Just four years ago, South Florida boasted a bustling poker scene with 13 land-based poker rooms in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. In addition, there were rumors of secondary permits being explored for a couple of parimutuel facilities, plus the possibility of destination casinos coming to the area. However, the number of brick-and-mortar cardrooms has dwindled to 10 with the latest closing of the Crystal Card Room at Casino Miami at the end of April.
This latest closing was not a surprise.The room failed to open a table on most days before 6 p.m. and rarely had more than a table or two operating most of the time. By February, the room was operating only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Casino Miami management confirmed the room could reopen in the future, but gave no timeframe. But given that two tough competitors, Magic City and Hialeah Park, are within three miles and recorded revenues of $700K-plus each in March, ambitions of a return to prior success should be tempered.
MARDI GRAS, GULFSTREAM SUCCESS: Meanwhile just north of the Dade-Broward line, the Big Easy Poker Room at Mardi Gras and the Gulfstream Park poker room continue to thrive despite the nearby competition of the Seminole Hard Rock and the reopened room at the Casino at Dania Beach.
Both Hallandale facilities bring in more than $500K in revenue monthly, with Mardi Gras breaking the $600K mark in March for the first time in a year. Big Easy manager Dave Litvin feels the consistency in promotions has been a factor.
“I think that letting people count on the fact that we will always have great giveaways is more important than to keep changing the jackpot amounts and frequency,” said Litvin, who has been running the room for the past five years. “We give away over $400K a month in high hands.”
But despite his conversion to consistency, Litvin admits he’s one to always try something new and he instituted a change this year he thought would be met with resistance from his regulars: He changed all cash tables from 10 players to nine. That can change the dynamic of the game, but Litvin said almost all feedback has been positive, something that shocked him.
“The room is much more comfortable than it was,” he said, “and that brings the stress level down.”
Another change that was added this winter was a big Sunday freeroll each week with a guaranteed $10K prize pool. Last year, it was monthly. Every Sunday, registration opens at 10 a.m. and cards are in the air at 1, with late entries open until 2:30. While the list of alternates has decreased because of the increased frequency of the event, Litvin cautions people to enter early. “We usually can get everybody in that wants to play in the first hour,” he said.
He knows the novelty will wear off, but feels that it expands his clientele: “I see more new faces in that event over anything else we do because people know they are getting great value.”
FLORIDA STATE POKER CHAMPIONSHIP: The Florida State Poker Championship at Isle Casino will have 14 events offering more than $1.3 million in guarantees starting July 5, but still with affordable buy-ins. Event 2 ($140) features a $200K guarantee with three opening sessions per day for four straight days (July 6-9). The main event is July 21-25 with a $1,500 buy-in and a $500K guarantee. In all, eight of the tournaments cost $150 or less to get into the action, while $250 will get you into the popular Jeff Conine Celebrity Classic on July 11 at 7 p.m.
HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD: The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open kicks off with 28 tournaments over the course of nearly three weeks, including the return of the Big 4 featuring the $5M guarantee Championship Freezeout and its $5,250 buy-in, which runs Aug. 13-16. A $2,650 event with a $1M guarantee starts Aug. 14, while an $1,100 tourney and a $25K high roller return to the Big 4 with starts on Aug. 15 and all four final tables streamed live on Aug. 16. The first event of the series is a $360 event with six opening sessions (July 28-30) and a $500K guarantee. Go to seminolehardrockpokeropen.com for details.
Mikhail Zdanovskiy won the WPT DeepStacks main event at bestbet Jacksonville for $109K. The $1,500 event drew 386 players, nearly doubling the $300K guarantee to $521K.
The final table was thick with homegrown talent, including last year’s champion George Wolfe, who ended his run at a second straight WPT Deepstacks title in ninth place. Zdanovskiy faced off against local $2-$5 player Corey Major and professional T.K. Miles. It wasn’t an easy fight, but the former hockey player from Tampa showed he had what it took to win the title.
In other bestbet news, the poker room recently added a $100K guarantee to its annual tournament rotation. The next event will be July 28 with $85 satellites available the week prior. It comes with a $350 buy-in as well as 15K starting stacks and 40-minute blinds.
The WPT has become one of bestbet’s marquee partnerships. Its next televised event will be the $1M guarantee Oct. 14 with guarantee satellites starting at the end of July. The first of these will be July 29 and comes with a five-seat guarantee. Tickets into this $550 satellite will also be available via high hands. Check bestbet’s website for details.
DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB: The property has made great strides in establishing a tournament brand and on July 17, the Great American Poker Tournament returns with a $50K guarantee and a $150 price tag.
Also, the PPC makes its DBKC debut this summer with the main event Aug. 9-14 with satellites available in the prior weeks. Check out DBKC’s website for more details.
TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The Tampa poker room will host the PPC North American Poker Championship on July 14-24, starting with a $200 event and a $30K guarantee and ending with a $600 buy-in $100K main event. The nine-event series will include a “cheap stack” for $25, a six-max, pot-limit Omaha, Open Face Chinese Pineapple, a seniors and a charity event.
DERBY LANE: With the introduction of its Players Card a few months ago, Derby Lane lets players in cash games and tournaments earn points. For cash players, you earn points by playing at any table. For every 1,500 points earned you get a free lunch at the Deuces Wild Cafe. For 3,500 points, you get $50 in chips and for 5,000 points you get $75 in chips. Look for “double point” opportunities to really rack up the cash.
For tournament players, you have the chance at a big freeroll. Buy in to any 15 tournaments in a month and you are eligible for a $1,500 freeroll. With such a variety of tournaments available, you can get in pretty cheap. Sunday’s 6 p.m. is a $35 event.
OXFORD DOWNS: Oxford Downs, which is home to a beautiful racetrack in Summerfield near Ocala, opened a new poker room May 24. The room is run by poker veteran Randy Kiefer, who formerly ran Hollywood Charles Town in West Virginia, among other properties. This room has a high-hand promotion where any full house using both hole cards will qualify. The room should be announcing tournaments soon.
The Heartland Poker Tour returned to Ameristar St. Charles in Missouri on May 12-23, where Greg Radoshmade his second appearance at a nationally televised HPT final table, topping a field of 342 players and becoming $113K richer in the process.
“It feels pretty surreal,” he said after the victory. “Like I’m dreaming right now.”
His first appearance came last year when he was in the dealer’s box, pitching cards to the final nine competitors. That series took place at River City, where Radosh was a dealer at the time. Radosh defeated local attorney Christian Montroy heads-up to nab top honors when he got it all-in holding a straight to Montroy’s top pair. Montroy, who was playing in his first live tournament, was nonetheless thrilled to finish in second place for $71,536.
HPT’s Player of the Year, Reginald “Shawn” Roberts of Springfield, Mo., took home $47,904 for third. Roberts is one of the most successful players in HPT history with nine final tables, including three titles, and 18 cashes for almost $500K in HPT winnings. Paul Fehlig, another St. Louis local, finished in fourth for $33,410. This was Fehlig’s third HPT final table. Joe Christian of Chesterfield, Mo., and Tremell Jones of Edmunson, Mo., rounded out the final table.
SCARLET PEARL: The poker room is running promotions seven days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m.-midnight, $25 is awarded every half-hour for the high hand. If there’s no qualifying hand, it rolls over. On Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 1-midnight, pots are splashed with $25 every half-hour.
On Saturday, from 2 p.m.-midnight, look for the Poker Squares promotion that pays $50 per hour with rollover. High-hand minimum qualifier is aces full of deuces. Maximum rollover amount on any promotion is $500 and only hold’em cash games qualify. For early morning players, show up between
10-11 a.m. and play for at least two hours and win $25.
GOLDEN NUGGET: Down the street, there are daily promotions designed to lure in the tourists and please the regulars. Every day of the week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., whenever two suited cards appear on the flop, the next hand dealt on that qualifying table will have $50 added to the pot. This may occur a maximum of once per half-hour. Sunday through Thursday enjoy $100 Aces Cracked. Also, the High Hand of the Hour promotion runs daily 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Any player who makes one of the following hands wins the subsequent amount: royal flush, $500; straight flush, $300; quads, $200; aces full of kings $150; aces full of queens, $100; aces full of jacks, $75 and aces full of anything else awards $50. They also run a rare Omaha promotion: making aces full of kings or better wins $75.
WSOPC NEW ORLEANS: David Hubbard of Angleton, Texas, took down the $1,650 main event, good for $235K and a seat in the Global Poker Championship.
“My first ring,” he said. “It feels really good.”
Hubbard is a recreational player whose day job is as a federal agent, but with his retirement looming in a few months, he might start playing more often.
This year’s final table featured a bracelet-winner in David Diaz, who finished fourth, as well as two WSOPC ring-winners in Blake Barousse (ninth) and David Slaughter (fifth). Slaughter won his first ring in the opening event of this series.
This year’s main saw 785 entries, compared to last year’s 554, and that drove the prize pool to $1,177,500.
Harrah’s Cherokee hosts the final event of 2016 season and the first of the 2017 season over 12 days.
It’s going to be a busy August for poker at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina. Not only is the beautiful property hosting the $1 million guarantee Global Casino Championship, which wraps up the 2015-16 season Aug. 9-11, it also will kick off the World Series of Poker Circuit’s 2016-17 season with the first WSOPC stop Aug. 4-16.
A total of 100 players earned free seats to the GCC via main-event winners and casino champs from each stop of the WSOPC season and 12 qualifiers earned seats on the WSOP International Circuit.
For the first time, it will welcome players from venues in Morocco, Georgia, Italy, the Czech Republic and Canada. Also, any player who won a ring on the WSOPC this season has the option to buy in to the GCC for $10K. For all players who buy seats, the $10K is added to the prize pool rake-free, in addition to the $1M put up by WSOP.
“The 2015 national championship was a blast for us and we’re excited that the World Series of Poker is ramping up the game this year,” Harrah’s Cherokee senior VP Brooks Robinson said.“Not only do we get to welcome in players from around the world, but we also get to help kick off the 2016-17 circuit season.It really is a fantastic opportunity for our employees to help showcase the resort.”
The GCC starts at noon on Aug. 9 and TV cameras will be on hand to cover the action of the final table Aug. 11.
“We are thrilled to be able to return to Harrah’s Cherokee for our season-culminating championship,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said.“It’s only fitting that we end one season and start the next at Harrah’s Cherokee, a terrific host venue and locale for poker players far and wide.”
The WSOPC event, which starts its 12th season, will feature 12 ring events, including the $1,675 main and a $2,200 high roller. Be sure to go to WSOP.com for more schedule details as they are made available.
Meet Jean Miccio
Jean Miccio had a deep run in the 2015 World Series of Poker ladies event and followed that recently with a ladies title at Hard Rock in Tampa.
What attracted you to poker and how long have you been playing?I have been playing about 17 years and it’s in my blood. My family always played cards growing up. My dad played poker for more than 40 years and my oldest brother, Mike, is a professional player for more than 30 years.
You have had national success and been consistent in multiday events. What do you attribute to the recent success and what do you see for you in the future? I think I’m a solid player and my reads are pretty good on most days, but luck of course needs to be shining down on me also. My future is the WSOP and, of course, hoping to grab a bracelet.
— Andrew Malowitz