Balzano wins Isle Poker Open in South Florida

November 30, 2017, Dave Lemmon, Sara Malowitz, Crash Martin, Todd Lamansky, Ron Hope, Jennifer Gay  

Three players who made last year’s Isle Open final table returned to Pompano Beach again in late October to try to capture the title.

But it was local grinder Paul Balzano of Sunrise who flipped the 2016 results as he took home the trophy and $112K after being knocked out in ninth place last year.

Defending champ Edward Novak was the first player eliminated from the final table when his flopped trips lost to William Valladares of Costa Rica, who picked up a full house on the turn. Valladares, who finished third, also eliminated the white-hot Sam Panzica in ninth place. Panzica entered the event after arriving from bestbet Jacksonville, where he finished runner-up in the World Poker Tour main event a year after winning the title there.

Panzica, who finished fourth in this event last year, also won the WPT event at Bay 101 in March and final-tabled the High Roller at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in August.

But it was Balzano who had the last laugh at the Isle after defeating Michael Aron of West Palm Beach in heads-up play to bring home his biggest career victory since winning the main event of the 2014 Wynn Summer Classic in Las Vegas. The Bronx native has been on a roll with three final tables at the Hard Rock, including a six-handed event in the WSOPC in September, the $2,650 event in the Big 4 at SHRPO and the main event of the Lucky Hearts Open in February.

Other South Florida stars who picked up trophies at the Isle Open series included Alex Turyansky and Maurice Hawkins.

HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD: The Seminole property unveiled plans for a new 450-foot tall guitar-shaped hotel, which should be completed by summer 2019 and will feature an 18,000-square-foot poker room.

Next up is the Fun in the Sun Poker Open, a five-day series between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The $560 main event is Dec. 30 and features a $50K guarantee. Two of the earlier events will give players a chance to win a seat in the $1,100 WPT DeepStacks event $130. The $350 Black Chip Bounty tournament offers a spot in the $3,500 Seminole Hard Rock Showdown’s main event in April.

MARDI GRAS CASINO: Plans to re-open the casino and its Big Easy Poker Room after extensive damage from Hurricane Irma have been pushed back indefinitely.

PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB: William Wynant got $31K from the bad-beat jackpot when his quad 10s lost to the straight flush of Rocco Laso of Boynton Beach. Laso collected $15,534 while the other seven players at the table each took home $2,219.

North Florida

Paul Petraglia of Jacksonville won the main event of the latest bestbet Jacksonville World Poker Tour stop, which ran for three weeks, featured 24 events and culminated Oct. 25. Petra-glia earned a whop.ping $300K-plus by beating 322 players, who created $1.5M prize pool.

He also had a top-five finish in Event 12 ($240 NLHE). Other notables include Kam Razavian, a recent deepstack winner at bestbet Orange Park, winning the $200 Event 5, Ben Scrogins, winner of the Heart.land Poker Tour at Daytona Beach in October, cashing in Event 17, Olivier Busquet winning Event 18 ($25K high roller) and WSOP bracelet-winner Daniel Heimiller capturing Event 22 ($570 heads-up).

CREEK GRETNA: The Oct. 21 $10K guarantee, which cost $270, ended in a three-way chop as Renea Kever, Brynn King and Mary Darnell each won $2,668 in outlasting a field of 58. Call the poker room for more details.

The next $10K event will be Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. Satellite tournaments are each Sunday, Thursday and Saturday for this monthly event. Other tournaments are played each Friday and some Wednesdays. Cash games offer high-hand bonuses and Dec. 9 boasts a $200 high-hand promo 1-11 p.m. Creek Gretna also spreads Omaha games regularly.

ORANGE CITY RACING AND CARD CLUB: The poker room will soon announce its tournament schedule.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: Stephen House won the Oct. 29 $20K guarantee, earning $4K. The $180 buy-in event drew 144 and paid the top 15 spots.

This month’s $20K begins after Christmas with Day 1A, 1B and 1C on Dec. 28, 29 and 30, respectively. New Year’s Eve will be the final day of this event. Satellites are available all month.
An Omaha/8 tournament will be Dec. 9. Call the poker room for more details.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: The Emerald Coast Poker Championship ended Oct. 29 with Allen Franklin of Birmingham, Ala., winning the main-event bracelet after a three-way chop. The prize pool reached an Ebro record $83,750 and paid 35 spots, including about $42K split among the top three. James Starling and Illia Shtondenko, both of Panama City, were part of the chop and Shtondenko earned the points-championship trophy.

Bracelets were awarded in seven events as 937 entrants, including a record 335 in the main event, participated in the property’s signature series. The main event’s final table streamed live on the Ebro website.

“We’ve received a ton of positive response to the live table feed and will continue to make it a part of our program in future tournaments,” Ebro poker room manager Keith Moore said.

December’s calendar finds high-hand bonuses daily, the regular slate of weekly tournaments and a $5K guarantee for $110 on Dec. 15.

DAYTONA BEACH RACING AND CARD CLUB: The Heartland Poker Tour wrapped Oct. 30 with Ben Scrogins of Neptune Beach, Fla., winning the title and $94,515. The main event drew 282 players for a $414K prize pool.

Central Florida

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The Silks Poker Room’s Halloween tournament ran Oct. 19-22 and had a $50K guarantee as Jeff Kimball won the title and $9,638. Two others, Tonia Williams ($8,991) and Daniel Ramirez ($8,199) were involved in the three-way chop.

DERBY LANE: The popular Accumulator event, which had a $50K guarantee, drew 526 players. In the end, nine players chopped for $4,515 each. They were Michael Nadu, Adam Smith, Quan Phui, Timothy Brenner, Chad Bell, Brian Torok, August Crotty, Ray Lambert and Carol Hambley.

SARASOTA KENNEL CLUB: The One-Eyed Jacks Poker Room hosts the Fall Classic Dec. 1-3. There will be Day 1s on Dec. 1-2 with Day 2 being Dec. 3. It’s a $440 buy-in with 25K starting stacks. Also, to get in, you can do it for as little as $60.

One other note: The room is opening at 7 a.m. on Fridays and is open until 2 a.m. Monday.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: The Seminole property hosts the Winter Poker Open (Dec. 7-18) with $1M guaranteed.

While the structures weren’t announced by press time, the series will boast a $570 opening event with a $300K guarantee, a $350 event with a $100K guarantee mid-week, a $20K guarantee PLO event and then a $1,650 main event that guarantees $500K, starting Dec. 14 with multiple flights. The final table will be Dec. 18. Satellites begin Dec. 13 for the main for as little as $200. Also, use code WINT17 for $109 room rates at two nearby hotels.

NAPLES-FT. MYERS POKER & RACING: The Holiday Poker Series runs Dec. 11-17 and features $100K in guarantees, including $75K for the $350 main event (Dec. 15-17). The main has four starting flights, 25K chips and 30-minute blinds.

There will be $35 satellites to the main every day during the series at noon, followed by undercard events at 6 p.m.

SEMINOLE IMMOKALEE: There’s some sad news to report as this poker room, which had done some great things for poker over the past decade, is closing. The room, run by longtime poker industry leader Rick O’Connell, hadn’t set a specific date as of press time, but O’Connell said it could be closed by the time you read this. If you were planning to visit this poker room, be sure to call first to see if it’s still open.

Missouri

FINE PERFORMANCES: St. Charles’ Matt Paten, who won the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event at Ameristar St. Charles in the beginning of October, was only three places shy of making consecutive HPT final tables.

He finished 12th in the $1,650 main event at Ameristar Kansas City for $7,726, just two weeks after the St. Charles event, bringing his career cashes to just shy of $150K. Deep runs by other St. Louis locals included Neil Patel (19th, $4,137) and Greg Radosh (26th, $4,160).

Patel also final-tabled Event 8 ($1,125 NLHE) at the ensuing World Series of Poker Circuit in Hammond, Ind., where he finished sixth for $7,252, a day after cashing 18th in Event 7 ($580 six-max). Hammond is consistently one of the biggest WSOPC stops, having set several records throughout the years.

This year’s main event drew 1,247 entries, generating a prize pool of $1.87M. Paul Fehlig finished 39th and John Nguyen, from neighboring Fairfield Heights, Ill., went out 44th. Nguyen also cashed in Events 4 ($365 NLHE) and 5 ($365 Monster Stack). Both players received $6,191 from the main. Andros Loakimides made it all the way to the final two tables before busting 17th for $17,751, the second largest cash of his career, bringing his lifetime tournament earnings to $92,262.

Mississippi

PEARL RIVER RESORT: The poker room in Choctaw, Miss., has an awesome event Dec. 7-10 with a hefty $25K guarantee, making it a great opportunity to earn extra holiday money.

Starting Dec. 7, $65 single-table satellites run 10 a.m..10 p.m. as two winners from each table receive $250 in chips to be used toward future buy-ins. At noon and 8 p.m., there will be $50 turbo super satellites with $20 rebuys. Each tournament will guarantee five seats. At 4 p.m., don’t miss the $125 seniors event with a $3K guarantee.

Dec. 8 is another day of single-table satellites and turbo su.per satellites. The real fun starts at 7 p.m. with Day 1A of the $225 buy-in $25K guarantee. For those who need a second or third shot, Dec. 9 offers all of the satellites you could want along with two more $225 flights (11 a.m. and 6 p.m.). Those who make Day 2 will restart Dec. 10. Even if you don’t go the distance, be sure to hang around and enjoy the cash action.

On Dec. 10, the poker room will do drawings throughout the day for cash and future seats. Rooms are booking quickly so make your reservation. Visit pearlriverresort.com for more in.formation. And don’t forget, next month will be a recap of the highly successful Ante Up Poker Tour Pearl River Poker Open.

BEAU RIVAGE: The Million Dollar Heater runs Jan. 4-15. This is the best winter series in the state and is guaranteed to draw huge crowds. More information, as it becomes available, can be found at beaurivage.com. Rooms for this event book early and fill up fast, so if you’re planning a visit go ahead and make your reservation through the poker room by calling 228-386-7092.

Louisiana

COUSHATTA CASINO: The mini-bad-beat-jackpot (aces full of kings) pays $2K. Other promos include getting paid for quads, Aces Cracked, Kings Cracked, Sets Cracked, Spin to Win and straight flushes. All rules and details are posted in poker room.

GOLDEN NUGGET LAKE CHARLES: Promotions include football squares for the Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games. Each quarter is worth $250 and the final score pays $500.

L’AUBERGE CASINO BATON ROUGE: Qualifying for the $20K Fall Festival Freeroll continues until Dec. 31, when the top 60 hour.ly players will qualify for entry into the tournament.

BOOMTOWN CASINO NEW ORLEANS: The room has a new $65 Omaha/8 event Mondays. Registration opens at 5:30 p.m. and closes at 8:30. The bad-beat jackpot was $160K at press time.

HARRAH’S NEW ORLEANS: Promos this month include Aces Cracked ($100), Big Slick, and something new called the Power Hand in hold’em. Two random cards are drawn every hour midnight-4 a.m. Win with those cards during that hour and get $200 suited and $100 offsuit. Also, the bad-beat jackpot was $134K at press time.

L’AUBERGE CASINO RESORT LAKE CHARLES: A $25K freeroll is Dec. 17 at 11:30 a.m. for those who were one of the top 48 play.ers by hours played Oct. 29-Nov. 30. Football squares for the Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games continue. Each quarter is worth $250 and the final score pays $500. Also, the bad-beat jackpot (quad fives) was $225K at press time.

North Carolina

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE: The WSOPC runs until Dec. 4, including two starting flights for the $1,675 main event Dec. 1-2.

Bobby Harrington: 1971-2017

The poker world lost a mainstay recently when New Orleans native Bobby Harrington died. He started his career in the poker business in January 2006 when he graduated from Crescent City Gaming and started working in the poker room at the Silver Slipper Casino, where he met his wife, Jessica. Harrington stayed there until 2013, when the casino closed the poker room.

After that, he dealt for a few poker circuits until settling down as a dealer for the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., in 2016. This afforded Harrington the chance to be close to his family and work at a premier.

He was a consummate family man and had only just married Jessica, the love of his life, two months before his death. When he wasn’t dealing or spending time with family, Harrington was playing in a tournament somewhere or shooting pool with friends. He will be missed. — Ron Hope