Smoking ban passes in Louisiana

February 23, 2015, Danny Wade, Andrew Malowitz, Charles Allison, Dave Lemmon, Jennifer Gay, Don Matusofsky  

On Jan. 22, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 to ban smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants, video poker parlors and Harrah’s Casino, which is home to one of the largest poker rooms in the state. The ban begins in April, and business owners say the ban will cost them millions of dollars in revenue over the next few years. Emotional testimony before the vote from former 12-year blackjack dealer Mervin Lewis, a non-smoker who has contracted lung cancer from second-hand smoke, and councilman James Gray likely helped contribute to the unanimous opinion of the council.

South Florida

David Litvin, director of poker at the Big Easy Poker Lounge at Mardi Gras Casino, is a guy who will try just about anything to get players into his room. He’s had great success by running nightly freerolls and has cut down on the “Hollywooding” that goes on these days by presenting faster-paced tables.

And while high-hand promotions are nothing new, Litvin has decided to up the ante just a bit by rewarding a “bigger jackpot for our biggest players,” as he said. All $2-$5 no-limit hold’em games, or bigger, have a $1K high-hand jackpot every 30 minutes, up from the previous $599. Even more interesting, the minimum requirements for a winning hand have been waived and there is no requirement to use one or both cards in your hand.

High-hand jackpots remain at $500 every half-hour in the smaller games from noon to midnight, while from 10 a.m. to noon and midnight to 2 a.m., the jackpot will be $100 every 15 minutes. Heavy competition in the South Florida market means it’s important to think outside the box, something Litvin is not afraid to do.

HEN LEADING: Ory Hen, a locksmith from Cooper City, was on a heater at the Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts series with three final tables and missing another by one spot (five cashes in all). With the main event of the series just under way at press time and the Hard Rock regular back in action, Hen held a sizable lead in the in the “Player of the Series” competition after picking up similar honors in November’s SHR Rock ‘N’ Roll series.

The Hard Rock holds a year-long competition as well, with the top-10 finishers receiving prizes and the winner awarded nearly $36K in cash and tourney buy-ins. Hen was in third place behind leader Nigel Murray and Robert Campbell, who was South Florida’s top finisher at the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event (30th). And if the other competitors haven’t had enough of the Hen family, Ory’s younger brother Yigal was challenging in the Lucky Hearts competition (19th).

MAGIC CITY: John Marshall won $25K on Jan. 5 in the poker room’s Weekday Draw Down promotion. He was the first winning since the promo begin in April.


It looks like there is a buffet war going on in Missouri poker rooms as comps are on the rise. At Ameristar St. Charles, play cash games for five hours to earn a free buffet, while at River City St. Louis you’ll need four hours to earn a free buffet.
Hollywood St. Louis will give you a $15 food voucher four hours of cash play while Lumiere Place gives you a free buffet or food voucher for playing cash for three hours between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m.


Tuthill wins Heater in Miss.
The Million Dollar Heater has crowned David Tuthill of St. Petersburg, Fla., as its champion, sending him home with $165K. This follows his fourth-place finish in the same event in 2014, proving persistence is key.

“I really wanted to get the year off to a great start and this couldn’t have gone any better,” Tuthill said. The final table was stacked with familiar faces, including Jeremy Gaubert (second, $91K) of Thibodaux, La., and Benjamin Zamani (third, $50K) of Boca Raton, Fla. Tunica regular Chun Law had an impressive eighth-place finish for $15K and former November Niner John Dolan, a favorite of the Biloxi area, just barely missed the final table (12th).

The next major series in Mississippi, the Spring Break Classic, will begin March 26 at the Beau Rivage and will culminate with its $810 championship April 3-6). The main event will feature a $150K guarantee and the slow-moving, deepstacked structure players have come to expect at Beau events.

HORSESHOE TUNICA: The inaugural World Series of Poker Circuit at the ’Shoe had a great turn out. The event was so successful that the typical abundance of hotel rooms in Tunica were not nearly enough to house all the visiting players with many staying in nearby Southaven and Memphis. There’s nothing better than an event that exceeds expectations. Johnny Landredth of Lanett, Ala., took home the $147,388 first-place prize in the $1,675 main event that had 457 runners.

North Florida

BESTBET JACKSONVILLE: The Mid-States Poker Tour stopped at bestbet Jacksonville in January with a $1,100 main event ($200K guarantee) amid a 10-tournament series. The main event drew 421 players and doubled the guarantee as John Arbaugh of Akron, Ohio, toppled a tough final table that included local career player Andrew Dykeman and former WSOP champ Greg Raymer, who finished 10th. The $102K payday is the biggest of Arbaugh’s career.

The biggest of the preliminaries was Event 1, a $350 NLHE event with a $100K guarantee. The final four players chopped with locals John LaCara and David Trager taking $19K each and Waylon Kofi from Atlanta getting $15K and the trophy.

• Our January report said Jamie Gold was the only player with two bounties at the bestbet Bounty Scramble in November, but Erik Christensen also had two bounties. Nice job, Erik!

DAYTONA BEACH KENNEL CLUB: The $125 Daytona Beach Blizzard, which had a $50K guarantee, attracted 778 entrants for a $74K prize pool. The final table reached a deal ($4,625 each) late in the night, chopping the final $46K. Chipleader Brandon Lowe also received a seat into the Great American Poker Tournament, which was in mid February.

South Florida

OVERLAPPING EVENTS: For the first time in recent memory, the two rival casinos in Northern Broward County staged events with direct competition, not just an overlap. The opening event of the Isle Classic at the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach was scheduled for eight opening sessions with two each day Jan. 7-10. The Stax Poker Lounge at Seminole Coconut Creek matched it with seven opening sessions over the same days.

The CoCo tourney had a $125 buy-in with a $100K guarantee, while the Isle event was a $350 buy-in featuring a $300K guarantee, so there was a clear choice for players.

However, since the Day 2s both resumed on Sunday afternoon, players were forced to choose and many were not thrilled. Both rooms needed 1K players to reach their guarantees. The Isle safely reached its guarantee by drawing 1,231 entries, while the Seminoles went short by about $5,600 (944 entries).

The scenario repeated itself when Coconut Creek’s main event ($350K guarantee, $350 buy-in) went head-to-head with the Isle’s $570 buy-in, $300K guarantee.

This time both rooms went short, as the Creek drew 939 entries (short of the required 1,167) and the Isle finished with 481 entries (600 was needed).

Finally, the Isle Classic’s main event with its $1,200 buy-in and $500K guarantee ran three starting days and found itself competing against the Seminole’s larger property, the Hard Rock in Hollywood and the opening event of the Lucky Hearts Poker Open, which offered a $570 buy-in and an ambitious$1 million guarantee.

For these tournaments, the Isle needed 467 entries to cover and got 372, while the Hard Rock need 2,000 entries over six opening sessions and finished with 1,742.

ISLE CLASSIC: Albert Destrade and Ira Schwartz, with their largest career payoffs in sight, agreed to a three-way chop with Daren Stabinski by splitting up $250K according to chip counts then playing it out for the trophy and $17.5K.
Destrade was recognized as the champion by virtue of the most prize money. You may know Destrade from his third-place finish a few years ago on Survivor South Pacific.

• This month, the Isle’s popular Battles at the Beach runs March 11-31 with more than $1 million in guarantees. The $1,200 main (with a $400K guarantee) starts March 26. Go to the Isle’s web site (pompano-park.isleofcapricasin for the series’ schedule and more details.

GULFSTREAM PARK: The third annual Eclipse Awards charity tournament ran Jan. 14 as renowned jockey Joe Bravo cashed $2,168 as part of a six-way chop. The event drew nearly 120 entrants and featured some of horse racing’s most prominent active and retired jockeys, pulling in more than $8,500 for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Gulfstream Park regular Warren Jerkowicz finished in a tie for second ($1,950). For more information or to donate to the fund, visit Bravo was followed by Rob Bendeck ($2,168), Mauricio Kai ($2,168), Jerkowicz, Amnon Reiter ($1,950), Robert Louisadat ($1,500), Nick Fazio ($585), Brett McLellan ($471), Phil Assous ($387) and Bryce Soth ($333).

NAPLES-FT. MYERS: The annual Naples-Ft. Myers Poker Championships returns March 27-29 in Bonita Springs, Fla., at Naples-Ft. Myers Poker and Racing. Things kick off with a $550 pot-limit Omaha championship on March 27 at noon. The $1,100 no-limit hold’em championship, which sports a $100K guarantee, is a two-day event and begins at noon. For more information, see the ad in our March issue.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The PPC Winter Open at the Silks Poker Room was an eight-event series that ran Jan. 18-25 as the $580 main event sported a $100K guarantee. Local player, and all-around good guy, Andre Papangelou came out on top for $20K. The other three players (Jason Berger, Larry Hoffman and Stephen Diamantas) each took home $16,900.

OCALA JAI-ALAI: The PPC returns March 24-29 with a four-event series capped off by a $225 main event ($30K guarantee). As with all PPC events, 20 percent goes to the packages to the PPC Aruba Championship in October.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: The Little Slick, which ran Jan. 13-18, saw 2,000 players show up, yet it ended quicker than any Little Slick before. When the final table hit around 8 p.m. (other Little Slicks went into the next day), the players chopped 10 ways.

DERBY LANE VS. SARASOTA KENNEL CLUB: One of the more unusual events was the New Year’s Challenge set down by Derby Lane and Sarasota to see which room had the better players. The event spanned two weeks and ended Jan. 18 with the final seven players chopping and Sarasota being declared the winner. Don’t forget Derby’s PokerFest this month (See ad Page 29 of our March issue).

SEMINOLE IMMOKALEE: The Immokalee Poker Open ran Jan. 23-25 with Jobby Blivens winning a $3,500 seat to the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in April.


COUSHATTA CASINO RESORT: The poker room hosts the annual Spring Classic on March 18-21. The series kicks off with a $300 mega satellite. Event 2 is a one-day $500 event with 10K chips and 30-minute levels. The finale is a two-day $1K main event. Players will start with 20K chips and 45-minute levels on Day 1 and 60-minute levels on Day 2.

The Heartland Poker Tour at Ameristar Casino Kansas City (March 13-23). The HPT event has a $1,650 main event that begins March 20 with Flight A and Flights B and C are on March 21.

There will be satellites for the event right up until its start. There also will be a $230 seniors event (March 17) and a $230 pot-limit Omaha tourney (March 15) among the eight scheduled events. Go to for more details.

North Carolina

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE: The WSOPC returns April 16-27. There are special hotel rates available for $99 at mid week and $299 on Friday and Saturday. Call 844-777-7711 and mention code WSOP15 to book.

Sanchez nabs AUPT title on Ante Up cruise

Another great Ante Up Poker Cruise ended with a deal at the final table of the main event, with Hector Sanchez being declared the champion based on chip count.

Sanchez of Melbourne, Fla., and five others split the $2,880 prize pool in the $100 buy-in tournament, with the top four players earning the first Ante Up Poker Tour Player of the Year points. The first tournament on the sailing also ended in multiway deal.

The sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas on Feb. 9-13 visited Nassau, Bahamas, for two days, with a rare overnight visit in the island nation’s capital before returning to Port Canaveral, Fla.

While at sea, Ante Up guests made new friends and reconnected with old ones in a professionally staffed and equipped poker room, featuring cash games, single-table and multitable tournaments and free poker courses. The cruise, as always, got kicked off with an open-bar cocktail party for all Ante Up guests.

Ante Up has four upcoming cruises on its schedule, and will announce the rest of its 2016 schedule soon. Upcoming sailings include April 10 out of Baltimore, Oct. 25 out of Boston, Nov. 7 out of Tampa, and Jan. 24 out of Los Angeles. For more information, or to book, visit or contact Jeanne Cosenza at (727) 742-3843 or
Poker rooms wishing to run Ante Up Poker Cruise promotions should contact Scott Long at (727) 331-4335 or

Meet Darron Simon

Simon is a supervisor at Coushatta Casino Resort, where he’s been the past nine years.

What is your gaming career background? My casino career started in 1998. I worked at Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, La. I started off as a cage cashier, went to poker school. I worked there until 2004 and then helped reopen the poker room at Harrah’s. After two years there, I went to work at Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, La., where I just made nine years at Coushatta. I worked my way up to shift manager there, but I missed dealing and decided to step down to dual-rate supervisor/dealer and part-time tournament director. I really found my home at Coushatta.

Good and bad changes for poker 10-15 years? A change that needed to happen and most people love is that the vast majority of rooms are non-smoking. One of the bad changes is stud and bigger fixed limit hold’em games are all but extinct in our area.

What does the future hold for you in poker? I can easily see myself doing this for the rest of my life. I really enjoy the players I’ve gotten to know over the years. I have also made a lot of friends from my co-workers from the various casinos I’ve worked in. I really love what I do. — Danny Wade