Lion roars to Jacksonville title

February 24, 2017, Christopher Cosenza, Jennifer Gay, Dave Lemmon, Sara Malowitz, Todd Lamansky  

Hometown hero Jermaine “Lion” Gerlin captured the Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event for $94K at bestbet Jacksonville in Florida. The Jan. 27-29 tourney, part of a 10-event series, drew nearly 400 entries for a $380K prize pool.

Gerlin’s victory came one year after he finished fourth in the same event for $32,062.

“Last year, I came here and got fourth place,” he said after 16 hours of play on Day 2. “It feels good to come back this year and take it all.”

A regular at bestbet Orange Park and bestbet Jacksonville, Gerlin said he plays poker to support his family, which includes daughters Mara, 3, and Shania, 7.

“Those two poker rooms are among the best in Florida,” he said. “I definitely recommend people come check them out.”
Chris Fabozzi of Tallahassee was runner-up ($56,586), followed by Hans Brown of Columbia, S.C., ($36,705), John O’Neal of Jacksonville ($25,652) and Ryan Dunn of Tallahassee ($19,239).

Also, Michael “Mick” Robilotto of Fernandina Beach captured the $100K guarantee MSPT regional event for $26,814. The tournament ran Jan. 19-22 and drew 561 runners to create a $168,300 prize pool.

The final four players struck a deal that saw them each lock up $19K with $7,814 and the title left to play for.

“It’s exciting,” Robilotto said after the win. “We made a deal but there was still a lot of money up at the top, so once I got into shooting distance for the win, I really wanted to get it.”

Joining Robilotto in the final four were Jonathan Cronin, Chris Walker and Toby Boas.

Up next is the WPT DeepStacks series, which runs March 2-13 and has a $300K guarantee for its $1,500 main event on March 10-11. Event 1 has a $100K guarantee and three starting days beginning March 2. For more, go to bestbetjax.com.

CREEK ENTERTAINMENT GRETNA: There are $200 high hands every hour on March 11 from 1-11 p.m. Also, don’t miss the $10K guarantee on March 18 at 1 p.m. for $270 and the $5K guarantee on March 24 at 7 p.m. ($120). Please see the ad on Page 49 for more info.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: The American Sign Language Fundraiser is March 17 (7 p.m.) and March 18 (1 p.m.). Call 850-456-9800 for details. There are two $10K guarantees this month (March 11 and March 25, both at 1 p.m. for $270). Satellites for these are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 and on Sundays at 1.

DAYTONA BEACH RACING AND CARD CLUB: The dates have been announced for the popular ninth annual Deep Stack Charity Classic, which will run May 21. If you have tournament questions, call 386-212-9614. Homewood Suites is offering $79 rooms if you mention Deep Stack Charity Classic when you book.

GRAND OPENING: The Orange City Poker Room will have a ribbon cutting ceremony March 1. See ad on Page 29.
NAME CHANGE: Ocala Poker & Jai-Alai has new ownership and has changed its name to Ocala Gainesville Poker. The poker room opens daily at 11:30 a.m. and if you have any questions call 352-591-2345 or visit ocalagainesvillepoker.com.

EBRO GREYHOUND PARK: There are plenty of tourneys in the Panhandle room, from Sunday’s $30 mega-satellite to $200 deepstack tournaments to Wednesday’s $110 event, Friday’s $50-$110 bounty or Omaha tournaments and Thursday’s $3K guarantee. For more info, call 850-535-4048 ext. 180.

South Florida

Michael Graffeo of Boca Raton took the title in the recent WPT DeepStacks Main Event of the Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts Poker Open by beating 1,508 competitors and a tough final table in the $1,100 tournament.

Graffeo, 41, who works in the mortgage industry and was playing his first tournament in two months, hung on to defeat Dantonio Brown, who led a good portion of the event, and former WPT champion Loni Harwood, to collect $290K, a $3K WPT DeepStacks Championship package and a $5,250 seat in the $5M guarantee Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship in August.

The series kicked off with the $360 Ultimate Re-entry event that drew 4,756 entries to become the second-largest event in Florida history, giving Hard Rock Hollywood the top three spots in the state’s tournament attendance records. November Niner Jerry Wong won the event, turning a $360 investment into nearly $250K.

Up next is the seventh annual Showdown with its $5K main event, which starts March 31 and will be broadcast during World Poker Tour season. That expansive series starts with a $360 deepstack event that features six opening sessions March 16-18 and a $500K guarantee. Other highlights include the Jason Taylor-WPT Foundation charity event (March 29) and a $2M guarantee Finale (April 2) with a $10K buy-in and no re-entries allowed.

SEMINOLE COCONUT CREEK: Elliott Zaydman took down the Coco Showdown, winning $49,475 along with a $5,250 seat in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship this August in Hollywood. It was the second largest cash and fifth victory for Zaydman (known as Comrade around South Florida’s poker rooms) and came after a heads-up chop with Staffan Lind of Vero Beach.

The event featured a $100K guarantee, but doubled that amount when the $1,100 event drew 202 entries.

PBKC: Nine players in a $2-$4 limit game at the Palm Beach Kennel Club on Jan. 21 split the $200K-plus bad-beat jackpot when Mohammed Khatib of Vero Beach saw his straight flush lose to Susan Barnhart of Rochester, N.Y., who held a bigger straight flush. Khatib took home half of the jackpot ($115,593), while Barnhart received $57,797. The seven other players at the table each collected $11,560.

“I could hear a huge whoop coming from the poker room,” assistant manager Josh Alderson said. “Everyone was applauding and congratulating the winners, some of which were near tears. It was more emotional than most bad-beat wins.”
You may remember the poker room set the record for the largest bad-beat jackpot hit in South Florida when the room paid $504,833 in September 2012.

MATUSON’S REVENGE: Stacy Matuson, co-founder of the WSOP Dealer Academy, got a great deal of attention for a controversial hand in last summer’s World Series of Poker.

The hand (and subsequent others) made a classic villain out of William Kassouf of Great Britain, who entertained some while angering others with his irritating and time-consuming “speech play” throughout the late days of the main event. On the hand in question, Matuson folded pocket queens while Kassouf celebrated his nine-high bluff.

On Jan. 11, Matuson challenged Kassouf on Instagram to a special heads-up Grudge Match at the 888Live Festival in the Czech Republic in early February. He accepted and the best-of-three match was set up for Feb. 2 and was televised on 888poker’s Twitch channel.

The match was cordial and Matuson said Kassouf, wearing his Nine-high Like a Boss T-shirt, was “actually kind of a pleasure to play with. He is not a bad guy. I ended up showing three or four bluffs. Five-high, six-high, seven-high.”

In the end, Matuson gained some sweet revenge by winning the Grudge Match and she accomplished her goal to “show women that you can come back and show that you can play. It doesn’t have to be one clip you saw on ESPNand it was just a great time.”

Central Florida

NAPLES-FT. MYERS POKER & RACING: If you’re looking for a high-value pot-limit Omaha championship outside of Las Vegas, make a stop at the Naples-Ft. Myers Greyhound Track on March 31 for the $550 PLO Championship as part of its annual Poker Championship weekend.

Starting at noon, this event draws players from both coasts, as well as other states.

The next day is the $1,100 NLHE championship, which sports a $100K guarantee. For more info on this and other events at the track, visit naplesfortmyersdogs.com.

SARASOTA KENNEL CLUB: America’s Poker Tour lands in Florida for the first time March 31-April 9. Satellites are running daily ($70 Step 1 to the $250 Step 2) at the One-Eyed Jacks Poker Room. The first weekend will feature a $210 mutilday event (March 31), a $160 seniors (April 2), A $160 six-max (April 4) and $160 pot-limit Omaha (April 5) events. The $1,100 main event will feature three starting flights (April 7-8) with Day 2 and the televised final table on April 9. For more information, check out americaspokertour.com.

AMATO SCORES: Those who know the Tampa poker scene know one of the true poker power couples in the area, Shari and Amelio Amato. Shari has made some notable runs, including the televised final table of the Heartland Poker Tour in Daytona Beach a few years back. They both have made deep runs and final tables at many of the events around the area.
At the recent Hard Rock Hollywood’s WPT DeepStacks $1,100 event, which had a $1M guarantee, Amelio made a run this time, finishing just shy of the final table in 11th place, good for $17,529.

Mississippi

The World Series of Poker Circuit series at Horseshoe Tunica has crowned Neil Patel as its main-event champion. He outlasted a field of 610 entrants in the $1,675 tourney to win his first gold ring and pocket $192,152.

“I busted out of the Monster and the $580 twice,” he said of his bumpy road to the main. “So, I had $150 left and then gas to get back. I bought into the nightly and I got third, which is $1,700. So, I just bought into the main Friday and bagged 239K. And then I said, ‘I’m winning this,’ I told myself.”

At the final table, Patel, 36, was up against the likes of six-time ring-winner Robert Hankins, four-time ring-winner Scott Stewart and three-time ring-winner Martin Ryan.

“I was prepared because I knew there were some World Series ring-winners at the table,” said Patel of St. Louis. “You always keep that in the back of your head because these guys are pros. They do this for a living. You can tell how they play. It was fun to play with them and I think that was a good experience for me.”

He beat Cory Smith in heads-up play after waking up with pocket kings the same hand Smith held ace-king suited.

Other winners were Jeoffrey Noblecourt (Event 1, $365 NLHE, $16,350); Juan Rodriguez (Event 2, $365 PLO, $10,709); Alex Burney (Event 3, $365 NLHE, $66,723); David Knuckles (Event 4, $365 turbo, $17,997); Jeter Brock (Event 5, $365 NLHE, $14,118); Brian Peery (Event 6, ($365 six-max, $19,793); John Holley (Event 7, $365 NLHE, $15,056); Russell Sullivan (Event 8, $365 NLHE, $20,018); Steve Dill (Event 9, $365 Monster Stack, $37,290); David Collins (Event 10, $580 NLHE, $33,118) and Johnny Landreth (Event 12, $365 turbo, $16,877).

Missouri

AMERISTAR ST. CHARLES: The Heartland Poker Tour returns March 29-April 10. The schedule wasn’t ready at press time.

HOLLYWOOD CASINO: Cash drawings with prizes ranging from $150 to $400 take place every 30 minutes from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every Saturday in March. Players receive a ticket for walking into the room, each time you make a straight (or better) and every time aces get cracked at your table. Tickets are good for that day only. Contact the poker room for more details.

LUMIERE PLACE: Gregory Beyer is the property’s newest full-time supervisor. Shortly after featuring him in our November 2015 issue, the St. Louis-area native, who was born and raised in O’Fallon, Ill., left Ameristar St. Charles for Horseshoe Southern Indiana, where he was a dual-rate from March 2016 to January of this year. He came back home to be closer to family. His first supervisor job in poker was at Ameristar St. Charles when it was still a Stations property. He also was a dual-rate at the now-defunct River City room and was a traveling dealer.

Louisiana

L’AUBERGE BATON ROUGE: The Red Stick Poker Room’s $30K Spring Into Cash promotion allows you to earn your way into the $30K freeroll May 13 at 11 a.m. The top 60 players with the most time accrued until May 8 will qualify. For more info, go to lbatonrouge.com.

HARRAH’S NEW ORLEANS: The World Series of Poker Circuit, which is the final WSOPC of the season before the World Series in Las Vegas, runs May 11-22, but schedule details haven’t been released yet.

AMBASSADOR NEEDED: Do you live in Louisiana and would like to be our Ante Up Ambassador for your state? Please be sure to go to anteupmagazine.com/ambassador and fill out an application.

North Carolina

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE: The WSOPC will be April 13-24, but the schedule wasn’t finalized at press time.

Meet Felica Watkins

One of the most important people at the Beau Rivage poker room is host Felica Watkins, who is more like a Team Mom than what you’d imagine a host to be. Years ago, she worked for the Beau in human resources and her job included the responsibility of getting the staff together for the big tournament series. She went out of her way to make sure the best dealers were available. When her position was phased out, she made the move to the poker room. Watkins has a recognizable Southern drawl, a tireless effort to make everyone feel like they’re important and an undeniable work ethic.

“I’ve been in the gaming industry for 10.5 years,” she said. “My favorite part of the job is taking care of the room manager, shift managers, dealers and support staff, especially the traveling dealers. I know we focus on guest service, but if I can keep the employees happy, then the guest service will follow.”

When talking about the poker room, she said, “If anyone wants to experience Southern hospitality, the Beau’s poker room is the place to be. Starting at the top with our manager (Henry Garrison), to our amazing staff and some of the finest dealers you will come across, you will find nothing but the best of the best at the Beau. We’re truly one big family. … I can honestly say, I have the best job on the Gulf Coast.”
— Jennifer Gay