WSOPC stops at Harrah’s Cherokee in N.C. April 14-25

March 26, 2016, Christopher Cosenza, Dave Lemmon, Andrew Malowitz, Charles Allison, Jennifer Gay  

The World Series of Poker Circuit makes its annual stop at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina on April 14-25 and there are some unique offerings this time around. One thing that sticks out is the amount of satellites. If you’re interested in one of the preliminary ring events, which cost $365 or $580, you can enter $65 or $100 satellites either the day of or the day before the ring events. The satellites run April 14-23 at 9 a.m. and/or 2 p.m.

But that’s not all. There will be multiple $250 mega-satellites April 20-23 for the $1,675 main event, which has Day 1s on April 22 and April 23. The main event boasts a $1 million guarantee. The schedule for this year’s WSOPC offers guarantees on each ring event, including a $500K for Event 2 ($365 NLHE with re-entry) that runs five days with four Day 1s (April 14, 4 p.m.; April 15, 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.; April 16, 11 a.m.). Other events of note include numerous non-ring events ($250 seniors April 17, 9 a.m.; $250 PLO/8, April 19, 4 p.m.), and a $365 Monster Stack ring event with a $150K guarantee on April 20 at 11 a.m.

One last satellite worth mentioning: On April 25 at noon, there will be a $135 satellite to the WSOP main event in Las Vegas. This sat will have $100 rebuys and guarantees one $10K seat to the main. For the schedule, go to wsop.com.

North Florida

DBKC: The February edition of Daytona Beach Kennel Club’s Great American Poker Tournament was its most successful. Coming just one week before the Daytona 500, the $330 buy-in hosted a field of 296 players, including pro Maria Ho, who finished in the top 75. At the end of the day, it was David Yessel of Florence, S.C., who took home $5,130 and the GAPT Championship trophy in an 11-way chop.

Not long after, WSOP world champion Chris Moneymaker entered the GAPT Friday Night Lights Special with a $500 bounty on his head, which went to Daytona’s Thomas Craven, who spiked a set against one of poker’s modern pioneers.

BESTBET JACKSONVILLE: Just when you thought the Restock the Shelves event was over for the year, bestbet is doing its part with its College Championship on April 1.

The event often is used as away to introduce fresh faces to the game and to create a fun atmosphere for college students. With this event, however, bestbet will be offering more than $2K in cash and prizes.

One way to earn your way into the raffle is to play, which requires a college ID. An even better way is to bring in a canned food item, because for each canned item you bring in you’ll receive an extra raffle ticket. It’s that easy to help those in need while having a great time with friends and maybe winning yourself something nice.

In other news, the Mid-States Poker Tour was under way at press time. Some of the preliminary events wrapped up with players such as David Salisbury winning the All In or Fold event for $2,100 and Blake Whittington taking down a field of 690 in the $360 opener for more than $45K. The main event, which surpassed its $200K guarantee, was wrapping up when Ante Up went to press, so look for results soon.

Central Florida

DERBY LANE: Over the past few months, the St. Petersburg property has hosted a handful of charity events. The latest came in February, an event sponsored by the Quinton Aaron Foundation. For those who don’t know Aaron, all you need to do is watch the Blind Side. Aaron played the role of Michael Oher.

Some other NFL players who showed up were ex-Charger Neil Calip and former Bucs receiver Michael Clayton. Many people attended just for pictures, which all of the celebrities were more than happy to oblige. With the buy-ins and rebuys the charity received more than $6K. There are discussions in the works to hold a charity series.

In other tournament news, Bret “Gator” McCown survived an enormous 750-player field to take down the Derby $50K Accumulator and $16,400. The final table lasted about two hours until it reached four-handed. Tampa’s Manny Minaya went out fourth after McCown cracked his queens with A-7. Tommy Nguyen was the next to go, after his short-stack push with 6-2 lost to McCown’s sevens.

As heads-up play began, McCown and Randy Spain agreed to chop $15K each and play for the remainder, which took one hand. This marks the second Accumulator event that McCown has been part of a final-table chop. The last time also was for $15K.

HARD ROCK TAMPA: In June, the poker room will host a $1,100 deepstack main event with a $300K guarantee. There will be multiple satellites leading up to the main, including $140 three-seat guarantees. Bigger satellites will be held as the event draws closer, so call the poker room for details.

South Florida

HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD: Getting recognition for the hard work that creates great success always is satisfying, but when it’s rewarded at the top level by industry peers, it can be an incredible experience. Such was the case in late February for William Mason, the director of poker at Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, when he attended the American Poker Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills.

Mason, accompanied by his new tournament director Tony Burns, spent an action-packed couple of days for activities put on by the Global Poker Index, which included several informative seminars, the inaugural Global Poker League draft and the American Poker Awards. You could say it was a show business-like experience.

“Everything that GPI and Alex Dreyfus did out there was amazing,” Mason said. “The seminars were great, the organization and the way the GPL draft was held was cool and then the awards show was just top-notch. I felt like we were at the Oscars.”

The South Florida property won Event of the Year ($2K buy-in or larger) for last year’s WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown. It also was nominated for Innovation of the Year for its Big 4 presentation of final tables at the Hard Rock Poker Open in August, while Mason received a nod for Industry Person of the Year alongside heavyweights Matt Savage of the WPT, Jack Effel of the WSOP and Poker Players Alliance’s John Pappas.

“To be nominated was extremely humbling,” Mason said. “I was truly honored. I am close friends with Matt (who won the award) and he has been a great mentor for me. He and Mike Smith (director of poker at Maryland Live) are two guys I can pick up the phone any time and talk poker, so to know that I was mentioned in the same breath as Matt is really an honor.”

As usual, the humble New Jersey native was quick to deflect the credit to his management and staff, but everyone, including players, showed great pride when the hardware made an appearance at the SHR poker room.

“We brought the trophy into the poker room the other day and we shook more hands than we ever could have imagined; everyone congratulated us,” Mason said.

However, there’s little time for Mason to rest on his laurels, as the Showdown returns this month with a main event from April 15-20 followed by the all-new WPT Tournament of Champions from April 22-24. Of the two events, only the TOC, which replaces the WPT Championship, will be televised.

While the series runs March 31-April 24, the attention of the poker world will be focused on South Florida beginning with a special charity event April 13 benefitting the Jason Taylor Foundation.

The popular ex-Dolphin should attract plenty of sports and entertainment stars, in addition to the top players in the world. Then, after the Showdown begins, there will be two attractive events kicking off before the start of the TOC, including a $25K high roller and the $10K Poker Finale with a $2 million guarantee. That latter event emerged partly because feedback from the players showed they wanted another large buy-in at the end of the WPT season.

Besides the attractiveness of these events, along with the stellar reputation of the property, Mason said the draw of the area at the end of a long winter makes this a no-brainer for the most serious players.
“South Florida is a great destination and it’s a great opportunity for us to host such an event, so we are expecting a really great field,” he said.

When asked about the phenomenal growth of SHR over the past six years, Mason had a quick explanation.

“I think a large part of the credit should go to the upper management of the property because of their dedication to poker,” he said. “These guys are truly passionate about the game and that coming from the top down makes a big difference. They give us the tools to give us opportunities; they’re always willing to listen when we need things and then we have a staff and crew that’s just amazing. They’ve bought into what we are trying to do and understand that it is all about the guest service and growing the product to get bigger and in turn the players have responded to that. … Then, to go out to California and receive an award like that was just fantastic,” he said with a huge smile.

PAHUJA WINS WSOPC AT PBKC: Mukul Pahuja, a New York transplant who moved to South Florida in 2011 after forsaking a finance job in Manhattan for a career as a full-time poker pro, continued his meteoric success by taking home his third WSOPC ring in the main event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. The WPT Player of the Year in Season XII collected $193K for the win as he defeated Adam “Roothlus” Levy in head-to-head play to boost his career earnings to more than $4.3 million. He has had considerable success in the area, finishing third in the inaugural SHRPO in 2013 and adding a runner-up finish in the SHR Showdown in 2014.

The PBKC bad-beat jackpot also ended a long run during the WSOPC as Phillip Lee Clements saw his straight flush lose to a better one belonging to Joseph Santoro of Orlando in cash-game play in the wee hours of Feb. 11. Players at the table split more than $348K, with Clements getting half of the pool and Santoro taking home $87,145. Seven others at the table each received $12,449.

Louisiana

HARRAH’S NEW ORLEANS: The WSOPC returns May 12-23. The main event will have two starting days (May 20-21) and costs $1,675. There will be a series of satellites to this championship May 19-21 for $250, so visit wsop.com for details and the rest of the schedule.

BOOMTOWN NEW ORLEANS: There are some interesting promotions running, including Loyal Aces Cracked on Sundays, when players can earn $100 and two-times comp value for every hour played, plus two entries into our Spring Giveaway drawings. Also, on Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m., the high hand each hour wins $100 plus an entry into the Spring Giveaway drawings. Call the poker room for more promotions and details.

CYPRESS BAYOU: Poker returned to the property in January, running in limited capacity Thursdays (2 p.m.-10 p.m.), Fridays (2-10 p.m.) and Saturdays (noon-2 a.m.).

Mississippi

HORSESHOE TUNICA: The poker room is breaking records with its house tournaments. In what is recorded as the largest non-sanctioned tournament turnout in Mississippi history, 1,089 runners showed up in February for a six-figure prize pool, remarkable for a relatively small buy-in ($150). The winner was James Arnold of Garland, Texas, who earned $24K. Thomas Stovall of Plano, Texas, was second ($14,903). Local Jamie Strickland of Memphis was third ($11,060). The $50K guarantee weekend tournament returns April 29-May 1.

BEAU RIVAGE: In light of recent staff changes, the usual March Spring Break Classic tournament was canceled. For a few days after poker room manager Johnny Groom’s relocation to the Washington, D.C., market, there was a notable lull in the action. Now, on the eve of announcing a new manager, things are fine. Poker host Felica Watkins said, “The Beau Rivage Poker Room is thriving. We continue to meet and exceed our poker players needs.” At this time, the Gulf Coast Poker Championship (September) and the Million Dollar Heater (January 2017) are still scheduled.

Missouri

RIVER CITY CASINO & HOTEL: The property will close its poker room April 2, though slots, table games and the hotel will remain open. Daily tournaments ceased on March 11 in response to inadequate staffing, as dealers and supervisors moved on to other opportunities.
With Pinnacle owning two poker rooms in the area, speculation is this poker facility is closing to make room for an Asian restaurant.

Meet Alan Reynolds

Alan Reynolds has worked at the Gulfstream Park poker room for eight years, the past four as a full-time floor manager, but he had an interesting career before that as a pro jai-alai player for more than a decade. He started playing poker after he retired from the sport and got into the poker business at Dania Jai-Alai, the fronton where he played for several years.

Tell us about your poker career after retiring from jai-alai. I started as a dealer at Dania, but for me it became very monotonous, so I wanted to move into management and, after coming to Gulfstream, I eventually got that chance. I love working the floor.

What was it like dealing to the public after all those years being separated with fans by that jai-alai screen? I felt real comfortable working at Dania, when I started working there people recognized me right away as a former jai-alai player. But there is nothing quite like jai-alai; I hate to see all the frontons closing down over the past 20 years, so I hope Dania survives.

Gulfstream is one of the country’s most exciting places to play, with the best horses, jockeys and trainer here from December to April. It must be fun to work there. I’m very happy where I am right now; it’s real exciting around here, especially in the winter. I couldn’t ask for better people to work for. — Dave Lemmon