Bestbet Jacksonville poker room hosting $1M WPT

August 23, 2016, Christopher Cosenza, Dave Lemmon, Jennifer Gay, Todd Lamansky, Sara Malowitz  

The World Poker Tour returns to bestbet Jacksonville on Sept. 30-Oct. 18. The televised $5K main event has a $1M guarantee and two flights Oct. 14-15 at noon. The series has 20-plus events, including bounty, PLO and Big O/8. More info, including the schedule, is in the ad in the September issue.

The room’s recent $100K guarantee saw Jermaine Gerlin of Jacksonville win the $350 buy-in event and $25,907. The tourney drew 418 players for a $125K prize pool. Conrad Lau of Neptune Beach was second ($20K) and David Trager of Jacksonville was third ($10,404). Also, the 1010XL $110 bounty event drew 117 players for a $10K prize pool as Derek Wilitson of Atlantic Beach took the title and $3K.

DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB: The Heartland Poker Tour returns Sept. 15-26, opening with a $250 Monster Stack on Sept. 15 and highlighted by the $1,650 main event, which has three Day 1s (Sept. 22-24). See the ad on Page 53 for more details, including the qualifier schedule.

CREEK GRETNA ENTERTAINMENT: There are a couple of special tourneys running this month. Don’t miss the $10K guarantee, which has a $270 buy-in and runs Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. The other event is a $5K guarantee with a $120 buy-in on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. There are $60 satellites on select Saturdays at 1 p.m. and on all Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 1.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: Every Wednesday night at 7 is a $2,500 guarantee, plus $2K guarantees for $60 are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7. Two $10K guarantees highlight the schedule this month on Sept. 10 and 24 for $270. Satellites to these $10K events run Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 1. See the ad on Page 61 of the September issue for more info.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: Here’s a look at some of the daily tournament offerings in the Panhandle room: Fat Stack Tuesday with six levels of re-entry ($30 with $10 add-on, 6.30 p.m.); Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights with four levels of re-entry ($110, 6.30); Sunday deepstack ($200, 2 p.m.). For a full schedule, call 850-535-4048, ext. 180. And ask about the Big Easy Bad Beat Jackpot and the Omaha Bad Beat Jackpot.

BESTBET ORANGE PARK: In tournament news, the recent $30K guarantee drew 320 players for a $52K prize pool. Louis Washington of Jacksonville won the top prize of $10,500, followed by fellow Jacksonville players Huston Van Doren ($6K) and Jeff Olive ($4,488). Also, the poker room launched one-, two- and three-card poker, Pai Gow and Ultimate Texas Hold’em on July 29.

South Florida

The Isle Casino’s poker room in Pompano Beach, Fla., has hosted some of the most attractive tournaments in the Southeast since Florida began allowing high-stakes events in 2010. While its biggest event of the year, the Florida State Poker Championship, has seen decreasing buy-ins over the past several years, the main event still attracts most of the area’s stars with the first major event after the World Series.

For the second straight year, just $1,500 got you a seat at the tables to face off with South Florida’s best players, a fraction of the $5,300 buy-in the tourney demanded in 2011-12. Still, a $500K guarantee is nothing to sneeze at and as the event rolled into Day 2, 124 players remained from the field of 431, including former World Poker Tour POY Mukul Pahuja and a large group of established champions such as Matt Waxman, Loni Harwood, David Diaz and the 2015 winner of this event, Joey Couden. While all five of those players would cash, most of them were of the min-cash variety except for Diaz, who took home $4,655 for 17th. November Niner Jerry Wong, who will head back to the Rio for the WSOP main event’s final table on Oct. 30 eighth in the chips, made the final nine here as well, taking home, coincidentally, eighth place.

In the end, it was a struggle for several hours among the final four players before Chad Eveslage was eliminated and the remaining trio began talking a chop in earnest. When the discussion ended, it was Sam Panzica, who had finished eighth in this tournament a year ago, who was awarded the trophy and adjusted earnings of $117K. Boynton Beach resident Isaiah Goldman collected $97K for second and Miami’s Victor Figueroa took home $87K for third.

Goldman was the intriguing character among this final group, mainly because his career tournament earnings totaled less than $1,500 from just two cashes, a fact made understandable when Goldman revealed he rarely plays tournaments. He considers himself a cash-game player and is a regular at a big-stakes game locally at Gulfstream Park. So when asked why he entered this event, Goldman said, jokingly, “My good friend Roman (Soybelman) finished in the top 80 at the WSOP main event and he’s a terrible tournament player, as am I, so he inspired me to actually take a shot at a tournament. … I think it’s tough to stay focused in tournaments and we both get a little impatient, but with this success maybe I’ll give it a whirl again.”

For Panzica, who refused an interview request after receiving his trophy, the payday was his best on American soil, trailing only a victory in Dublin this year at an EPT event where he cashed for 375K euros. He is ranked No. 85 in the world on the Global Poker Index.

SEMINOLES EVENTS: While the Seminole Tribe continues to receive acclaim from the poker world for its successful events at the flagship facility in Hollywood, the group will shift some national focus to events in two smaller locations in September.

The Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee will host a WPT DeepStacks series for the second straight year in its new poker room, which opened shortly before last year’s event. This year’s schedule will be played Sept. 2-11 with six major tourneys, including a $1,100 buy-in main event with two opening sessions at noon on Sept. 9-10. The prize pool guarantee for the main has been doubled from last year to an impressive $200K, and including satellites and several $125 turbos, there will be 24 events. The casino is about 100 miles west of Ft. Lauderdale and about 30 miles northeast of Naples, near State Road 29 north of Alligator Alley.

The Coco Poker Open will begin a 15-event run at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek on Sept. 21 with a $240 Omaha/8 event featuring a $10K guarantee and will conclude on Oct. 2.

This series will have a $2,500 buy-in, $1M guaranteed championship event (Event 3) from Sept. 23-26, which will offer a $1M guarantee and 25K chips. Later in the series, a $250K guarantee will have six opening sessions from Sept. 29-Oct. 1 for $350, which will get you 16K chips.

Central Florida

The dream of every poker player is winning the WSOP main event: single entry, gigantic field and one bracelet everyone would love to boast but less than 50 have ever claimed. Steve Trizis, owner of the Country Skillet in Clearwater and co-manager of the Derby Lane Poker League, won his main-event seat and went to fulfill that dream. The ride would last four days but come to an abrupt end 391 places from that goal. His 392nd-place finish earned $28K, his biggest tournament cash, and weeks removed from his ninth-place finish in the WPT Tampa Hard Rock DeepStacks series. It has been an incredible couple of months for Trizis.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The PPC North American Championship recently finished at the Silks Poker Room. Alex Ivan won the first event for $12,700 and the $5K Aruba package. Mike Beattie, who won $38K in a recent Rio deepstacks event in Las Vegas, was second for $7,850 and an Aruba package. Third place went to Danny Lobato.

The $600 main event, which had a $100K guarantee, drew 241 runners and paid six Aruba packages to the PPC championship. Armando Figueroa took the trophy, $16K in a four-way deal. Freddie Kirkland took second ($13K), Brett Streicher was third ($12,750) and Mark Simmons won $9,826. All four players earned Aruba packages.

The Fall Classic runs Sept. 14-18. See the ad on Page 31 of the September issue.

NAPLES-FT. MYERS GREYHOUND TRACK: Continuing its Florida run, the PPC went down the coast for its $300 event ($50K guarantee), which saw Jim Plate take the championship in a three-way deal for $9,850 plus an Aruba package. Larry Lipman and Michael Smith each earned $9,100 and an Aruba package.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: A $150K guarantee for a $150 seems like a ton of money. But when 1,826 players come out for an event, $200K seems like child’s play. And for Federico Camara and his $39K win, he was pleased to see the masses enter the tourney. Runner-up Jeffrey Thompson took home $25K and Robert Irby was third ($16K). The total prize pool was $219K and other cashers of note included June’s WPT DeepStacks Tampa Player of the Series Karl Manouchakian (eighth, $5,368), Antuan Bunkley (31st, $811), Herbert Woodbery (60th, $504) and Tom Nguyen (91st, $340). The room’s Little Slick series is 12-18.

DERBY LANE: Another mainstay event in the Tampa Bay area, the $150 Accumulator had a $100K guarantee. The prize pool ballooned past $150K and the 130 returning players fought for a nice $29K payday.

However, after playing all of Sunday, three players chopped the remaining money for nearly $20K each. Mike “Gascard” Collins and Quan Phui were among the choppers.

SEMINOLE IMMOKALEE: The WPT DeepStacks runs Sept. 2-11, including a $200K guarantee for the main event. The series will have 24 events.

Missouri

AMERISTAR ST. CHARLES: Some of the best tournaments in St. Louis are happening here every weekend. The action kicks off every Friday at 6 p.m. with the $100 bounty event ($25 bounties, $20K stacks, 30-minute levels), continuing on Saturday at 4 p.m. with the $110 Grand Maker, where a cash is good for $1K.

Then make a weekend of it by heading back on Sunday at noon for the $150 Mystery Bounty tournament featuring a $250 overlay, $20K starting stacks and 30-minute levels. One player is randomly selected at the beginning of the tournament and whoever eliminates that player collects $150 (compared to $50 for everyone else) and the mystery bounty receives a free buy-in to the next week’s tournament. The daily $60 tournaments, Monday-Thursday at noon and 6, are a great value with 10K starting stacks, 20-minute blinds and 95 percent of the buy-in going to the prize pool.

Mississippi

The fall is nearly here and it’s time for poker season in Mississippi. In Biloxi, two of the state’s best events of the year are running simultaneously.

At the IP, the World Series of Poker Circuit returns after a year off, hoping to draw crowds and competition from the Gulf Coast Poker Championship just over the bridge at the Beau Rivage. The IP’s lineup features 12 events in 11 days. This event follows the standard WSOPC model. Historically, events at the IP have had smaller turnouts, frequently with difficulty meeting guarantees for big tournaments. This gives you a huge advantage in the points race to the national championship and an edge when competing for circuit jewelry. If you want to try your hand in professional tournaments but don’t necessarily feel like wading through a thousand other entrants, this will be your series. The circuit stop is Sept. 8-19.

If big crowds and huge guarantees are more your speed, the Beau Rivage will give you your fill during the GCPC. You’ll be competing for large prize pools against familiar faces.This tournament series is the first under newpoker room manager Henry Garrison and tournament director Paul Dutsch. The GCPC also runs Sept. 8-19. The structure includes some variety along with huge guarantees and regular nightly events. Opening weekend features a $200K guarantee Monster Stack. For structures and information, check out beaupoker.com.

Where else can you find two world-class tournament series within three miles of each other, all on the same dates? Add in the bonus of being on the beautiful Gulf Coast in the fall and you have a fantastic chance at a vacation. Both properties are offering special room rates for players but are expected to sell out so book now.

Louisiana

COUSHATTA CASINO: The $550 Summer Blowout ended July 24 after attracting 174 players for an $84K prize pool. The event ended in a 15-way chop as Francis Krumrey and Dane Morris each earned $7K. William Dehart, Mitchell Lindley, Randall Alleman, Captain Ronnie Hope, Kinney Fitzgerald, Donald Ripley, Lindsey Lee, Robert Hermiz, Thomas Fleure, Michael Choyke, John Martin, James Appling, Clayton McGough, Gregory Mihaly, Paul Medica, Darrell Rowland, Mitchell Maples and Alvin Grospiroh each took home $4,995.

ELDORADO RESORT CASINO: Qualifying for November’s $80K freeroll is running until Oct. 17. Each Thursday-Sunday in September, players will earn 2X points for rated play on all cash games and tournaments. On Sept. 29-30, players will earn 3X points for the same rated play. More opportunities to qualify will be Oct 5-8 and Oct. 12-17.

The final tournament and qualifying flights will be Nov. 4-6. The top 100 players will qualify for the freeroll. For more details, call the poker room.

Meet Jessie Vizcaino

A 31-year-old amateur originally from Jacksonville, Jesse Vizcaino started playing around eight years ago in Las Vegas.

What’s your favorite thing about poker? I love the feeling I get from attempting to read someone and then nailing their hand. When you can get into an opponent’s mind, figure out the way he plays and dissect his brain, then roll the hands over and see exactly what you put him on. That’s just a good feeling. It really helps with the competitive edge and gives an extra boost of confidence to bring my game to the next level.

What’s your best experience in poker? There’s not one particular moment that springs to mind, but I think one of the best experiences for me as a tournament player is going extra deep in a huge field. There’s this moment on Day 2 or Day 3 where you’re sitting there looking up at the clock, take a deep breath and see 12 players left out of 800 or so, when you realize you’re one of them, that’s a relief.

And what about life outside of poker? I just got married and that’s amazing. I do triathlons, which are just as much about mental toughness as well as physical. There’s so much endurance involved and to bring it back to poker, I think it’s a lot like those long runs. Whether it’s taking a bad beat and seeing this stack you’ve worked on get broken in half or you’re on those last few miles and your body wants to stop and you’re feet are blistered and bleeding, just breath, collect yourself and keep moving. Your mind will get you there, even if your body can’t. — Charles Allison