For years, Majestic Star Casino and Hotel has been Chicagoland’s launching pad for poker tours visiting the Midwest. This year was no different as WPT DeepStacks’ inaugural visit attracted 2,008 entries for more than $600K in series prize pools.
The 11-day festival’s spotlight was the $1,100 main event, which drew 255 runners for a $244K prize pool.Area local and casino regular Tim McCarthy took down the title for more than $57K and a $3K package into the season-ending $500K guarantee championship Dec. 3-7 in Calgary at Grey Eagle Resort and Casino.
“When WPT DeepStacks was created, we decided it was important to establish the tour in the Midwest, specifically the Chicagoland region, where poker is truly flourishing,” WPT DeepStacks president Chris Torina. “The response to this series proved players were ready for something new and fresh, something that was different than what they have been used to over the years. We couldn’t be happier with how the festival turned out and we’re appreciative of everyone that came out to play. We look forward to coming back in 2016 and have started brainstorming ways to make it an even better event.”
Poker room manager Tony Gatto was happy with the series, too. “WPT DeepStacks did an excellent job bringing this great event together. Their staff is extremely knowledgeable and professional and their product is second to none. They are the best tour we have had here at Majestic Star Casino and Hotel and we can’t wait for next year.”
Also, Majestic Star is starting a monthly 50-plus seniors tournament on the last Sunday of the month at noon. Call for details.
WSOP UPDATE: The main event in Las Vegas had 222 players from Illinois and 65 from Indiana. Yosef Fox from Long Grove, Ill., was best finishing 100th for $46K. Aaron Wallace from Carmel, Ind., won a bracelet in PLO for $226K.
HORSESHOE HAMMOND: Local pro Bobby Brown won the WSOPC Summer Warm-Up Series opener, pocketing $15K and a seat in the WSOPC main event. Speaking of the WSOPC, it returns Oct. 1-12 at Horseshoe Southern Indiana and Oct. 15-26 in Hammond.
WCPC: The Windy City Poker Championship recently concluded its $3K main event in Mokena, Ill., drawing players from all over the country, including Farza Jaka, Aaron Massey, Craig Casino and Stan Jablonski. Local celebrities Ron Magers and Richard Roeper and local rising stars Nick Pupillo and Chris Karambinis were among the field. WCPC broadcasts can be found on Comcast Sports Net.
RUNNING ACES: Shane Klanderud of St. Francis, Minn., recorded his first Hendon Mob cash by winning the Running Aces Harness Park anniversary tournament July 12 for $37,701.
The $280 event drew 667 entrants for a $147,206 prize pool. The Running Aces signature series event offered six Day 1 flights with a buy-back option of the short stacks if a player had made it to Day 2 multiple times. This structure has become popular with local players and will be used again for the Hallow-Scream event in October.
CANTERBURY PARK: David Schoen of Prescott, Wis., won the iNinja Poker event on July 19, taking home $36,745 after outlasting several of top Minnesota players, including second-place finisher Vladimir Revniaga. The final table lasted nearly four hours and heads-up play went for about 30 minutes. The $675 event drew 271 players for a $156,372 prize pool.
Also, check out the ad on the facing page for the upcoming Fall Poker Classic, which runs Oct. 3-18. The $1,100 main event is Oct. 16-18 with two Day 1s.
FIREKEEPERS CASINO HOTEL: The MSPT returns to the Battle Creek property with the Michigan State Poker Championship on Oct. 15-18. The main event sports a $200K guarantee and qualifiers begin Sept. 11. See the ad at left for more information.
The last time FireKeepers hosted this event was in May and that main event set the Michigan record for the most entries in a tournament with 614, breaking the record by almost 100 players and more than tripling the $200K guarantee.
Mark Rubenstein won the title in May for $142K.
SOARING EAGLE CASINO AND RESORT: In Mt. Pleasant, Josh Marvin outlasted 500 players, including Chris Moon heads-up, to claim the Heartland Poker Tour title and $166K. The victory was the first for the Sterling Heights, Mich., native.
“I had a rough summer in Vegas,” Marvin said. “This will help make up for it … I’m very excited.”
Moon took home $101,823. The tournament poker instructor from Detroit was in great spirits when his day came to an end. “Not bad for a Monday I guess,” he said with a chuckle.
After nearly two hours of heads-up play, the tournament came to an end on a memorable hand. All of the chips went into the middle on a K-J-5 flop.
Marvin’s king-jack had taken the lead over Moon’s pocket aces, but the five on the turn gave Moon a better two pair. The river brought another jack to give Marvin a full house and the Mid-States title.
John Skrabutenas pocketed $67,495 for third.
MESKWAKI: Pro Blake Bohn earned $101,229 by winning the Mid-States Poker Tour main event July 26 at Meskwaki Casino in Tama. There were 410 entries for a $410K prize pool. This was Bohn’s second MSPT win and it was enough to catapult him to the top of the MSPT all-time money leaderboard with $275,277. It’s also worth mentioning Bohn recently finished 23rd in this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event.
Also at the final table was Iowa poker celebrity Phil Mader, bowing out in ninth ($7,924). You may remember “Farmer Phil” from the 2013 WSOP at a featured table mixing it up with Phil Ivey and scoring a 43rd-place finish in a field of 6,352 players. The MSPT returns to Meskwaki in November.
MYSTIQUE CASINO: The $25K Team of Dreams Bounty Classic is Sept. 19. Promotions and satellites are running all month. There were some interesting pro ballplayers at the tables last time, so baseball fans this is the tournament for you.
HOLLYWOOD COLUMBUS: Promotions are picking up in the poker room. The Game of the Month for September will be $4-$8 hold’em. From 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., the first nine players seated in this game receive $20 in chips. Also, the Mega High Five runs Sunday through Friday and the top five hands of the promotional period can win $1,250. Call for promotional details.
HORSESHOE CLEVELAND: The qualifying period for the next quarterly $10K freeroll runs until Oct. 31 with the tournament being Nov. 17 at 7:15 p.m. The top 25 players with the most time played in cash games and the top 25 finishers on the tournament leaderboard receive entry.
If you prefer to buy-in to tournaments, there’s always the Last Sunday of the Month $500 deepstack on Sept. 27 at 12:15 p.m. and a healthy daily schedule. Contact the poker room for details on all of these events.
HOLLYWOOD TOLEDO: Be one of the first 27 players to sit in a cash game and receive $25 in chips. You must play for two consecutive hours and be a Marquee Rewards member. Qualifying hours are 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Also, the bad-beat jackpot, which requires quads beaten, was more than $85K at press time. Call the poker room for details.
HO-CHUNK GAMING WISCONSIN DELLS: The inaugural PPC Ho-Chunk Midwest Classic’s main event saw Pamela Wilson top a field of 333 entrants to win the title, a $17,902 first-place prize and a $5K PPC Aruba package.
Others who won events during the series were Daniel Drescher, who topped a field of 81 to win Event 1 ($125 NLHE, $1,912 and a $1,620 Aruba package); Harley Hellerud, who beat 108 entrants to win Event 2 ($120 seniors, $2,419 and a $2,160 package); and Dan Almerli, who outlasted 82 others to win Event 3 ($175 bounty, $1,959, $750 in bounties and a $1,660 package).
COURT RULING: On Aug. 12, Circuit Court Judge Richard G. Niess ruled on the Dane County case filed by poker pro Mark “P0ker H0” Kroon and PPA state director Steve Verrett, who sought a declaratory judgment on whether the game of poker was one of skill vs. chance.
Instead of addressing the issue, the judge cited precedent to uphold the status quo, which is that poker played outside of a casino constitutes illegal gambling in Wisconsin. Despite the ruling, the judge admitted, “I have no doubt poker involves, in the long run, if you look at it in the long run, more skill than chance” and that poker is “as much a part of the American fabrics, I think, as baseball and apple pie.”
Meet Taro Ito
Taro Ito is the CEO of Running Aces Harness Park, He was hired in October 2014 to help the racetrack remain competitive and continue to grow.
What led you to Running Aces Harness Park? My first lucky break was I actually got my first job in the gaming industry through the classified ads. I applied for the position of financial analyst at the Bicycle Club thinking this was a bicycle manufacturing company like Schwinn. I didn’t even know there were casinos in Los Angeles. I was lucky because I was able to work with one of the true visionaries of the cardroom industry, George Hardie. At the time, the Bicycle Club was the epicenter for cardrooms in the world. … My next lucky break was being asked to develop, from the ground up, the Bay 101 Casino in San Jose. (Then) I spent the past 19 years at Hollywood Park Casino in a variety of capacities. I’ve helped develop at least five cardroom projects, run three local municipal elections for gaming approval, opened the first California cardroom and hotel property as well as run the day-to-day operations of a casino.
How are you improving Running Aces? We’ve changed poker rules that protect the causal player, designed promotions that appeal to the everyday local player, lowered pricing on food items, started training programs for casino staff, identified full-time floor staff, added new menu items, offered new games, increased lighting, added TVs, allowed backpacks, added power at the table for charging electronic devices, provided free coffee just to name a few of the hundred or more changes.
My experience, working with some of the best in the business, taught me to demand the best possible customer service and entertainment experience at a price that has value. This will result in repeat business and a loyal customer base, which is what we will are building at Running Aces. — John Somsky