Hard Rock Big 4 poker tourneys an overall success



The Big 4 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla., has to be considered another success despite a shortfall in the main event for the second straight year as 907 players entered the $5,250 tourney to create a $600K-plus overlay in the single-entry event.

The Big 4 featured four tournaments running simultaneously, the Hard Rock Poker Open, the high roller, a $2,650 freezeout and an $1,100 re-entry event, with all four final tables happening at once.

Texan Omar Zazay won the SHRPO title after an extensive heads-up match that lasted 125 hands with Brian Phillis, a Palm Beach Kennel Club dealer. Phillis took home a larger share of the pool, though, thanks to a chop with Zazay while holding nearly a 3-to-1 lead. Phillis eliminated Dan Colman in third.

In the other Big 4 final tables, which were all shot by the Poker Night in America crew for airing on CBS Sports Network in 2016, local superstar Jason Mercier won the $25,400 high roller and collected $517K after defeating Ian O’Hara of Boca Raton.

The win was Mercier’s fourth six-figure score since June and upped his 2015 earnings to $2.25M-plus.)
Fabrizio Gonzalez, who lives in Spain, captured the $2,650 event, which crushed its million-dollar guarantee with 502 entries and a pool of $1.217M, while the $1,100 re-entry event drew 794 entrants and went to David Eldridge of Gibosnia, Pa.

COCO OPEN: On the heels of a successful Big 4, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek will host its million-dollar guarantee main event Oct. 1-5. The buy-in is $2,500 for 25K chips with unlimited re-entries. There will be three opening sessions with each beginning at noon on Oct 1, 2 and 3. Points accrued in this event will be included in the Hard Rock POY leaderboard competition, awarding $100K in prizes to the top players.

HIALEAH PARK: A $200K guarantee tournament at Hialeah Park in late August to celebrate the casino’s second anniversary drew the ire of some players on the popular 2+2 poker forum, where it was alleged that there was a discrepancy between the number of chips in play and prize-pool figures, as well as criticisms about re-entry and payout procedures.

After investigating the complaints, Hialeah Park issued this statement: “Hialeah Park management became aware of the alleged incident through social media. An internal investigation of the matter found no evidence of any discrepancies in the manner in which the poker tournament was conducted nor any wrongdoing on the part of any of the poker staff and have provided notification to the state regulatory agency.”

Florida’s Department of Pari-Mutuel Wagering says it is aware of the allegations and is looking into them.

ISLE CASINO: The Pompano Park property hosts its signature series, the Isle Open, on Oct. 5-27. The room also has Three Card Poker, so call for details.

GULFSTREAM PARK: Director of Poker Scott Poole wants to reverse what he feels is a disturbing trend in promotions by reducing high-hand payouts and, instead, offer special comps for loyal players. Poole has long been against the high jackpot rakes that tend to drain the life out of his regulars’ bankrolls.

So now, high hands pay just $250 per half-hour in low-stakes action and $500 in the higher stakes, but now players can earn $1.50 an hour for tiered play, which can be redeemed for food and beverages at participating restaurants, free slots play and swag.

The cardroom is offering nightly specials for food and beverages which, at press time, included free well drinks on Fridays and Saturdays after midnight, free champagne for women on Tuesdays from 6 to midnight and various $1 specials on other nights. Call for information on the latest specials and tournament times.

BATISTA DIES: Chad Batista, formerly of Coral Springs, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 20 of liver and kidney failure. He was 34. Batista, as lilholdem954, won more than $5 million online and was ranked as the top online player in the world for nearly a year in 2007-08.

North Florida

BESTBET JACKSONVILLE: There has been a lot of success lately in terms of player turnout for tournaments, and the recent $300K guarantee is no exception. Event 1 of the series drew a poker-room record 662 players across three starting days for a $198K prize pool. There was a five-way chop, including locals Vontz Burke and Ken Smith each receiving $23K. But the biggest story of the series was Anthony Vidmer, who won the $1,500 main event. Vidmer, known for directing High Roller: the Stu Unger Story, applies himself as much at the poker table as he does at the editing bay.

He faced a tough final table, including prior winner of the event T.K. Miles, local cash experts Nirath Rean and Willie Lawrence and former Ante Up Player of the Year Darryl Fish, who has a WSOPC win this year and a third at the WSOPC national championship. Vidmer, Rean and St. Augustine’s Heng Zhang chopped three-handed giving Vidmer and Rean $83K and $82K paydays, respectively.

In upcoming news, the World Poker Tour Fall Series runs Oct. 23-Nov. 10 with a $1M guarantee for the Nov. 6 main event ($5K). There’s a $550 mega satellites with 10 seats guaranteed to the main on Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

DBKC: Daytona Beach Kennel Club’s inaugural Beachside Open was as huge success as 287 players entered the $360 event for a $93K prize pool, including a $4.5K PPC Aruba package. Jimmy Alex of Orlando took home $11K after a three-way chop with H.J. Price and Jesus Ortiz. He also earned the Aruba package and other prizes.

The Heartland Poker Tour returns to DBKC on Oct. 1-12 as satellites are under way. The $1,650 main event has multiple Day 1 flights and plenty of satellites so contact the poker room for all details.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: The signature tournament series, the Emerald Coast Championship, returns Oct. 15, with preliminary events and satellites leading up to the $550 main event Oct. 24. The main event will feature a $30K guarantee.

Central Florida

HARD ROCK TAMPA: The $350 deepstack in late August drew almost 750 entrants for a nearly $225K prize pool. Tampa pro Justin Zaki took the title and $51K. The $560 event, which had a $335K pool, chopped four ways: Daniel Ramirez ($53K), Peter Walsworth ($51K), Parminderjit Mehmi ($36K) and Lewis Gallo ($35K). The same series will run Oct. 15-25.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The $370 annual Halloween tournament runs Oct. 24-26.

There will be $50 satellites Oct. 8 and Oct. 22 as 10 percent of the field will earn a $350 ticket. On Oct. 17, there’s a $100 satellite paying seats to the top 20 percent. See the ad on Page 27 for more info.

DERBY LANE: The Halloween tournament is actually Halloween night. See the poker room’s ad on the facing page for where to find more details.


AMERISTAR VICKSBURG: The Heartland Poker Tour returns this month. Poker room manager Dana Miller said the event, which runs Oct. 9-19, has several affordable buy-ins every day ($50-$200) leading up to the $1,650 main event, which has starting flights on Oct. 16-17. There are plenty of satellites and qualifiers.

HORSESHOE TUNICA: The PPC wrapped up Aug. 23 with Will Kent of Greenwood, Miss., taking down the championship. Kevin Jenkins put up a great fight for second. Kent, who won his entry at the Horseshoe, still can’t believe he won.

The event had a 899-person field as everyone who made the final table left with packages. Local favorites Jonathan Frey of Cordova, Tenn., (third) and Jessie Bryant of Conway, Ark., (seventh) will be among those at the championship Nov. 1-8.


ST. LOUIS: Looking for a tournament for less than $100? River City is the place. Daily $50 events at noon and 6 p.m. are on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Buy-ins on Fridays and Saturdays are $65 (Friday tournaments also feature 95 percent payback). All tournaments have 10K starting stacks and 20-minute levels.

On Thursdays at noon is a $30 event with $20 rebuys and add-ons.

KANSAS CITY: Ameristar Kansas City’s HPT event ran Aug. 14-24. Greg Jennings of Overland Park, Kan., took home $118K-plus after besting 362 runners.


There are several daily small buy-in events worth playing. In the Shreveport area, Horseshoe Bossier City has a $40 rebuy Monday nights. Wednesdays at 10 a.m. is a $100 tournament and a $190 Thursday deepstack starts at 6:30 p.m. 
The Eldorado hosts six small tournaments, including a Monday $75 rebuy at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at 6:30 is a $145 bounty event and Thursdays is $165 tournament at 6:30 p.m. Fridays feature a $130 re-entry tournament at 6:30. Saturdays at 11 a.m. is the $120 tourney and Sundays at noon is $145.

Southwest Louisiana has plenty of daily tournament action starting with the Isle of Capri Lake Charles. On Monday nights at 6:30, there’s a $70 freezeout. Tuesdays at 1 is a $35 re-entry with re-entries until the end of Level 6. 
An $80 bounty tournament on Wednesdays at 6:30 is sure to excite as well as the $60 event on Fridays at 7. The Golden Nugget Lake Charles offers a 10 a.m., $60 tournament on Tuesdays. 

Poker room manager Randall Litteral at Coushatta Casino Resort has a great weekly schedule starting with a $110 bounty on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.Thursdays at 6:30 is a $110 event.Fridays ($175) and Saturdays ($240) are the deepstacks at 6:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.Players begin those events with 15K chips.The week’s finale is the $110 super bounty on Sundays at noon. Each bounty is worth $40. Next issue, we’ll cover the remaining daily tournaments around the state.

Meet Jake Bush

Jake Bush is a familiar face to anyone who plays in Tunica, Miss., but he calls Horseshoe Tunica home. He has worked as a floor for the past nine years. He started dealing for the World Poker Open in 2005 and traveled the country dealing before settling in Mississippi.

Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? I am a dual-rate supervisor, though I typically run four or five tournaments a week. The best part of my job is being around people and making sure they have as much fun as possible while playing in our room.

Do you play? I love to play, too, but rarely get the opportunity these days. My favorite game is Omaha/8.
— Jennifer Gay

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine