Hurricane Irma brought out best in S. Fla. casinos



September was a rough month for Florida as Hurricane Irma roared up the peninsula during the first weekendof the month. While most of the poker rooms in South Florida were shut down for a few days, most suffered little structural damage and things were mainly back to normal by the next weekend.

Not so at the Big Easy Poker Roomat the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale with its roof damaged by a mini-tornado associated with the hurricane and the building flooded. Casino officials had hoped to have the poker room open by the end of September, but a strong rainstorm in mid-month caused further flooding and set the reopening back by several weeks. It should be open by the time you read this.

Kudos to several properties that aided the recovery effort in numerous ways after the storm, including Magic City,the Isle and Gulfstream Park, which all offered their parking lots to serve as staging areas for emergency vehicles from the electric companies. Seminole Coconut Creek allowed its big parking garage to shelter the vehicles of first responders.

Hard Rock Hollywood quickly put together a benefit tournament to attach to the end of its first World Series of Poker Circuit series to raise money for Feeding South Florida.

The event attracted 124 entries and with the silent auction, along with a PokerStars agreement to match all donations, raised about $55K for the relief effort.

Bryan Emory of Plantation won the event, while a pregnant Natasha Mercier finished fourth two days before her due date. She outlasted husband Jason and several other topSouth Florida pros along the way, including Jeff Gross, Darryll Fish, Loni Harwood and Asher Conniff. Fox NFL analyst and former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, whose Florida Keys home in Tavernier was damaged by the storm, donated a $10K prize package to his annual fishing tournament in March for the auction.

HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD: In the main event of the property’s first WSOPC, Hard Rock regular Joseph Gotlieb captured the gold ring and $257K by outlasting former WPT world champ Asher Conniff, Miami’s Mauricio Ameller and three-time WSOP bracelet-winner Brian Hastings.

Gotlieb defeated 900-plus contestants in the $1,675 single re-entry event, which easily surpassed its $1M guarantee. Anton Wigg of Sweden defeated Boca Raton’s Ian O’Hara for the High Roller title, Melisa Singh won the women’s event and Nagui Yassa of Deerfield Beach was crowned the Casino Champion for total points collected in the series, giving him a free entry into the $10K WSOP Global Casino Championship at season’s end.

The WSOPC returns to the area Feb. 8-19 at the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino. The next major Hard Rock event will be the Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open (Nov. 15-29), headlined by a $2M guarantee championship.

North Carolina

WSOPC RETURNS: The World Series of Poker Circuit stops at Harrah’s Cherokee again, this time Nov. 23-Dec. 4.

Central Florida
Hurricane Irma caused the Seminole Immokalee (Fla.) Casino poker room to close for a bit, and a casualty of that was main event of the WPT DeepStacks, which will be rescheduled for February.

The first four events of the series competed, though. After a three-way chop, Walter Hess won the $350 event for $14,720 (plus a main-event seat in February). Chris Halkitis and William Rodriguez took down $12K each in a tie for second.

Nora Salinis bested 105 seniors for nearly $4K and a seat. Meanwhile, the $125 event had 39 players for the one-day event as Cory Williams took advantage of the smaller field to get his seat and nearly $1,300. Fonthip Menke Hart chopped the tournament with Williams.

Finally, the Green Chip Bounty saw Rodriguez beat 48 players to take home $1,500and a seat. Humberto Salinis took 2nd (nearly the same $1,500), but because of chip stacks at the time, Williams was awardedthe seat. The $1,100 main event with its ME $300K guarantee will be Feb. 24-26.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: Live horse racing returns Nov. 25.

SARASOTA KENNEL CLUB: After a successful run here in April, America’s Poker Tour is planning a return to One-Eyed Jacks poker room. The dates have not been announced, but the event is listed on the poker room’s website and the APT website.

NAPLES-FT. MYERS GREYHOUND: The poker room announced its $100K Holiday Series, which runs Dec. 11-17. The $350 main event, which has a $75K guarantee, will sport four Day 1s (two Dec. 15 and two Dec. 16, both days at noon and 6 p.m.) and will finish Dec. 17.

Players begin with 25K chips with 30-minute blinds Day 1 and 40 minutes on Day 2.

Leading up to the main will be a host of satellites and undercard events, including a $10K guarantee Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. for $175. For more info, call the poker room or see the ad in our upcoming December issue.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: The Little Slick Series runs Nov. 6-12.

North Florida

CREEK GRETNA: The Sept. 16 $10K guarantee, which cost $270, drew 45 entrants with Willie Lawrence of Tallahassee winning the title and $3,500.

November’s calendar finds a full schedule at Gretna. On Nov. 18, there’s another $270 buy-in, $10K guarantee, with satellites available multiple times each week. The WPTL tournaments are Nov. 3 and 17 whileBlack Friday brings the holiday season in with a $120 buy-in, $10K guarantee. Nov. 4 has a $60 buy-in $5K guarantee.

Creek Gretna has aggressive high-hand promos every day with a 10-hour, $200 high-hand promo Nov. 11.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: The $20K guarantee wrapped up Oct. 1 with Robert Dar as its winner. Dar pocketed $4,800 and Andrew McCreary was runner-up.

The next $20K event is Nov. 23-26. Satellites for are available multiple times each week. Also, in November, there are $2.5K-guarantee events on Wednesdays and $2K guarantee events on Fridays. Other notable tournaments include an Omaha/8 on Nov. 11, a bounty tournament Nov. 18, and a pair of Epilepsy Charity tournaments with $2K guarantees Nov. 17-18.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: Cash games offer bad-beat and royal-flush jackpots each day. Veterans Day and Black Friday boast $100 high hands every 20 minutes. Check the website for specific hours and details regarding the tournaments. Look for results from the October Emerald Coast series in the December issue.

DAYTONA BEACH RACING AND CARD CLUB: Despite Hurricane Irma’s best efforts, the Sept. 24 Great American Poker Tournament had a nice-sized fieldas 312 players created a $37,440 prize pool. Quyen Hoang won the title, $6,196 and a $330 GAPT seat for 2018.

The HPT was running here at press time so be sure watch for the results in a future issue.

BESTBET JACKSONVILLE: After a four-way chop, Kelley Slay of Jacksonville won the $50K guarantee, which had a $200 buy-in. Mark Smith was runner-up and each pocketed $8K-plus. The event drew 354 entries and paid 40 spots from a prize pool of $56,640. Watch for the wrap-up of the October WPT visit in our December issue.

BESTBET ORANGE PARK: The $200 deepstack main event ended Oct. 1 as 231 players generated a $36,960 prize pool. The top four agreed to a chop but Kam Razavian won after they played it out for the title.


AMERISTAR ST. CHARLES: The HPT returned Sept. 20-Oct. 2. The 12-day series attracted 3,400-plus participants, awarding nearly $1M in prize money.

Local Matt Paten defeated the HPT’s most successful player, Craig “the Legend” Casino, to win the $1,650 main event.

Heads-up play lasted just four hands. Casino doubled-up right away to take a small lead, then Paten shipped the river two hands later. Casino snap-called with a set of sixes and lost to Paten’s rivered straight, leaving him with two big blinds, and it was all over the next hand.
Two-time winner Casino holds all of the tour’s top records with 11 final tables and 28 cashes. He added another $69,882 to his tally with the second-place finish, bringing his total HPT lifetime earnings to $741,733.

This was Paten’s first HPT main-event final table and the $110,386 he received for besting the 338-player field was almost four times all of his previous cashes combined, bringing his career total to $141,724.

Defending champion Tom Morse of Chesterfield started the day with a commanding lead but finished third for $46,796. The other locals at the final table were Paul McGuire (fifth, $24,478), Brock McCoy (sixth, $19,198) and Derek Schroeder (ninth, $11,567). The opening event ($350 NLHE) drew 797 entries, generating a prize pool nearly $240K, more than double the $100K guarantee. Craig Welko of St. Louis took down Event 3 ($200 deepstack) for $8,469.

HPT returns to Ameristar St. Charles for the championship series Nov. 29-Dec. 12. That series will feature a $500 seniors championship and a $2,500 main event.


The popular Fall Classic Coushatta Casino and Resort recently concluded in Kinder, La., as Mitchell Bono chopped the $440 main event and was declared the winner, earning $11,501. Logan Hewitt was second ($11,500), followed by Robert Cote($10,500), James Schmidt ($9,855), Wayne Zabodyn($9K), Brenda Clayton($5,235), Thomas Weatherstone ($4,362), Victoria Gordon ($3,490), Steven Vasquez ($2,617) and Daniel Howard ($2,181).

Dean Ostera won Event 2 ($250 NLHE) for $5K, followed by Dallas Berry ($2,840), Handri Maksudi ($2,840), Dennis Spretz ($2,840), Frances Armstrong ($2,839), Richard Margolin ($2,839), Robert Cheesman ($1,600), Shawn Schoreck ($1,333), James Thomas ($1,067) and Alex Bergey ($800).

John Thomas won the $250 seniors event in a chop for $3,523. The Winter Classic returns Dec. 27-30 and all rules and details are posted in poker room.

GOLDEN NUGGET LAKE CHARLES: Gary Krainer won the $100K freeroll for $19K. Also, the bad-beat was $225K at press time.

L’AUBERGE CASINO BATON ROUGE: The $20K Fall Festival Freeroll has qualifying through Dec. 31. The top 60 players qualify.

BOOMTOWN CASINO NEW ORLEANS: The room has a new $65 Omaha/8 tournament on Mondays with registration opening at 5:30 p.m. and closing at 8:30. Also new are sit-and-go tourneys ($65-$125).

HARRAH’S CASINO NEW ORLEANS: The bad-beat jackpot was $150K at press time.

L’AUBERGE CASINO RESORT LAKE CHARLES: The bad-beat jackpot (quad fives) was $224K at press time.

HORSESHOE BOSSIER CITY: The room has a mini-bad-beat jackpot of $5K for aces full of 10s.

ISLE LAKE CHARLES: Ask about the $3K freeroll for players earning entry through cash-game hours.


IP BILOXI: The WSOPC visited and the first ring went to Trey Walton, who defeated a field of 85 in the $365 Pot-Limit Omaha re-entry to win $8,161. Other ring winners included Danny Griffith in the $365 turbo and Daniel Doucet for the $365 doublestack turbo. The main event and $118,332 went to none other than Kyle Cartwright of Bartlett, Tenn. This was his seventh ring to go along with his WSOP bracelet. Cartwright took the win after playing T.K. Miles heads-up. Of his opponent, Cartwright said, “He is the by far the best player I’ve ever faced heads-up.”

BEAU RIVAGE: The Gulf Coast Poker Championship saw the $250K guarantee Event 1 Monster Stack draw 1,251 entries for a with a $364,041 prize pool. Abraham Kaysay of Norcross, Ga., won the title and $51,746.

Other wins included Danny Williams of Fulton, Miss., (deepstack), Michael Harrison of Foley, Ala., (Omaha/8) and David Troutman of Tuscaloosa, Ala. (six-max).

Randy Gordon of Metairie, La., after a heads-up struggle with Matthew Silva of Lakewood Ranch, Fla., captured the main-event title and $68,706. There were 216 entrants for a $257,688 prize pool.

Meet Ileana Zamora

There are several female poker-room directors in this country, but most likely not one (or any man, for that matter) that has been in that same position at the same facility continuously for the past two decades. Ileana Zamora is proud of that accomplishment, but thrilled and surprised as well. March 2017 marked 20 years of her running the room at Magic City Casino in Miami.

How’s it feel? I’m amazed to be in the same place with the same job for 20 years, but why would I want to do anything else? I am so happy here right now that I couldn’t imagine leaving to go somewhere else.

Do some men treat you disrespectfully as a woman in a management position? I don’t really see that much. If someone wants to be nasty, they will be just as nasty to a man as a woman. I think being a woman in management is a good thing; women are compassionate and understanding and players like to have someone hear them out about concerns they have. There are no roadblocks for women in this industry. I think they are highly sought-after, but there are just not enough women right now pursuing these positions.

South Florida is such a competitive market, yet in May you did $820K-plus in revenue despite having just 19 tables and no tournaments. Explain that. No matter what happens around us, the key to success is having the best customer service. You have to listen to what your players want; you have to be on the floor all the time; that is the only way to know what is going on. — Dave Lemmon

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine