives and families.
He has been playing poker for about 15 years, mostly online, but he prefers face-to-face play. He cashed in last year’s WSOP in Las Vegas for $1,700 and he has won several tournaments, but his biggest win is still a 6,000-player, $3 PokerStars rebuy tournament several years ago that lasted nine hours and netted him $4,800. That tournament began at 5 p.m. and he took it down after 2 a.m. When asked the best part of being a dealer?
“I met the love of my life in this poker room, my fiancée Michelle Lopez,” he said. “She deals nights, me, days. But we have the same days off.” And, oh yeah, he also loves his Harley. — Mary Bradley