Hard Rock Showdown returns to South Florida on April 6

March 26, 2015, Dave Lemmon, Jennifer Gay, Danny Wade, Andrew Malowitz, Charles Allison  

The top pros in the world will be back in South Florida for the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown series and its 20 events, highlighted by the World Poker Tour SHR Summer Showdown and its $5 million guarantee. That event is scheduled for three opening sessions on April 16-18 beginning at noon each day with a $3,500 buy-in. The final table will be recorded for this summer on the WPT’s Season XIII.

The series begins April 6 with a $100K guarantee, an affordable $250 buy-in and six opening sessions spread over two days (11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.). There will be a $1 million guarantee deepstack April 9-12 with a $570 buy-in, along with several bounty tournaments and a $350 seniors event.

• The WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open’s $3,500 main event, which had a $3 million guarantee, saw 1,027 entries Feb. 6-11. Two Massachusetts players had a big week as Brian Altman and Mark Dube dominated the final two days of play. Altman and Dube held 23 million of the 30 million chips in play entering the live-streamed final table, and after the last woman standing in the event, Kelly Minkin ($262K), was eliminated, they played for 55 hands before Altman ($723K) took the title from Dube ($434K) when his flopped flush cooled Dube’s set of aces .

• The Hard Rock has named WPT POY Mukul Pahuja to its team of ambassadors for the Hollywood facility.

MARDI GRAS CASINO: The Big Easy Poker Lounge in Hallandale hosts a $10K freeroll April 18 at 7 p.m. Open to everyone and dubbed the Big One, the room will be using 15 of its 30 tables for the tourney, so with a big turnout expected, interested players should sign up early in the day as entries will be accepted beginning at 10 a.m. Alternates will be allowed until the start of Level 7, but David Litvin, director of poker, is expecting a packed house and said, “As far as I know, this is the first event of its kind anywhere.”

PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB: Darryll Fish, one of South Florida’s most popular players, broke through for his first major title by defeating a difficult final table to pick up the ring and $173K at the main event of the World Series of Poker Circuit event in West Palm Beach. The $1,675 event drew 537 players.

Don Icawat of Austin, Texas, made a huge run at the final table as he began the day as one of the two short stacks, but fought his way to head-to-head play before finishing second to earn $107K. Third-place finisher Nancy Nguyen of Texas made her second deep run in a month after finishing fourth in Choctaw in mid January, while South Florida standouts Maurice Hawkins and Hans Winzeler also made deep runs, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively.

For Fish (Ante Up’s 2011 POY), the victory was satisfying, but not something he felt he had to earn to be happy about his career. The Cape Coral native has a couple of dozen WSOP cashes on his resumé, including a third-place finish in 2013’s Event 2 at the Rio, a $5K NLHE event.

“Taking down (a title) is a really satisfying feeling and even though I know I’m capable of winning, it’s nice to have that reinforced by actually doing it,” he said.

ISLE CASINO: The PPC Tour, in its third season, had its first $350 buy-in, a $250K guarantee main event Feb. 18-22, and 11 players chopped for various payouts based on chip stacks, plus each won a $5K travel package to Aruba for the PPC’s season-ending event in November. The event had $1,160 entries.

Ten players at the final table were slated to win the travel packages, but when short-stacked Chris Lewis of Tampa proved to be a bit too tough to be easily eliminated by scoring a double-up during hand-for-hand play, he was included in the chop as well.

Leader Jordan Meltzer won the biggest slice of the prize pie with $28,500 (including the Aruba package), along with the trophy and a pair of Blue Shark Optics. Others in the chop included Patrick Peduto, Paulo Castro, Adam Agosto, Daniel Piela and Scott Efron.

North Florida

DAYTONA BEACH: It may have been Joey Lagano who raised the checkered flag in victory at the Daytona 500 this year, but he wasn’t the only person in Daytona Beach who would have a victorious weekend. The honor of winning Daytona Beach Kennel Club’s Great American Poker Tournament’s $25K guarantee went to the entire final table as each pocketed $4,591 and Scott Mayo took home the trophy.

BESTBET ORANGE PARK: Since bestbet Jacksonville opened in 2013, Orange Park hasn’t hosted many large tournaments, but that ended recently when it sported a $30K guarantee for a $150 buy-in. The poker room was packed over the course of six starting flights as the tournament drew 631 players. The last player standing was Chris Brauch, a professional poker dealer. He had to topple Nate Blankenship to take home a $15K first-place payday.

BESTBET JACKSONVILLE: The monthly $50K guarantee attracted 513 players and cleared the guarantee by $34K. Local player and regular Ray Leone took down the title after a fairly short final table that saw him hold the lead over two Jacksonville stalwarts David Trager and Jerry Watterson.

On April 2 at 6 p.m., bestbet will be opening its arms to Florida’s college students with its Poker 101 College Championship. The tournament will be $40 and has $1K added to the prize pool, plus $2K in raffle prizes. Bestbet has held the event in the past and considers it an exciting way to introduce young players to brick-and-mortar poker rooms.

“It’s a wonderful way to give the future generation of poker players a hands-on experience and really get a feel for the way big tournaments happen,” event coordinator Jeremiah Curtis said.

The poker room also hosted the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section charity tournament for the HEAL Foundation on Feb. 19, raising $12,500. “We were very happy to provide the venue and the entertainment for this charity event, and we were equally excited to have so many people come out to support the HEAL Foundation,” bestbet president Jamie Shelton said.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: It may feel like deja vu when you read about Tracey McKenzie winning the Player of the Year tournament, but don’t worry, it’s just because he has cemented his spot as the premier player at PGT for the second straight year. That’s saying a lot, considering the tournament is compiled of the best of the best players who’ve spent the year winning tournaments and accumulating points to get into the event.

Central Florida

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: On Feb. 26, the 2nd Basemen, a charity that helps provide financial assistance to women and families affected by breast cancer, was at the Silks Poker Room. Many local businesses and players came out to support the cause. Danny Lobato, a regular tournament player whose wife is a cancer survivor, helped organize this event, which drew 111 players who donated more than $7,500. Ante Up’s Scott Long and Andrew Malowitz were there, both finishing shy of the final table.

SARASOTA KENNEL CLUB: Never to shy from some of the more unusual events, the One Eyed Jacks Poker Room hosts the Spring Fling series April 3-12. This series will feature a seniors event, pot-limit Omaha, a Min-Max event and five starting flights for the $440 main event, which has a $50K guarantee. Satellites ($70) to the main are Mondays at 1, Wednesdays at 6:30 and Sundays at 5.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: The Winter Deepstack Series recently concluded, highlighted by a $200K guarantee ($350 buy-in) and a $250K guarantee ($560). The $350 event ended in a chop where nine players took home more than $14K each. Josias Santos was winner, earning $30K-plus. The $560 event went to Kyle Anderson for more than $82K.

DERBY LANE: The St. Petersburg room’s popular PokerFest series, with more than $190K in guarantees, was running at press time so pick up next month’s issue for results. This series had a high roller, a $50K Weekender and a $100K Accumulator. During the series, Ante Up hosted the heads-up challenge. This 32-player event was to have some of the top players in the area.

Louisiana

SHORTY'S: On Feb. 12, Shorty’s Poker Room returned to the Louisiana scene at Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton, about 40 minutes south of Lafayette.

The poker room offers six cash-game tables where $3-$6-$12 limit and $1-$3 no-limit hold’em will be the main games spread. Cypress Bayou kicked off the return of tournament poker with a $2,500-added event on Feb. 16.

The tournament was well-attended as the final 10 players were paid. The night concluded with four-way chop as finalists each pocketed nearly $2K.

Director of table games Kevin Ryan said, “Our guests have been asking for the return of poker for some time now and with so much demand, we are happy to be able to offer a game we know will be instantly popular.”

L’AUBERGE LAKE CHARLES: The poker room is running the Win Your Share of $25K promotion until May 15. The top 20 players with the most hours played until then will win a share of $25K. All cash will be awarded May 17 in the poker room. The leaderboard will be posted and updated weekly.

Prizes range from $250 to $8K for the players with the most hours. Players must use their free players card to be tracked during this promotion. Information is available on Bravo Poker Live or by calling the L’auberge poker room at (337) 395-7567.

Mississippi

HOLLYWOOD TUNICA: The third annual Hollywood Poker Open regional qualifier recently concluded at Mississippi Tunica’s Hollywood Tunica with Donald McArthur of Hollow Rock, Tenn., taking the title and $17K. The HPO, which features seven stops and boasts Chris Moneymaker as its celebrity ambassador, is still gaining momentum with players. The main-event winner from each stop and the leaderboard winner (points earned by cashing in qualifying events) win a seat to the Las Vegas $500K guarantee championship in June at the M Resort and Casino. This year, the main event in Tunica had 45 runners in at $1,115 each.

In heads-up play, McArthur defeated James McCualey of Dumas, Ark., ($11,250).

Mark Kehrees of Alexander, Ark, was third ($7,650), followed by Scott Mauer of Chattanooga ($4,950) and Nancy Regan of Madison, Ala. ($4,050).

The next stop for the HPO is Grantville, Pa. For more information, visit hollywoodpokeropen.com.

BEAU RIVAGE: The Biloxi property was in the midst of its Spring Break Classic (March 26-April 6) at press time. There’s no better time of year to visit the beach, so swing by and play the $800 main event on April 4 while you’re there. Follow live updates or catch the results at BeauPoker.com.

Missouri

LUMIERE PLACE CASINO: The St. Louis stop for the World Series of Poker Circuit had a main-event field size just one player shy of last year’s 416 total. Josh Turner was leader on both days leading to the final table and was crowned the winner, adding a second WSOPC ring to the one he won in October at Horseshoe Southern Indiana. He also gets $136K from the $622K prize fund and entry into the WSOPC national championship. Turner is a regular in the poker room.

The final table started slowly and then the pace picked up. Heads-up play was reached by the fourth level of the day and Javier Zarco of Spain was heads-up with Turner before falling and earning $84K. They were followed by David Lee (Memphis, $61,839); Jesse Watson (Canton, Ill., $45,916); Zac Campbell (Memphis, $34,623); John Longowa ($26,500), Scott Vetter (Washington, Ill., $20,580); Ben Beighle (Cincinnati, $16,210) and Michael Rieck ($12,948).

Lumiere saw the introduction of a new tournament structure, a $365 black-chip bounty tournament. This event drew 193 entries and Bradley Coultas (St. Louis) won $10,036 for first, plus 10 $100 bounties. Watson won the casino championship with a first, fourth and 41st to earn entry into the WSOPC national championship.

North Carolina

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE: Don’t forget, the WSOP Circuit returns April 16-27. Go to WSOP.com for the schedule.

Meet Carlos Loving

Carlos Loving is pro poker player from Sarasota, Fla.

When did you start playing poker? I started playing in 2002 at the Tampa Hard Rock when there was only $2 straight poker. A couple of friends were going to play one night and I decided to join the fun. I immediately started playing every day and losing lots of money. I then decided I should learn the game better and started studying books to increase my edge.

What drew you to the game? I’m a very competitive person and have always loved card games. My grandfather taught me the basics of poker and I would watch him play with his friends when I was young. I told him I wanted to play with him and his friends when I was 9 and he told me I wasn’t good enough to play with the big boys. I think that really made me want to become a good poker player to prove to him that I could. — Andrew Malowitz