Manouchakian rocks Tampa poker event

July 28, 2016, Sara Malowitz, Dave Lemmon, Charles Allison, Todd Lamansky  

The Tampa Bay-area faithful who hadn’t left for Las Vegas just yet were rewarded with the WPT DeepStacks Series in late June at Hard Rock Tampa. Three events and a few daily tournaments saw huge crowds and obliterated guarantees.

Some fine stories emerged from this series, including WPT Jacksonville finalist Dr. Marvin “Duckman” Karlins advancing deep in all three events, local businessman Steve Trizis made several Day 2s, including the final table of the $1,100 main (eliminated ninth) and Anthony Astarita winning the main ($130K).

But the series highlight was Karl Manouchakian, who was involved in the chop of the $350 and $570 tourneys to earn Player of the Series. Astarita came close to notching this honor by cashing in all three events as well. For Manouchakian, the series title earned him prizes such as behind the scenes at a WPT final-table recording and the series trophy. The $150 Little Slick ($100K guarantee) was running at press time.

DERBY LANE: The Memorial Day tournament saw nearly $10K earned for charity and a surprise at the end. Former Ante Up Ambassador Andrew Malowitz was involved in a four-way chop that included local champion Herbert Woodbery and Kara Norbert as each took home $2,600-plus.

Derby Lane brought back the popular Accumulator series July 24-31 so look for results soon.

VEGAS SUCCESS: If you’re involved in any of the poker leagues in the Tampa Bay area, you know Mike Beattie. If you were at the Rio on June 29, you found out how good he is. The $235 event that evening boasted a near $225K prize pool with first place taking home $35K, which he earned. An incredibly consistent player who is a staple at every series in Tampa, this WSOP season has been good to him. … Tampa’s Natasha Barbour made the final table of the $5K event at the WSOP. Though she didn’t win the bracelet, the former Ante Up strategy writer did get another piece of jewelry, getting engaged to boyfriend and top pro Jason Mercier, right after the event.


AMERISTAR ST. CHARLES: The new poker room opened July 6 featuring 17 tables and a bunch of fine amenities, including beautiful fixtures HD televisions. Convenience is the name of the game with a dedicated cashier window, a beverage station, Wi-Fi and USB charging ports at every seat. The grand opening was July 21-24.

As far as promotions, earn $50 for every 50 hours of poker you play until Oct. 23. You’ll receive a $50 voucher that you’ll need to redeem before the fifth of the next month. For example, vouchers collected in August must be cashed in by Sept. 5.


COUSHATTA CASINO RESORT: The poker room hosted its Summer Classic Series on June 22-26 as Ben Alloggio won the $1,100 main event for $17,588. He was followed by Michael Dunn ($11,726), Ben Mintz ($9,120), Freddie Ardoin Jr. ($6,515), Kelly Rising ($3,909), Karen Cook ($2,932)†and Blake Barousse ($2,280). The main drew 73 players.

The top 10 in the series-opening $350 seniors event chopped for $3,686 each as 120 players entered.
William Dehart, Ned Price Jr., Stephen Shugart and Cook were among the nine choppers who pocketed $5,400 each in the $500 NLHE event that saw 123 runners.

South Florida

The World Series of Poker has been a showcase for South Florida’s top pros, led by Davie’s Jason Mercier, who captured two titles and finished at the final table in two more. Miami’s Rob Mizrachi got the series started with a victory in Event 3, the $10K stud tournament, his third straight year with a WSOP title. That was followed by a tremendous performance by amateur Alan Percal, an actuary for a healthcare provider in Weston, who defeated seven tough opponents in the $10K heads-up event, including Brian Rast, Jeff Gross and Olivier Busquet.

Mercier’s wins came in the $10K NL deuce-to-seven single draw and the $10K HORSE, while the former Sheridan Hills Christian grad nearly won a third bracelet with his runner-up finish in the $10K razz. Also collecting bracelets were Sam Soverel of West Palm Beach in a $1K PLO event and Steven Wolansky of Cooper City in a $1K NLHE.

There were 23 final-table appearances by South Florida residents through 58 events, with finishes in the top five by Sean Shah of Delray Beach ($565 PLO), Weston’s Paul Nunez ($1K NHLE), Brian Hastings of Ft. Lauderdale Beach ($10K razz), Zach Milchman of Delray Beach ($1,500 Omaha/8), Steven Krupnick of Miami Beach (super seniors), and Michael Mizrachi ($50K Players Championship).

HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD: With the three-week Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open series under way, final preparations were being made for the return of the Big 4, a four-tournament finale that will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. Opening with the $5,250 SHRPO championship Aug. 13, the event will feature a $5M guarantee, including a guaranteed $1M first prize.

The action continues Aug. 14 with the $2,650 tourney that has a $1M guarantee, followed by the starts of the $25,500 high roller and a $1,100 event on Aug. 15. All four final tables will be played simultaneously Aug. 16 in Hard Rock Live.

WSOPC AT PBKC: The 2016-17 World Series of Poker Circuit schedule will again include two stops in West Palm Beach, though the Palm Beach Kennel Club will not host the campaign’s opening event. Instead, the season begins this month with the Global Casino Championship as part of a series at Harrah’s Cherokee in western North Carolina, essentially closing out the previous season in addition to kicking off the new one. The championship, from Aug. 9-11, is considered a bracelet event and will be filmed for inclusion to ESPN’s WSOP coverage this fall.

After the series in Cherokee, the WSOPC crisscrosses the country for six events before returning to PBKC for a series from Nov. 10-21. The poker room will host its usual winter event Feb. 9-20. Overall, the WSOPC’s U.S. schedule has 22 stops, including new venues in Milwaukee and Tulsa, while six events have been announced for the international slate with several more to be added in the near future.

North Florida

Bestbet Jacksonville held another fine series June 16-27 as preliminary events began with a $350 tourney that saw local dealer and pro-in-the-making Chris Brauch continue his hot streak. Brauch had most recently made the final table in March’s MSPT main event for $21K. This $100K guarantee garnered a field of 355 players from all over the country, but the final table was filled with locals who make their living at bestbet, including Moses Clepper and Jami Lind. But Brauch would not be denied, taking home the trophy and $17,655.

The $1,100 main event came with a $200K guarantee, which was beat by $80K. The final table featured local and statewide grinders such as Jie Liu, Mark Smith and John Redlitz. But it would be the fresh face of Orlando’s Zac Stites, 25, who squashed any hope of keeping the trophy in Jacksonville. This wasn’t just Stites’ first major win, but the $61K was his largest career cash. The industrial engineer outplayed and outmaneuvered a field of 289 players.

DBKC: The Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room hosts the Beachside Open on Aug. 9-14. See the ad on Page 47 for details, including a $50K main event. Also, read the profile of Ms. Amy on Page 24 of our August issue.

GRETNA POKER ROOM: The Creek Entertainment property hosts a $120 event with a $5K guarantee on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. There’s also a $10K guarantee for $270 on Aug. 20 at 1 p.m. See the ad on Page 53 for more information.

PENSACOLA GREYHOUND TRACK: The poker room hosts $2,500 guarantees on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. There’s also a $60 event with a $2K guarantee on Fridays and a pair of $10K guarantees for $270 on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27 at 1 p.m. See the ad on Page 53 for more details.


There isn’t always an opportunity to write about Arkansas players. But we ran into the three Mikes from the Razorback State at the World Series, so we couldn’t pass up this chance to chat with them. They’re friends and have been for a long time. Michael Sanders is the common denominator between Michael Lech and Mike Cordell. But it was Cordell who loaned Sanders a poker book, back in a pool hall in Arkansas when he was 14, which launched a career. Sanders went on to meet Lech through online play and eventually they became a trio of Las Vegas hopefuls chasing jewelry and cash.

These three guys made the best of their summer in Vegas. Each ranks in the top 10 all-time cashes for Arkansas. Lech, ranked eighth with $508K in lifetime earnings, is from Alma but likes to bounce around South America chasing the LAPT.

He earned his largest cash this summer in the $888 Crazy Eights eight-handed tournament, finishing runner-up for $401,888.

He said he’s grateful to finally “hit a big score” and that he’s “never been a quitter. I believe in working hard, giving off good energy and that everything will eventually work out.”

Seventh in all-time earnings from Arkansas is Little Rock native Cordell with $558,943. He came into this summer with a heavy burden. Just a week before arriving in Vegas, his mother, Elizabeth Cordell died. His mother was born blind and he served as her caretaker the past six years after his father’s death. His poker ambitions took a notable back seat to caring for his mom.

When he made the decision to come to Vegas, it was with one goal: to make it an unforgettable tribute to her. He made short work of his goal when he captured a bracelet and $346,088 on June 11 in the $1,500 six-max event. His 2008 WSOPC ring also was in a six-max event.

Cordell said this has “always been the dream. This is the dream for all of us when we start playing poker.” He said he always has been a gambler, enjoying pool and poker. A lifetime of experience came together to push him to victory. Cordell was nearly overcome with emotion during his final-table photos with the bracelet. After his victory, he said his mom “was always proud of everything I did.”

Finishing up this astonishingly talented trio, we have the No. 1 in lifetime cashes for Arkansas, Sanders from Russellville. Sanders tops the charts with $1,089,961 in earnings. Here’s the unique part: His largest cash is only $123K. Though he hasn’t managed to snap off a six-figure score this summer, racked up four cashes at four tournament series, as of press time.

Back in the day, he was a prolific online player who occasionally stepped out to try his luck in brick-and-mortar events. He has a consistent stream of cashes since 2006.

If you look up his stats, each year his number of in-the-money finishes increases and one thing is consistent: He gets there a lot.

Sanders is a sponsored pro and a father of two. “This summer has been pretty rough on me as far as poker goes, but having an amazing girl in my life and getting to watch my oldest friend in the poker world win a bracelet has made it spectacular. I couldn’t be happier.”


Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort will award five Ante Up Poker Cruise packages in a series of drawings Oct. 7-9. Players can earn entries for the drawings at its Big Slick Poker Room in D’Iberville, Miss., in a variety of ways:

• Earn one entry for every hour of cash play from Aug. 1-Oct. 7. Two cruise packages will be awarded in a drawing for these players at 10 p.m. on Oct. 7.
• Earn one entry for every full house from Aug. 1-Oct. 8, using both hole cards. Two cruise packages will be given away in a drawing for these players at 10 p.m. on Oct. 8.
• All players who enter the $30K Poker Open on Oct. 7-8 will get an entry in a drawing for one cruise package on Oct. 9.

All winners get an Ante Up Poker Cruise package for two for the Nov. 14 sailing out of Tampa, Fla., making port stops in Mexico and Grand Cayman. Call the poker room for details.

Meet Ms. Amy

Amanda Alvarez, aka Ms. Amy, is tournament director at Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room in Daytona Beach, Fla.

What do you love about poker? Everything. I have basically grown up in this industry and I have loved the game since the first time I learned my first poker term about 13 years ago. I don’t get to play nearly as much as I want to, but if I had it my way I would play every day.

What do you love about your room? I love that we offer so much for our guests, whether it’s in tournaments or promotions. … We offer some of the best high-hand promotions around. Some people don’t even realize that we have other entertainment options for people who don’t play poker, such as greyhound racing, our live concert series, weekly Thursday corn-hole tournaments and dining specials in our clubhouse.

What do you love about your players? We have many loyal regular. It’s nice to be able to communicate with the players. We do focus groups and surveys several times a year to get feedback from the guests on what they want. It helps build a rapport with the players. When you see changes in tournaments, many of them stem from feedback from our guests, because their opinion is important to us as a company.
— Charles Allison