Bazeley rocks RNR Open in South Florida

December 28, 2015, Dave Lemmon, Jennifer Gay, Todd Lamansky, Danny Wade, Andrew Malowitz, Charles Allison  

Jacob Bazeley of Cincinnati won the Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open Main Event at Hollywood’s Seminole Hard Rock Casino by defeating a tough final table that featured a mix of big-name pros and grinders from around Florida.

David Prociak of Winter Park staged an epic 68-hand heads-up fight, which included several lead changes down the stretch, before succumbing to Bazeley, who increased his career live earnings to more than $3M.

Popular pro Jessica Dawley was the first eliminated on Day 5, followed by former world No. 1 “Mad Marvin” Rettenmaier, while Joshua Gibson of Ft. Myers and Martin Carnero of Davie took third and fourth.

Seven of the top 11 players on Florida’s all-time money list played, but most failed to cash: Jason Mercier, Noah Schwartz, Matt Waxman, John Racener, Harrison Gimbel and Vanessa Rousso.
Only Mercier (29th) and Gimbel (23rd) took home a payday.

Rousso, fresh off her third-place finish in the CBS reality program Big Brother, also competed before the Poker Night in America cameras in SHR’s second high-stakes cash game for women only, along with Danielle Anderson, Abbey Daniels and Samantha Abernathy, among others. Rousso was the big winner among the women, profiting more than $19K from her $5K buy-in. In the two days of open cash action, which will be televised on the show this year, Dan Shak and Mike Sigel were the most successful, each taking home a profit of $21,250.

A large field of 766 helped the event easily surpass its $2 million guarantee, with Bazeley collecting $568K for the win and Prociak cashing for almost $331K. The next big series at the Hard Rock will be the Lucky Hearts Poker Open (Jan. 7-20) with the main event featuring just one opening session on Jan. 17 at 2 p.m.

NO ISLE CLASSIC: After hosting the Isle Classic for six consecutive years to open the yearly tournament calendar in January, the Isle Casino & Racing in Pompano Beach has decided not to hold that series this year. Instead, it will concentrate on cash games during the busy tourist season in South Florida.

The inaugural main event, with its $900 buy-in, was won in 2010 by South Florida local Steve Karp, and in subsequent years as the buy-ins grew to $2,500 in 2012 and 2013, the championship became a showcase for the area’s top pros. Waxman and Chris Bolek were among the other champions, while last year’s main event went to Albert Destrade, whose previous claim to fame was a third-place finish on reality TV show Survivor.

Besides the vigorous competition in the South Florida poker market, it’s apparent that this tournament became a casualty of the Broward casino’s extreme popularity.

“January is one of our most cluttered months in terms of promotions and we’ve made the decision to concentrate on the regular action that our players desire,” Isle GM Rob Wyre said. “To have both tournaments and numerous cash tables at such a busy time, something has to suffer.”

Wyre said a number of poker-playing tourists come to the facility regularly from the Northeast each winter after being acquainted with Stan Strickland, who arrived at the Isle in 2013 after seven years at the helm in Atlantic City at the Borgata. “Stan is an outstanding poker director and a lot of players have followed him down from up north,” Wyre said.

The next major series at the Isle will be the Battles at the Beach (Feb. 29-March 21).

North Florida

BESTBET JAX: The bestbet Bounty Scramble ended with a historic moment as Tyler Patterson became the first player marked as a bounty to make a final table, and he followed through by winning the $5K main event for $375K in early November.

The event drew 412 players for a $1.9M prize pool. The four-day event saw many celebrity bounties fall, including John Racener, Anthony Zinno and former bestbet WPT winner Doc “Nabil” Hirezi. WSOPC champ Loni Hardwood went out ninth ($35K), which secured Patterson as the sole-surviving bounty and a bonus prize of a $200 bottle of champagne.

George Wolfe, the winner of the inaugural WPT DeepStacks in early 2015, also made a deep run in the event, finishing just shy of the televised final table in seventh ($60K), just four spots ahead of close friend Andre Pillow, who was 10th.

Marvin Karlins went to the final table with the lead, but the retiree’s unorthodox style couldn’t hold up against a final table featuring heavy hitters such as Patterson, Benjamin Zamani and Stan Jablonski, who came into his third WPT final table of the season needing at least a fourth-place finish to take the lead in the WPT Player of the Year standings. Jablonski went out third ($162K) to secure his position atop the leader board.

Going into heads-up play, Patterson held a nearly 3-1 lead over Zamani and it took less than a level for Patterson to take down the title and his own $2.5K bounty, the first player in WPT history to achieve the feat.

DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB: The Daytona 500 is right around the corner, which means DBKC is revving up for its next iteration of the ever-growing Great American Poker Tournament series. Dubbed the Champion Tournament, this $50K guarantee comes with a $330 buy-in and runs Feb. 14, the same day as qualifying and just a week before the big race. There are $85 satellites running until the week of the main event. For more info, call the poker room.

In other news, the selection of new games has expanded to include Three Card Poker, One Card Poker, Two Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: The Panhandle property made history in December by opening the first Fortune Pai Gow table in a Florida poker room.

Central Florida

TAMPA GREYHOUND: The poker market in the Tampa Bay area has five poker rooms, and with such major players as the Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs, Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and One-Eyed Jacks in Sarasota, it’s easy for Tampa Greyhound Track to slip in between the cracks. Formerly Lucky’s Card Room, it was known as “that room with PLO.” But now it hopes to change all of that.

Over the past few months, the poker room has updated with a different website (tgtpoker.com), high-speed WiFi, a new menu, table layouts, games, TVs, carpet, promotions and tournaments.There’s a new high-hand promotion and affordable buy-in tournaments with little to no rake. New games such as Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em offer a change of pace and there’s still PLO and consistent $1-$2 and $1-$3 games.

The room is looking to bring people back with its convenient location right off Interstate-275 between Bird Street and Busch Boulevard.

The Monthly Challenge has a $125 buy-in, a $5K guarantee and is the last Sunday of the month. With a 25K stack and 25-minute blinds, this tournament is one of the best values in the area. The room also will participate in the Ante Up-Blue Shark Optics Restock the Shelves event Jan. 18. This event offers you a chance to play a great tournament while helping locals in need.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The PPC returns to the Silks Poker Room on Jan. 1-10 with more than $100K in guarantees, including an opening $235 event that has a $30K guarantee.

Mississippi

BEAU RIVAGE: The year starts out strong with the Million Dollar Heater. Beginning Jan. 7 and running through Jan. 20, this event is consistently one of the best of the year for Mississippi poker. The first weekend of the MDH notoriously breaks records. Early registration is strongly encouraged as the alternate lists can get quite long.

Event 1 (Jan. 8-10) packs a powerful $500K guarantee for just a $345 buy-in. If the main event (Jan. 16-20) is more your speed, it also features a $500K guarantee with a $3,200 buy-in. Daily mega-satellites ($150 with $100 re-entries) run every day from Jan. 7-16 with one main-event seat guaranteed each time. These megas, especially midweek, are historically a great value with small fields. Nightly $100 tournaments (Jan. 10-15) feature a running event leaderboard that offers another opportunity to win a seat into the main.

The tournament crew and poker room staff are second to none in terms of hospitality. It’s strongly suggested that you book your rooms immediately to get the poker rate. They will sell out. Visit beaupoker.com for more information.

HORSESHOE TUNICA: Right after you bag the championship at the Beau, the northern end of the state kicks off the biggest Tunica series for the year. The World Series of Poker Circuit stop at Horseshoe begins Jan. 21 and runs through Feb. 1.

A few fun tournaments on the list for this event include the non-ring $250 deepstack $10K guarantee on Jan 25 at 4 p.m. Southern players love a good guarantee and this one will pack the house. On Jan. 28, the 11 a.m. ring event ($580 buy-in) features a $50K guarantee. This is a two-day event.

One thing that sets Tunica apart from the others is the exceptional live action that takes place every night at the Shoe. It will be, without a doubt, around-the-clock action and single-table satellites. Sort of a destination for PLO players and action junkies, you’ll find everything from the usual $1-$2 games to high-limit mixed games when events are in town. Tunica has an abundance of great hotel options, but there’s nothing quite like being able to walk to the event. The rooms onsite tend to sell out quickly. Visit wsop.com for venue information and phone numbers.

North Carolina

HARRAH'S CHEROKEE: In April 2013, Daniel Weinman found himself heads-up for the WSOPC main-event title at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. He was denied by North Carolina native John Bowman and settled for being runner-up. Fast-forward 18 months and Weinman has found his redemption in the same building. The pro from Atlanta claimed the gold ring that eluded him the last time around, winning $280,260 and an entry into the Global Casino Championship.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Weinman said after his win. “I was in the same spot two years ago the first time they held this event here. I had the chip lead for a long time at that final table and couldn’t really close it out.”

As was the case the last time, Weinman was chipleader and the most experienced player at the final table, and he was in and out of the top spot on the leaderboard all day long. He was responsible for the first two eliminations, first with pocket aces against Hamid Izadi’s pocket nines, then A-10 against Virgil Beddingfield’s A-5.

From there, Weinman cruised into three-handed play and he was only at risk for his tournament life once. At that point, Kelly Joe Andrews was in control of more than half the chips in play, but over the course of two orbits, Weinman took his whole stack. First, Weinman three-bet shoved with pocket threes against Andrews’ K-J, fading his opponent’s straight and flush draws to double-up and turn the tide. One orbit later, he found the same pocket threes against Andrews’ A-Q, and once again, Weinman’s small pair won.

That knockout gave Weinman a big lead entering heads-up play against Edward LeBlanc, and the duel lasted just a few short hands.

“I was actually really nervous,” Weinman said. “I haven’t been deep in a big tournament in a long time and I played 40 tournaments at the series this summer. … Something about the final day of the tournament, the pressure is real. I didn’t sleep well; I couldn’t eat this morning and I still haven’t eaten all day. This is fun; I forgot how fun it is making a final table.”

The $1,675 event attracted a field of 1,010, a record for this venue and an increase of more than 25 percent over last season’s turnout. The total prize pool came to $1,5M and the top 108 players were paid.

Louisiana

COUSHATTA CASINO: The latest installment of Winter Classic ran Dec. 9-13, beginning with the popular $325 seniors tournament, which drew 164 players and paid 20 spots.

The tournament ended in a seven-way chop for almost $5K apiece.

The equally popular $300 mega-satellite saw 30 players out of the starting field of 169 earn $1,500 in tournament-entry chips to be used for the final two events.

Event 3, the $500 tourney, drew 165 entries and ended in a three-way chop. Chipleader Jason Daly earned $14,500 for the win as second and third went to Troy Carpenter and Jose Cavazos, who picked up $10,420 each.

The Winter Classic concluded with the $1K main event, which attracted 88 players, including James Browne, who won the title and $21,435.

Many notable Southwest Louisiana grinders made their way to the final table and a nice payday, including Charles Clubb (ninth, $3,175), James “JT” Thomas (eighth, $3,572), Corey Theriot (fifth, $6,351), Jacob Seale (fourth, $7,938), Danny Doucet (third, $11,114) and runner-up Huey Hulin ($14,289).

“Overall, we’re pleased with the turnout for the week,” tournament director Eugene “Danny” Wade said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our quarterly series and that included a makeover of our main-event structure. It was well-received by the players and is more consistent with other $1K events out on the circuit. This was a very strong main-event final table and Mr. Browne played extremely well and is a deserving champion.”

Missouri

HOLLYWOOD CASINO ST. LOUIS: The poker room will be giving away four $2,500 seats to the HPO Championship at the M Resort in Las Vegas on June 23-25. The seats will be awarded during the HPO Poker Party on Jan. 10.

Drawings will be every 30 minutes from 1-7 p.m. with the four seats being given away at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7.

Cash prizes will be awarded during the other time slots. Entries into the drawing are earned by playing cash games in the poker room until Jan. 3, so you still have a few days left to get in on the action.

HARRAH’S NORTH KANSAS CITY: The Happy New Year Tournament runs Jan. 2 at 10 a.m. Players will receive 20K chips and 30-minute blinds for their $240 buy-in.
Re-entries and late registrants can enter until the end of the first break. The tournament is capped at 100 players and registration is open so what are you waiting for?

Meet Ryan Tepen

It’s a rare occasion when Ryan Tepen, a 31-year-old college football fanatic, is not sporting the apparel of his alma mater, the University of Missouri, at the poker table.

Born and raised in Bowling Green, Mo., the Team Run Good pro has been grinding the tournament circuit since 2011, amassing almost $750K in that time. He came into the final table of the Heartland Poker Tour St. Charles main event as an overwhelming chipleader, but ultimately finished fourth.

How did you get your start in poker? I started playing free bar poker in college. I thought I was good and was quickly humbled when Dutch Boyd, his brother Bobby and a couple of others from “the Crew” showed up one night for a breast cancer awareness event in our free bar league. However, I made friends with them and my game started getting better as I sweated them playing online in 2005.

How many months of the year do you spend on the road? I’d say I travel and play nine months out of the year, which is insane but can be a lot of fun at times. I’ve met a lot of amazing people along the way and I have been able to travel to a lot of cool places that most people my age do not get an opportunity to do.

What is your favorite game? Probably badeucey, but no-limit deuce-to-seven is right up there. — Todd Lamansky