Bestbet Jax series runs Jan. 19-29

December 28, 2016, Christopher Cosenza, Jennifer Gay, Todd Lamansky, Sara Malowitz, Dave Lemmon  

The bestbet poker room in Jacksonville hosts the Mid-States Poker Tour from Jan. 19-29, including the $1,100 buy-in, $200K guarantee main event, which has Days 1A and 1B at noon on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 respectively. Players begin with 20K chips. Satellites to the main run all month, beginning on Jan. 1. Other events include All-in or Fold ($200, Jan. 21, 5 p.m.), Omaha/8 ($240, Jan. 26, 3 p.m.) and Big O/8 ($350, Jan. 28, 3 p.m.). Also, the opening event had three Day 1s (Jan. 19-21, noon, $360) and has a $100K guarantee. For more info, go to bestbetjax.com.

BESTBET ORANGE PARK: Bryan Smith of Valdosta, Ga., won the $30K guarantee event on Nov. , good for $$7,500. The $200 event drew 215 players for a $35,475 prize pool.

Smith was followed by Sherri Manassa (St. Augustine, Fla.), Allan Deguino (Jacksonville) and Alex Griffin (Larsen, S.C.), who chopped second-fourth for $3,417 each.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: The Panhandle poker room’s Big Easy Bad Beat is quad sevens in Hold’em and Omaha. The losing hand in Hold’em gets $4,999, the winning hand earns $2,500 and the table share is $500 per person. For Omaha, it’s $1K for the loser, $500 to the winner and $150 for other players at the table. Also, royals pay $250 in hold’em.

In tournament news, on Jan. 9 (6:30 p.m.) will be the Player of the Year Championship Invitational, which has a $12,500 guarantee. And don’t forget the $30K guarantee MegaStack, which costs $280 and has three starting flights (Day 1A, Jan. 27 6:30 p.m.; Day 1B, Jan. 28, noon and 1C at 6:45). Day 2 is on Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. and there will be $55 satellites during the month. Call the poker room for details.

CREEK GRETNA ENTERTAINMENT: On Jan. 14, there will be $200 high hands every hour from 1-11 p.m. Also, there are a couple of guarantee events this month: Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. is a $10K guarantee for $270 and Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. is a $5K guarantee for $120.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: The Player of the Year tournament, which is invitation-onlyis Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. Check with the poker room to see if you qualified for this $125K series.

If you didn’t qualify, that’s OK because PGT has a series of affordable guarantee tournaments every week, including a $1K guarantee for $60 on Sundays and Mondays at 7 p.m. and a $2K guarantee, again for $60, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.

DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB: On New Year’s Eve, the poker room is paying $800 high hands every half hour from noon-10 p.m. And $200 high hands from 10 p.m.-midnight, followed by a midnight buffet. The room will be open on New Year’s Day.

ORANGE CITY RACING AND CARD CLUB: The facility is set to open in February a slight delay from the initial estimates of opening this month, though a specific date still hasn’t been announced.

Calling itself “Orlando’s Closest Poker Room,” this location is an extension of the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room. It has a 33-table poker room, simulcast wagering and a sports bar. The poker room will have the same games and events as DBKC, with hourly high hands, special promotions and tableside dining.

South Florida

With the Palm Beach Kennel Club hosting the first of two series in this World Series of Poker Circuit season, it was probably not a huge surprise to see one of South Florida’s top pros come out victorious in the main event. After all, three of the past four champions of the main in West Palm Beach were Mukul Pahuja, Darryll Fish and Tristan Wade.

However, what was amazing was the hardware went to a player who had picked up a pair of rings in 2016: Maurice Hawkins of Coral Springs, who won $95K in what has become his career’s biggest season.

The former college football player known for his aggressiveness and confidence at the felt collected the titles in back-to-back main events in April at Horseshoe Council Bluffs in Iowa and Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina.

Toss in a victory at the Monster Stack event in the Iowa series and a runner-up finish in a preliminary tournament at Cherokee and we almost could identify the November ring at the PBKC as “one for the thumb” in 2016.

As a guy who’s never lacking for bravado, Hawkins was the king of constant table chatter long before anyone ever heard of William Kassouf. After the latest win, he used the royal “We” and referred to himself in the third person for entertaining effect: “We don’t need to explain who won. We all know when he got to the final table he was going to take it down.”

Nor did Hawkins rely on anyone else to take care of his business, eliminating all four opponents on the final day of action, including third-place finisher Josh Hillock and runner-up Khoan Ho. It was an impressive feat, especially since he was the short stack in the event with 10 players remaining.

So Hawkins has eight career circuit rings in his collection, along with the additional money in his bank account, and the PBKC will prepare for its next big circuit series (Feb. 9-20).

HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD: After attracting many of the game’s top stars to South Florida for another huge series, the Seminole property finished up the Rock ‘N’ Roll Open’s main event in front of the Poker Night in America cameras, with Patrick Mahoney of Winona, Minn., taking the title, $564K and a seat in the SHR Poker Open. It was by far the biggest win of his career.

He defeated Matt Humphrey and Upeshka DeSilva at the final table, but it wasn’t easy. DeSilva dominated through much of the event, holding a nearly 4-to-1 lead on his closest competitor heading into Day 4 with 18 players left, but it was Humphrey who would hold the biggest stack at the start of the six-player final table.

DeSilva regained a big chip advantage at the second break with 11M-plus chips with five players left, while Mahoney held nearly 5M and Humphrey had 3.3M.

Mahoney knocked out DeSilva in third place after rivering a flush, giving him a 2-to-1 lead entering heads-up play. Less than 15 minutes later, it was all over as Mahoney’s pocket jacks held against Humphrey’s A-K.

Three WSOP champs played in the event: Qui Nguyen, Joe McKeehen and Ryan Reiss, though none would cash. Jason and Natasha Mercier, married for one week, both reached Day 3, but were knocked out back-to-back in 36th and 35th, each collecting about $11K.

The facility set a Florida record with the opening event of the series by drawing 5,018 entries for the $360-buy-in, $1M guarantee, won by Rafael Reis of Kent, Wash. The next major series will be the Lucky Hearts Open from Jan. 12-25.

MARDI GRAS: With the college football bowl season and NFL postseason this month, the Big Easy Poker Room has made several improvements in the TV setup. Director of poker Dave Litvin said 13 65-inch monitors have been added with more planned, while many others were moved to provide better sight lines from the tables.

“It makes for a wildly enhanced viewing experience in the room,” said Litvin, who noted the Big Easy’s successful Sunday freeroll with its $10K guarantee will continue weekly into 2017.

PPC ARUBA: The South Florida-based PPC Tour concluded its fourth season in Aruba on Nov. 7 as Stephen Deutsch of Baltimore took home the title of the PPC Aruba World Championship, collecting $133,687 and a $5K package for next year’s event. Deutsch, in August, was named Player of the Year.

Jim Beadnell, who won Event 1 of this series, finished second and won nearly $91K in the 266-player finale.

Central Florida

After a grueling day in the $100K Accumulator at Derby Lane poker room’s Pokerfest,local grinder Brett McCown captured the title in St. Petersburg, Fla., good for $18K, which was one of the largest scores of his career.

The November series had some fantastic events, including stud/8, Omaha/8 and PLO. There also was a senior event and a Player Appreciation tournament that had a small rake. The popular Accumulator, easily the highlight of the series, allows players to enter multiple Day 1s and are able to take three bags into Day 2. The tournament drew a large crowd and the prize pool easily cleared the $100K guarantee.

LOCAL SUCCESS: Not to be confined to the Tampa Bay area, some locals have been making noise on the East Coast. Carlos Loving, former dealer and poker coach, won his first World Series of Poker Circuit ring at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, taking down a $365 event for $50K and then took third in a $580 event for $11K days later.

Another grinder/coach, Fil Khavin, put together a run in the $1,675 main event at Palm Beach for $23K. While coming up just shy, the former WPT DeepStacks champion (Seminole Immokalee) made a great run and days later, he went down the coast to Hard Rock Hollywood and took second place in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Open’s $1,100 turbo for $23K.

After taking down his first WSOP bracelet, David Prociak captured the $300 HORSE event to close out the RNR Open.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The Silks Poker Room’s Thanksgiving event ended in an eight-way chop asMichael Beattie, Marc Lowe, Anthony Pellegrino, Rick Birdick and four others split the final-table money. Playing for $12K on top, the remaining eight decided, instead, to take nearly $5K each to keep some extra money for the holidays. The run for Beattie capped off a weekend of poker that saw him make Day 2 on Friday, chop Derby Lane’s monthly tournament on Saturday and then chop the Silks event on Sunday. He also notched a 17th-place finish in Aruba in the $2,400 PPC main event.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: The new state-of-the-art poker room opens Jan. 12 with Brad Garrett on hand for the festivities.

SARASOTA KENNEL CLUB: The One-Eyed Jacks Poker Room cohosts its Spring Fling series with America’s Poker Tour. The series runs March 31-April 9 with turbos, PLO, a senior event and the $1,100 main event, which will have its final table televised. Check the website for details on $60 and $240 satellites.

Mississippi

HORSESHOE TUNICA: The World Series of Poker Circuit runs Jan 19-30. While this tournament follows the standard schedule for all WSOPC stops, one thing you can count on at any event in Tunica is the strong cash action and around-the-clock single-table satellites. Visit for the big events, but stay for the action. Tunica is known for large and unpredictable PLO,
Big O and other games rarely seen outside of Las Vegas. While these games don’t necessarily run year round, they run near constantly during visiting tournament series.

Early in the circuit stop lineup this year is a PLO re-entry Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. for $365.Though these events are growing year over year, this is one of the easiest times to try to pick up a circuit ring. Alternative gamesdrawsmaller fields andfewer obstacles to overcome.

If you’re looking for more traditional NLHE events, the opening weekend at this stop reaches record-like numbers. The $365 three-day event begins Jan. 20 at 11 and allows entry until registration closes Jan. 21. If you’d rather hold out for the big one, the $1,675 main event begins Jan. 27 at 11. This four-day event will allow people to play one of two flights, with the final flight running Jan. 28 at 11.

If you’re familiar with Tunica, you know the Horseshoe is the best property in the area in terms of luxury, comfort and poker hospitality. It offers fantastic room rates but usually sell out way in advance. Call the poker room at 662-357-5500 to try to grab a reservation before they’re gone.

BEAU RIVAGE: Don’t forget the Million Dollar Heater, which we previewed in our December issue and can be found on our website at anteupmagazine.com, runs Jan. 5-16.

Missouri

HOLLYWOOD CASINO: The poker room recently moved to the other side of the property. The new space is bigger and on the Rodeo side of the casino. You can check it out while taking advantage of Hollywood’s comp program that awards poker players a $15 food voucher for four hours of live play (limit two per day).

AMERISTAR ST. CHARLES: The daily $1-$2 with a $10 rock Big O game at has given rise to a new $2-$5-$10 rock PLO game. The Big O game kicks off around noon every day and has been known to run until 4 a.m., while the PLO game only goes on weekends. The rock is a mandatory straddle posted by the winner of the previous pot, making him or her last to act pre flop.

Louisiana

BOOMTOWN NEW ORLEANS: The Heartland Poker Tour visits on Jan. 26-Feb. 6. See the ad on Page 39 for schedule and details.

L’AUBERGE LAKE CHARLES: Jack Rounds has taken over as poker room manager to replace Roger Russell, who left to take a job at a casino in New York.

HARRAH’S NEW ORLEANS: The 20-table room accepts reservations. Call 504-533-6043 30 minutes before arrival.

HORSESHOE BOSSIER CITY: The poker room is open on New Year’s Eve and even has $100 Aces Cracked for limit hold’em from 8 a.m.-noon.

PARAGON: There are lots of promotions, including high hands and a bad-beat jackpot, which hit for $170K in November.

Meet David Prociak

Starting in 2003, David Prociak and his friends would play online freerolls and then in 2007 he won a $5K tournament package to Las Vegas from a local free league. He cashed in two of three tournaments, which led to a career playing online poker until Black Friday (April 15, 2011). He didn’t play another hand until Summer 2015.

His first large live tournament score came in November 2015, when he finished second in the $3,500 Hollywood Poker Open for $340K. Prociak followed up that success by earning Player of the Year in the Seminole Hard Rock series, good for a $44K prize package and a solid reputation in Florida.

The culmination of his hard work came this past July when he won World Series of Poker’s Event 60 ($1,500 stud/8) for $156,546 and his first gold bracelet. “It still feels unbelievable,” he said.

He plans on playing the Seminole Hard Rock tournaments throughout the season, as well as several World Poker Tour events with the goal of adding a WPT trophy to his collection.

“If you can get inside of someone’s head and understand what they are thinking, what they are trying to accomplish and what they are trying to do against you, then you can beat anyone,” he said. — Sara Malowitz