West wins HPT event at Thunder Valley

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Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, Calif., hosted the Heartland Poker Tour for the fifth time as Tom West picked up $154K for winning the main event. West, a caterer from Mountain View, Calif., just happened to finish third in this same event last year for $64K. He also has numerous World Series of Poker cashes and more than $500K in earnings for his career.

This 13-event series ran Sept. 14-28 and is one of the most popular series in Northern California. The main event drew 464 entries for a $672K prize pool. The runner-up finisher was Nic Vu of San Rafael, who made $95K. Other players at the final table included Randy Smith of Tracy (third, $62K), Minh Nguyen of Modesto (fourth, $43K), Craig Gold of Belmont (fifth, $32K), Adam Ghattas of Reno (sixth, $25K), David Carey of Rohnert Park (seventh, $20K), Daniel Hatch of Santa Clara (eighth, $17K) and Doron Shako of San Jose (ninth, $13K). Next up is the Ante Up Poker Tour’s NorCal Classic on Nov. 21-29 (See ad Pages 2-3 in our November issue).

LUCKY CHANCES: The Colma poker room hosts its Gold Rush series Nov. 15-23 with every event having a first-place guarantee. All tournaments start at 9:30 a.m. and will have optional re-entries. The highlight of the series is the main event, which starts Nov. 21 ($1,080) and sports a $100K first-place guarantee. Day 1B is Nov. 22 and survivors from both Day 1s return to finish the event Nov. 23.

WIN-RIVER RESORT AND CASINO: The World Poker Tour DeepStacks series runs in the Redding poker room Nov. 14-23 with the $150K guarantee main event Nov. 20. Buy-in is $1,100 and will have multiple flights.

BAY 101: The San Jose cardroom is awarding $275 tournament vouchers for its 2016 WPT Shooting Star to winners in daily tournaments of $1K or more. There also will be numerous qualifiers. Players can earn double points during the week to help qualify for the Shooting Star. Call for more details.

Pacific Northwest

MUCKLESHOOT CASINO: The Summer Classic ran Sept. 17-21 with $55K added and Ante Up reported on the preliminary event winners in October’s issue. Ralph Porter from Woodinville, Wash., took down $48K for winning the main event and $4K for second place in the overall series championship by taking 10th in Event 4. Porter, aka REP, is a touring pro with more than $2 million in tournament earnings and two World Series bracelets.

Michael Helander of Kent, Wash., edged Porter out for the overall championship by taking fourth place in Event 3 and sixth in Event 4.

WILDHORSE RESORT AND CASINO: The Fall Roundup runs Nov. 5-15. The casino, four miles east of Pendleton, Ore., closes its four-table poker room and runs the series in its bingo hall and one of its big meeting rooms three times per year. NLHE buy-ins range are $120-$1,500, with a two-day $530 main event the second weekend. There also will be $225 Omaha/8 and HORSE events and dozens of cash games spring up as tournament tables break.

Southern California

COMMERCE CASINO: Popular pro Jeff Madsen won the ninth annual Leyna Nguyen Love Across the Ocean charity tournament at the Commerce Casino on Oct. 3, pocketing $5K. More than $75K was raised from the 155 entries, rebuys and auctions and it will go toward providing free dental procedures for U.S. veterans.

Quite a few celebrities were on hand to support the cause, including Donny Most, Willie Garson, Tony Denison, singer Jon Collins and Torrei Hart, who all made the final table. Denison took second and promptly donated his prize back to the charity. Other celebrities included Jason Alexander, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mimi Rogers.

MORE CHARITY: The second annual Adrian Paul PeaceFund Celebrity tournament ran Sept. 29 in Playa Vista. The $75 buy-in attracted 155 entries to the event, which saw celebrities Carl Weathers, Lou Diamond Phillips and Mekhi Phifer, among others, come out to support the cause.

The $5K WSOP seat grand prize went to Gary Klionsky, who works for Microsoft, which hosted the event. Former football player and actor Matthew Willig took third.

PECHANGA: San Diego’s Po Mak was the lucky winner of the Mercedes-Benz giveaway. Mak jumped for joy at hearing his name announced. Players had earned entries throughout September to be qualified to win the luxury car.
Each of the guests who were entered to win the car during the final drawing on the last Saturday of the month had qualified by being selected during drawings the previous day.

Reno

ATLANTIS CASINO: You often hear of poker room managers saying they listen to the players. Here is proof: This poker room has the All-In Players Association, which lets you to vote on issues to continually improve your poker-room experience. Members receive a personalized players card, an AIPA card protector and they can order off of the AIPA poker menu for free. Membership is free and you can sign up in the poker room.

In promotions, Lucky 13 pays a total of $13K to those who play the most number of hours over a 13-week period and those who hit bonus hands in those 13 weeks. Also, players can receive the poker-appreciation hotel rate with a minimum of five hours played each night.

You can receive a complimentary hotel stay with a minimum of 10 hours of live poker played, per each night stayed (Sunday-Thursday). Call for details.

PEPPERMILL RESORT SPA AND CASINO: Tom Christopher of Rocheport, Mo., captured the main event of the Poker NV Fall Challenge, good for $43,600. He was followed by David Lucchese of Walnut Creek, Calif., ($25,200) and Jeffrey Darzell of Sacramento ($16,400). The 27-event series ran Oct. 2-12 and had nearly $160K in guarantees.

HARVEYS LAKE TAHOE: The World Series of Poker Circuit runs until Nov. 9 with the $1,675 main event on Nov. 6.

Las Vegas

VENETIAN: The Deep Stack Extravaganza at the Venetian runs through Nov. 25 as every event, other than satellites, offers a guarantee, totaling $23M in prize pools.The $1,600 main event, with three starting flights, begins Nov. 16 and has a $500K guarantee.

Most noon events are no-limit hold’em with multiple starting days and buy-ins between $250-$1,100.Omaha and PLO events run throughout the series at 4 p.m. for $250.Single-day bounty and survivor tournaments, with $200-$300 buy-ins, are evenings at 7.

ARIA: Sean McCormack is the new director of poker, moving over from the Bellagio, where he had been operations manager.He worked at Bellagio for nine years as a dealer, floor supervisor and shift manager.He got his start in poker in Florida and then worked as a traveling dealer before settling in Vegas. He’s originally from Salem, Mass.

The Aria continues to offer one of the most popular regular tournaments in Vegas, twice daily at 1 and 7 p.m. The $125 event has 30-minute levels and players start with a 10K stack. The 1 p.m. regularly attracts 120-150 players and the evening version usually nears the 100 mark.Periodically, the Aria schedules high-roller tournaments, which cost $25K.But if you want a deal, you can register before the starting time (usually 2 p.m.), the house will waive the $1K rake.

Aria spreads a wide variety of cash games. NLHE and PLO games are always available, both $1-$3 and $2-$5 for each.Bigger games usually can be found and big mixed games are almost always available.The room offers $2 per hour in comps ($3 per hour between 5-10 a.m.).

HARRAH’S: Danny Mack is the new special-games manager at the mid-Strip property.In addition to running the poker room, he’s in charge of keno and the sportsbook. Mack got his start in poker in Tunica, Miss., then worked at Mirage and Bellagio before spending some time managing a poker room in Bozeman, Mont.In 2008, he returned to Vegas to work as a dealer and shift manager at Caesars Palace and the WSOP.

Harrah’s offers a $5K freeroll that even tourists can enjoy.Ten hours of live play the week before qualifies for the tournament on Sundays at 1 p.m. Players who put in 20 hours get $100 upfront when they register for the freeroll. The top 10 finishers get $400 and the next five get $200.

Five tournaments run daily.At 9 a.m. and noon, there’s a $55 event with a $500 guarantee.At 3 and 7 p.m., it’s a $75 event with a $1K guarantee.On Fridays and Saturdays, the 7 p.m. becomes a $100 bounty tournament with the same guarantee. The bounties are $25.

There are high-hand bonuses for quads, straight flushes and royals.The room recently switched from 10-handed to nine-handed games. Players can charge their electronic devices from the table.

GOLDEN NUGGET: The Golden Weekend $50K guarantee is Nov. 28 (11 a.m., $140). Players start with 15K chips and 30-minute levels as registration and re-entry is allowed for the first eight levels.

There are a host of other tournaments throughout the weekend. See the ad on Page 9 of our November issue for more information.

WYNN: The room is adding a couple of new tournaments to the schedule.On the first Wednesday of each month, a $300 seniors tournament will replace the daily noon event.Players 50 and older will start with 12,500 chips and play 30-minute levels. There’s also a $100 add-on at the end of registration (fourth level) for 5K chips.The tournament offers a $12,500 guarantee.This will be the only regularly scheduled event specifically targeting the seniors demographic. Seniors events during Wynn Classic events have been quite popular.

On Thursday nights, there’s a new $120 PLO tournament at 5 p.m. This replaces the 7 p.m. bounty tournament.Players start with 10K chips with 30-minute levels.There are unlimited $100 rebuys through the first four levels for 10K chips, available whenever the player’s stack is less than 5K.There’s no rake on rebuts.

Players can add 5K chips for $50 one time during the first four levels. Here, the Wynn is hoping to cater the regular PLO player who, until now, doesn’t have a regular tournament to play in this discipline.The affordable buy-in is meant to encourage new players to give PLO a try.The rake-free rebuys should provide larger prize pools for the small buy-in.

ALIANTE: The new poker room featuring electronic tables in North Las Vegas has added a few tournaments.In addition to the $30 daily at 1 p.m., it offers $40 tournaments on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5.The tournament offers 20-minute levels and starts players with 5K chips.

MGM: Random seats are selected for cash drawings after every score during Sunday, Monday and Thursday night NFL games.Prizes vary between $100 and $500.

MONTE CARLO: Highest hand of the quarter receives cash during Sunday, Monday and Thursday night NFL games. The first quarter is worth $50, the second is $100, the third is $150 and the fourth quarter is $200.

EXCALIBUR: For Monday night NFL games, players earn one raffle ticket each hour on the hour beginning four hours before kickoff. Two tickets drawn at halftime are worth $50 each; one ticket is drawn at 9 p.m. for $50 and one ticket is drawn at 10 for $100.

Also, all active players in a cash games are eligible to have their seat drawn every time there’s a score. It’s $50 for a field goal, $100 for a touchdown and $200 for a safety.

BOULDER STATION: Players earn football squares for full houses in Omaha and NLHE.The squares are worth $50 each for the Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games.

— Check out Rob Solomon’s blog at robvegaspoker.blogspot.com.

Meet Richie Lopez

Richie Lopez has been poker room manager at Pechanga Resort & Casino for more than 10 years. He’s a member of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe south of Palm Desert, Calif., and he’s an assistant coach for the local high school girls’ softball team.

Before he started as a poker dealer in 1995, he was a seasonal wildland firefighter. In high school, he worked as a security guard at a small Southern California Native bingo hall, which is where he eventually trained as a poker dealer.
“The round-the-clock excitement, helping guests enjoy the camaraderie they experience in a poker setting got me hooked on the career path early on.”

He feels fortunate the management culture at Pechanga supports promoting qualified people from within.
“My team and I have been able to build up a very popular, 24-hour poker room that people come to, passing several other, closer cardrooms along the way.”

He said his biggest achievement has been some recent reader-poll awards. “This comes as a direct result of our team members working together to achieve their common goal, which is not to score good ratings, but to give our guests the best possible customer service. The No. 1 votes come as a nice bonus.”

He loves baseball and softball, and his all-time favorite movie is Rounders. He said one of the coolest things he has done was played a tournament at the Taj Majal and sat in the same seat Johnny Chan occupied in the movie. “I lost horribly in the tournament, but I loved every minute of the experience.” — Kittie Aleman