Champions rise to top; Gold Strike poker room closing

December 22, 2013, Jennifer Gay  

As 2013 ends, I’d like to recap the past couple of months and preview exciting things to come in Mississippi poker. At the IP Biloxi, the WPT Regional just crowned Caufman Talley of Lafayette, La., the champion and sent him home with more than $37K. Capt. Tom Franklin, Kyle Cartwright and Chun Law managed final-table finishes (third, fourth and fifth respectively). This is still a growing event and offered players a rare shot at overlays on guarantees.

At the Gold Strike Fall Championship, which concluded Nov. 11, Mick Donovan scooped a bracelet and $59,645 just in time for his holiday shopping. Donovan of Nashville played a tough game against second-place finisher Gil George ($31,813).

A bit further south, the Gulf Coast Poker Championship concluded its main event on Sept. 2. The $112,351 first-place money stayed close to home going to local Robert Harwell of Pass Christian. Corrie “Slim” Wunstel came in second just ahead of Amir Sahebdivani in third. I ran into Amir just minutes after the final three had struck a deal and he was overjoyed with his third-place finish. He said he’d just visited for a couple of days, decided to hop in a tournament and left up more than $40K.

Looking forward, 2014 brings all sorts of changes for Mississippi poker. It’s with a genuinely sad heart that I must announce the closing of the Gold Strike Poker Room as of Jan. 14. This marks the third significant room closing in a little more than a year. Gold Strike was always one of the busiest rooms in Mississippi and one of my favorites.

Business had dwindled over the past few years, leaving the casino an opportunity to move in a different direction. When I spoke to Johnny Grooms (regional poker room manager for MGM Mississippi) about the announcement he expressed disappointment over the loss of the Gold Strike legacy. He said he was unsure what, if any, future the tournaments had in Tunica. Though there is still a possibility the MGM tournament series will remain scheduled for 2014, it’s hard to imagine the room that just a few years ago held one of the largest events in the country (World Poker Open) is no longer in business.

The Million Dollar Heater at the Beau Rivage is Jan. 3-15. There are two $500K guarantee events. Opening weekend kicks off with a two-flight $340 no-limit hold’em tournament. The $2,600 two-flight main event also features a $500K guarantee. Visit the Beau all week for daily opportunities to win your seat into the main. You’ll find tournament structures and schedules online at beaupoker.com.

Between tournaments, you have a few days off to travel to Tunica for the South’s best WSOP Circuit stop. Harrah’s Tunica begins Jan. 23 and runs through Feb. 3. You can’t beat the live action at Harrah’s Tunica, either. Promotions will run right up until the tournament starts with single-table and mega satellites beginning Jan. 17.

Also in Tunica, Horseshoe is having major renovations. The new room, scheduled to open with the New Year, will be the biggest in Tunica with more room, more TVs and a new tournament series. The Senior Poker Tour, open to players 50-plus, will feature 17 events and run Jan. 15-19. The SPT schedule is at seniorpokertour.com. Come celebrate the grand re-opening of the poker room with a $25K guarantee Jan. 3-5 ($150). Top three places will win a seat into the WSOPC main at Harrah’s. You can’t beat that added value.

I look forward to seeing you all at these events and as always, keep the emails coming.

— Email Jennifer Gay at jennifergay80@hotmail.com.