Casinos moving ashore in Chicagoland

March 26, 2016, Joe Giertuga, Anthony Furnier, Chad Holloway, John Somsky, Ken Warren  

Moving forward from last year’s state law allowing operation of land-based casinos, Tropicana Evansville became the first to get Indiana approval to move off the riverboat to an onshore casino. The new $50 million, 75,000-square-foot facility is expected to start construction in the fall and finish in late 2017.

Majestic Star is moving ahead with plans to replace its riverboat. Engineers are searching for sites for Northwest Indiana’s first-land based casino within the campus footprint, with an estimated cost of $95M-$135M.

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians are waiting for approval from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for a $400 million development in South Bend, Ind., which includes an 18-story casino, 44 housing units and office buildings.

MAJESTIC STAR: Tom Wagner, who spent much of his time at the final table short-stacked, turned the tables on pro Larry Lubliner while heads-up to win the monthly seniors $4K guarantee for $1,628.

HARRAH’S JOLIET: The Mega Bad Beat Jackpot was a whopping $549K (quad eights) at press time. The mini bad beat was at $12K.

Minnesota

RUNNING ACES: Kevin Finley of Forest Lake, Minn., took home $25,862 after winning the iNinja Poker Tour event, which ran Feb. 17-21. The event used the Running Aces signature series structure, which features six Day 1s and offers a $1,200 buy-back of smaller stacks for players surviving multiple Day 1s.

The event drew 868 entrants and generated a substantial prize pool of $179,670 for the $280 buy-in.
When play reached the final table, more than $125K remained to be distributed among the final 10. Players agreed to a chop that guaranteed at least $5K for each.

When six remained, players agreed to a final chop, which gave everyone $16K and left $9,862 and the iNinja ring for the tournament winner.

Finley and Troy Graphenteen of Champlin, Minn., played heads-up for about 80 minutes before Finley ended it. It was Finley’s first Hendon Mob cash of more than $1K.

Iowa

HORSESHOE COUNCIL BLUFFS: The World Series of Poker Circuit runs March 31-April 10. There are a number of NLHE events as well as PLO, PLO/8, Omaha/8 and Big O. The $1,675 main event will have two starting flights (March 8-9). Visit wsop.com for the complete schedule.

PRAIRIE MEADOWS CASINO: There will be a $200 WSOP satellite April 24 at noon. The winner will receive a seat to the $10K WSOP main event and $2K for expenses.

DIAMOND JO CASINO: The Northwood property pays $50 for its Aces Cracked promotion, which runs through summer on Monday-Wednesday. Also, the bad-beat jackpot was expected to surpass $170K at press time.

RIVERSIDE CASINO: On Valentine’s Day, the property’s largest bad-beat jackpot fell when A.B. Peraje’s flopped quad jacks smashed Tucker Stone’s rivered quad sevens in a $2-$5 NLHE game. Stone was the big winner, however, as he took the biggest piece of the nearly $179K jackpot. He walked away licking his wounds with an $89,386 payday. Peraje’s share was $44,692. The remaining players at the table split the remainder.

Ohio

HORSESHOE CLEVELAND: The poker room recently hosted its popular Rock and Roll City Harley-Davidson Championship. The series featured an innovative main event with four starting days spread out over two weekends, drawing 544 players. Richard Dinunzio won the championship and $100K.

In other tourney news, the Horseshoe will continue its last Sunday of the Month Deepstack on April 24 at 12:15 p.m. The tournament has a $500 buy-in and features a $50K guarantee.

Wisconsin

PLAYER NEWS: Cole Tautges of Deforest topped a field of 115 to win the Venetian Deep Stacks Extravaganza’s Event 29 ($300 bounty) for $5,153. It was the first win of his career.

HO-CHUNK GAMING WISCONSIN DELLS: In February, the Mid-States Poker Tour hosted the second annual Wisconsin State Poker Championship. Illinois’ Andy Rubinberg topped a field of 489 to capture the title and $120,808. Minnesota pro Kou Vang was runner-up ($69,742).

POTAWATOMI HOTEL & CASINO: In 1991, Potawatomi Bingo changed the face of gaming in Milwaukee. On March 8, the property, which has evolved into a full casino complete with poker room, hotel, hosted a 25th anniversary party.
In a news release, the property said: “Our tribal values and company mission, along with your support, have allowed us to give back to this community, creating a positive social and economic impact.”

NORTH STAR MOHICAN CASINO: The Bowler property closed its poker room in early January. It marked the second closing of a tribal casino poker room in three months.

Western Pennsylvania

RIVERS CASINO: The Three Rivers Poker Challenge ended in February with its $1,100 main event. Casey Yountz came out on top of a tough field to bring home $26,452. The tourney drew 101 players for the two-day event. Up next is the Spring Pittsburgh Open, featuring Poker Night in America filming a cash table and covering the $1,100 main. The series runs until April 4. Matt Glantz designed the series and structures to give players deeper stacks and longer levels.

Meet Erick Wright

In January 2012, Erick Wright of Shoreview, Minn., left his job as an assistant assignment manager with a local television news station to begin his poker career. He has been a force on the felt since.

What do you like the best about being a pro poker player? I’d say making my own schedule, having time for family and the flexibility to travel to more tournaments. It’s nice to escape Minnesota when winter gets cold, play cards somewhere warm and write expenses off on taxes.

What is your best poker achievement? I find the greatest sense of accomplishment in working with others to better their game, brand or to benefit the poker community. I’ve been fortunate to work with several poker companies in Minnesota, including Running Aces Casino, Poker Joker Gear and iNinja Poker. I’ve just recently signed on with Blue Shark Optics, which is a brand I’ve always been impressed with and I’m honored to be a part of the team. I also find a sense of achievement in coaching others on tournament play and seeing improvements in their results.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I enjoy playing poker professionally, yet I miss a career that impacts a broader range of society, so I never rule out a return to the work force. I tend to set poker goals about a year out, so we should touch base again in four years and see. – John Somsky