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May 30, 2008

Staying alive? Not for Barry Gibb at poker tournament

Barry Gibb, big-money poker and cards flying on a Friday, how good can it get?

Especially if you're John Stevenson. Or Gary Flur.

Those two were among the locals sitting at Barry Gibb's table at the Seminole Hard Rock and Casino Friday, for the opening hands of the casino's first big-money charity tournament.

By rules of the recently negotiated compact between the Seminoles and the state (see John Holland's story here), the Hard Rock can hold six big-money tournaments a year, providing a cut of it goes to charity.

In this case, 20 percent of the entry fee went toward the Miami Beach Health Foundation, which Gibb co-chairs. (Accounting question: If you play in a poker tournament where you can win money, but some goes to charity, can you write it off? Trying to find that one out...)

About 90 people showed up for Friday, the first day of play. The tournament is also taking entrants on Saturday. Then those players surviving either of those two opening days meet on Sunday to play it down to a winner.

Back to Gibb. Turns out he plays a little bit in Vegas, according to a family friend, but his wife, Linda, is the real player, he said. A couple of other Gibb relatives also were scattered across the room.

Gibb's friend was a prophet: 55 minutes into the tournament, Linda hit a full house and knocked out Barry, who had a set.

Who are John Stevenson and Gary Flur?

Well, Stevenson owns Stevenson Roofing in Plantation, and was seated next to Gibb (he's also known as "the commissioner" of the basketball court along S.R. A1A and Fort Lauderdale Beach). So when the tournament got ready to start, paparazzi galore started firing off flashbulbs in his eyes. (Apparently Gibb's photo is worth something to celeb photographers.)

"It was kind of cool, no problem," said Stephenson, who like many, plays in bigger tournaments elsewhere in the country, so he was eager to see larger tournaments happen here. (He's the guy in the photo with Gibb. Photo/courtesy of Ralph Notaro/NDM Images)

Flur lives in Plantation Acres and was also at the table, and is a friend of mine, so what the heck, I' m throwing him on the blog here. He's headed out to Vegas for the WSOP in a few days.

2007 WSOP event bracelet winner Fred Goldberg of Plantation showed up, but couldn't play because he had a commitment Sunday. But he said most of the players are the better Hard Rock players, the locals.

A couple of new faces, who didn't give their names, said they were playing in this tournament, but generally don't play in Florida. They don't like the $100 limit buy-in cash game, nor the $1,100 tournaments. But they wanted to support the notion of "big time" poker in South Florida, so they came to play this.

I'll try to get an update up on Sunday, and we'll do a short brief on the winner on Monday.

And a quick update on the poker part: it's 20,000 chip starting stack, the cutoff for the first day of play being blinds of 800 and 1600. So if you just hang in there, you'll be playing on Sunday.

And calling it a charity tournament is correct, but there's cash to be won: I'm guessing it'll pass 200 players after Saturday. That means $2,400 each in the prize pool, for a total of $480,000 going back in. First prize pays what, 30 percent (just a wild guess)? So that would mean $144,000 for the winner. I'll try to get the full payouts in the next day or so; they can't even determine them until Saturday play starts anyway, though.

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May 29, 2008

Details on this year's WSOP

OK, cards start flying Friday. Here's what the World Series of Poker has to say about this year's event:

The 2008 WSOP runs from May 30-July 14 and features 55 different bracelet events in almost every variation of poker at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In addition to offering a record number of new championships in various poker disciplines and at a range of buy-in levels, the 2008 WSOP will include a historic format change to the $10,000 World Championship of No-Limit Texas Hold’em – commonly referred to as the Main Event – as well as a wide range of improvements for players and fans alike.

The innovations will be on display beginning Day One. The inaugural 2008 bracelet event is a $10,000 World Championship of Pot-Limit Hold’em, the first of its kind at the WSOP. The tournament also marks the first time since the WSOP went to a multi-event format that it has opened with a $10,000 buy-in championship.

In all, the 2008 WSOP will feature 55 bracelet events, including an all-time high of eight $10,000 World Championships and eight $5,000 championships. Tournament organizers also have included eight $1,500 championships in the schedule to create the most diverse mix of bracelet events ever offered.

Perhaps the most notable innovation at the 2008 World Series of Poker will be a format change for the Main Event. For the first time in the WSOP’s 39-year history, the Final Table of the Main Event will be televised in primetime on ESPN the very same day that the WSOP World Champion receives their bracelet.

Once the final nine players of the Main Event are set on July 14, action will be suspended for 117 days. These players – to be known as the “November Nine” – will have an opportunity during that time to secure sponsors and coaches, study their opponents’ play and devise new playing strategies before reconvening at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino on Nov. 9.

The Main Event winner will be determined in the early morning hours of Nov. 11 and, in a telecast first, ESPN will air its final table coverage that night beginning at 9 PM ET.

Last year's records include:

· Most total entrants for all events: 54,288

· Largest Prize Pool: $159,796,918

· Largest Ladies World Championship: 1,286 players

· Largest Seniors World Championship: 1,882 players

· Largest $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.: 148 players

· Largest preliminary event prize pool: $7.1 million for $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.

· Largest preliminary event top prize: $2.2 million for $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.

· Largest Field of Players (non-Main Event): 2,998 for $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em

· Oldest player to compete in a WSOP event: 94-year-old Jack Ury in Main Event

· Youngest player to win a WSOP gold bracelet in the United States: Steve Billirakis – 21 years, 11 days – in $5,000 World Championship Mixed Hold’em Limit/No Limit

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May 28, 2008

Top 10 horse racing names

The Casino City Times gives us a top-10 list of greatest horse racing names ever, all of with are G-rated.

If you're a name bettor when it comes to picking the ponies, you probably heard of a few of these.

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May 27, 2008

Hard Rock, World Series and Isle poker tournaments: Which will you play?

Our John Holland wrote about the upcoming tournament at the Hard Rock, which I blogged about below.

Meanwhile, the Isle is having its Florida State Poker Championships later this month, and players from here are also headed out to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker events.

I'm gathering thoughts of what people think of the tournaments and which ones they'll likely play in, so if you're playing in one, how about a quick response to this post telling me what attracts you to one of the tournaments over another? Cash payout? Chance of playing against weaker players and making money? Chance of playing against better players to up your game? The party? Thanks.

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May 23, 2008

Update to post below about Coconut Creek and The Isle

Sorry I didn't get the comments up until after lunch; software issue.

Also meant to include somewhere -- I didn't in the story -- the giveaways both are doing this weekend.

Isle: Memorial Day promotion:

3 p.m.: Red Ford Mustang
5 p.m.: Five $500 IslePlay Winners
6 p.m.: White Ford Mustang
7 p.m.: Five $500 IslePlay Winners
9 p.m. Blue Ford Mustang
(And if you don't want the car, they'll give you $5,000 cash instead, the casino web site says.)

Coconut Creek: Free laser light show at 9 p.m. Sat.-Sun.-Mon. and jet pack aviators, making three daily shows, at noon, 3 and 5 p.m. Sat-Sun-Mon.

Meanwhile, I'm headed out to Mardi Gras tonight for the opening of their third floor "balcony," which I think will have a cool view of the dog racing.

And those of you who want to read about the casino that started it all, my Showtime story about Seminole Casino Hollywood made print today (it was on this blog earlier this week).

May all of your cards be live. I'm back Tuesday. Meanwhile, your job is to comment on a story and bookmark this blog now.

P.S.: Just got the info on Palm Beach Kennel's Memorial Day, and while I don't cover dog racing, I'll put their promotions up.

Here they are:

11 a.m. on: Free admission and classic cars display.

Miss Palm Beach County, Sierra Minott, to sing the National Anthem, accompanied by the Lake Worth High School Color Guard!

Live Radio Remote and Prize Giveaways with Jeff DeForest and WFTL 850 AM! (Does that count as a highlight? And didn't he move over to 640?)

The first 1,000 racing fans thru the turnstiles will receive a coupon good for a Palm Beach Grand Classic T-Shirt! (Coupons redeemable as you leave the track beginning at 3:30 p.m.)

For the Kids, Cookie The Clown with Free Face Paintings and Balloons. (11:30 - 1:30 p.m.)

* Drink Specials! Bud / Bud Light / Bud Select (16 oz. bottles) on sale for $3. (Thru the Fourth of July)

Prize Giveaways: Enter to win a five-day / 4-night vacation at The Cavalier Hotel in South Beach. (After Race 12)

Fuel For Thought: Enter to win one of ten $100 Gas Cards,

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Coconut Creek and The Isle: Which do you prefer?

I wrote in today's metro section about the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek offering a space flight as its summer promotion.
GM Steve Bonner was very honest about facing competiton from The Isle in Pompano Beach, which has been open for about 13 months. The two casinos are the northernmost in Broward County, so if you live in Boca, Delray or north Broward, they're your closest choices.

Bonner's thoughts:

"We’re in the midst of an ongoing battle, in a good way, it’s a good thing and keeps us all on our toes. We're going after the same base.

Having competition does step up the scale of what we want to do for the guest, and frankly it grows the market for everyone."

The Isle declined to comment on another casino's promotion (I don't blame them), but it makes me curious.

To Isle players: Would having a chance at a space flight entice you to Coconut Creek?

To Coconut Creek players: Would the Isle's promotions draw you away and over to them?

Or is there one facet or another about your casino, aside from promotions, that keeps you there? Food? Service? Smoking/non-smoking? Clientele? The compact? Card room? Parking?

It's a long weekend, so fire away.

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May 22, 2008

Seminoles are serious: They hire VP of table games


If you were sitting back still doubting whether the Seminoles were putting in blackjack, here's more proof: The Tribe has hired a senior vice president of table games.

It's Howard Dreitzer. His appointment was announced by Seminole Gaming CEO James F. Allen.

In his new position, Dreitzer has primary responsibility for blackjack, baccarat, pai gow and other card games at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, Florida, as well as five other Seminole casinos, according to a news release. The card games are part of the compact agreement signed between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida.

Dreitzer most recently was Senior Vice President and General Manager for Conrad Jupiters Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Dreitzer worked directly for Caesars Entertainment, which managed the gaming resort, and he directed overall operations, the release said. He previously was vice president and general manager and vice president of casino operations of the Conrad International Treasury Casino & Hotel in Brisbane, Australia.

He also has worked at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans, LA, where he was senior vice president of casino operations and chief operating officer for two years. He also served as executive vice president of gaming at the Atlantic City Showboat Hotel & Casino and Senior Vice President of Casino Operations for the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. (Personally, I've never been to any of those places, so I can't say I've seen him around.)

But he was born in Miami Beach and studied at the University of South Florida, the University of Las Vegas, Columbia University, Wharton Business College, Harvard, Cambridge and Cornell, according to the release.

The next pressing question regarding table games is the blackjack rules, which I'm sure the Seminoles know by now, but are waiting to release. Will it be hit or stick on soft 17? Double on any two cards? Insurance? Surrender? 3-to-2 or 6-to-5 on a BJ? And what stakes? $25 min. during peak hours and weekend?

As soon as I know, you all will know. So bookmark this blog. Now.

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May 21, 2008

Hard Rock sets first tournament over state's $1,100 limit

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is hosting Florida’s first $3,000 buy-in poker tournament in the Poker Room at Seminole Paradise from May 30 – June 1.

A portion of the tournament proceeds will benefit the newly formed Miami Beach Health Foundation in support of Miami Beach Community Health Center. A potential prize pool of up to $500,000 is up for grabs, according to a press release.

Barry Gibb, co-chair of the Miami Beach Health Foundation Board of Directors, will kickoff the event at 11:30 a.m.

Currently, Florida law dictates a maximum buy-in of $1,100 for poker tournaments. The recent compact agreement permits the Seminole Tribe of Florida to hold six poker tournaments annually, with the stipulation that 70 percent of the net poker income ("the house rake" in poker talk) is donated to a 501 C3 charity.

This legislation was long-awaited by poker tournament players across Florida and locals according to Larry Frank, general manager of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. “The compact for charity poker tournament buy-ins places the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in a league of its own. Seminole casinos are the only casinos to offer poker players what we will be able to do beginning May 30,” Frank said.

Several other charity tournaments are being planned throughout the year, according to Peter Arsenis, director of poker operations for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

“Poker activity has been increasing across the board and we’re responding to the demand. We are the only facility that can offer this new buy-in activity in the State of Florida.”

Tournament registration involves cash sales only. For more information, call 954-327-ROCK.

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Mardi Gras opens up 'The Balcony'

Mardi Gras opened up 200 more slot machines FRiday, in the newly renovated third floor dubbed ‘The Balcony’.

‘The Balcony’ overlooks the Mardi Gras greyhound racetrack, as well as a view of Aventura, Hallandale Beach and Hollywood skyline. The Grand Opening will take place May 23.

Promotions scheduled on opening night include cash giveaways. Every 15 minutes from 6 p.m.-7:45 p.m., patrons will win up to $2,000 with ‘Spin the Sombrero’ and $500 every hour from 8-11 p.m. with ‘Balcony Bucks.’

Patrons can try out their luck on the new slots if they are the lucky winner every half hour from 8:30-10:30pm of $100 Bonus Play with ‘Jester’s Jamboree’. Players who hit a jackpot over $1,200 from May 23-26 will get double the prize.

Go to

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May 20, 2008

Answer two questions, get a free gambling book

The American Casino Guide has a monthly podcast hosted by the book's author, Steve Bourie of Hollywood, who talks about topics of interest to travelers who like to visit casinos. Each show he interviews a guest from the world of casino travel or gambling.

The May podcast is now available and it features Bourie interviewing Howard Schwartz, marketing director of America's first gambling bookstore, the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas. They discuss the history of the store, some of its famous visitors, and Schwartz's recommendations for the best books on a variety of gambling topics.

During the interview Howard gives a two-question trivia quiz. If you can answer both questions correctly, Howard will send you a free book based on the gambling subject of your choosing.

You have to enter by June 1.

To visit the podcast page, go to:

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May 19, 2008

Seminole Hollywood: It's a classic

No Hulk Hogan, no Vegas showgirls, not even a ceremonial first pull of the slots.

It just wouldn’t feel right at the Seminole Casino Hollywood. The formal arrival of Vegas-style slots came to the 28-year-old casino last week with a night that included events for both the regular player and the VIPs. The casino sent out 9,000 invitations for opening night.

The casino became the fourth in the Seminoles’ chain to roll out Class III (Vegas-style) slots, which pit the player against the house, rather than against each other. The first Seminole casino to offer the slots was the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, followed by casinos in Coconut Creek and Tampa.

The smoky Hollywood casino – known as “Seminole Classic” by locals -- sits across the street from the glitzy Hard Rock, which on Jan 28 brought in former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, showgirls and tribe members to introduce Class III slots. Since April, Seminole Classic has converted 541 of its 903 machines.

The simpler ambience is exactly what attracts players such as Thannya Wolfe of Plantation, who has been coming to casino since it first opened as a bingo hall in 1979.

“It’s our second home, and it just feels comfortable here,” Wolfe said, who meets her sister, who lives in Hollywood, a couple of times each week to play bingo and slots.

The Seminole Casino Hollywood was the first of the tribe’s casinos, opening in 1979 as a bingo hall. For the next 12 years, bingo was the main attraction, with payouts often crossing $100,000. “Lightning bingo” came in 1990 and the tribe’s first video display terminals (Class II machines) arrived in a year later.

The Seminoles considered tearing it down when the Hard Rock arrived in 2004, but then decided it served a loyal and unique following, Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said.
“It’s significant and important from a business perspective, but also from a historical perspective,” he said. “It’s the place where it all started.”

Unlike most casinos, Seminole Classic doesn’t have a special area for high rollers, and the building expanded bit by bit. But the everyday-person clientele has a bond with casino floor staff, security and food servers, about half of whom have worked at the casino for at least five years, GM Adrian Fox noted.

“We know about them, they know about us, and we like that,” said Florence Renz of Hallandale Beach, who plays bingo and slots.

The slots conversion to Class IIIs will continue, but the casino faces a business challenge that others don’t, Fox noted: Some players are dedicated to playing machines created before they could take Players Club cards. So management must respect customers’ habits while also providing enough modern frills to keep up with the competition.

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May 16, 2008

Blackout lifted: Preakness betting is OK everywhere

Our Tom Jicha wrote in today's sports section about the blackout being lifted from Calder, so betting can abound for Saturday's Preakness.

Gulfstream, the Isle, Palm Beach Kennel Club and Dania are all having promotions and simulcast events. (Click on the links at right for each venue.)

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Home poker games: Where and for how much?

I wrote about home poker games in today's Showtime section, angling my story off a book by local resident John Bond (he's a whole 'nother post, or even book, for another time).

The state helped me clear up the legalities, and Bond had tips for keeping a game civil and just an overall outlook.
But I want to take it a step further on this blog, really get a feel for who's playing what out there.

So send me some info about your home game: how often, what are the stakes, what games you're playing and whether the growth of card rooms in South Florida has affected your game.

This is a topic I'd like to poke around some, so please send me your story.

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May 15, 2008

Neil Rogers coming to Gulfstream Saturday for Preakness

If you haven't seen Neil Rogers in person in a while -- and no one in South Florida has -- Saturday is your chance.

Rogers will be at Gulfstream Park and Casino from 3 p.m.-5 p.m Saturday, for the Preakness

"It will be the first time in 10 years that Neil's faithful listeners will be able to meet the radio legend in person," writes Lee Feldman of WQAM, which airs Rogers at 10 a.m. weekdays.

The event will include free Neil Rogers T-shirts for the first 100 people; free collectable Neil Rogers signed prints and other giveaways, including a listener tricycle race for a weekend getaway to the Clarion Resort and Water Park in Orlando.

Plus, Neil will be handicapping three of the Preakness races, where one listener for each race will receive a free $100 betting voucher to place a bet on the horse that Neil picks. If that horse wins, then the listener will get to keep the winnings, according to Feldman.

Rogers maintains a home in Florida although he broadcasts from Toronto from a state-of-the-art studio WQAM built in his apartment. It was announced on April 14 that Rogers agreed to a new five-year contract on WQAM, keeping him on the air until 2013.

Meanwhile, Gulfstream's Friday afternoon GP Advantage Betting Machine promotion, which started on Kentucky Derby weekend, is being expanded to Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

According to Gulfstream's Randy Abraham, every hour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Silks Simulcast Center on the first floor, Gulfstream draws out a name.

The player steps into a glass booth, a stack of vouchers of various denominations is placed in the booth, the door is closed and the vouchers fly around in the booth. They are for up to $500 or for prizes such as a Toshiba laptop computer, a digital camera and a handheld GPS system.

The drawings are open to members of the GP Advantage Club, Gulfstream's horse player’s reward incentive program.

Racing analyst Ron Nicoletti emcees. Nicoletti conducts handicapping seminars at Gulfstream Park.

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May 14, 2008

He checked the feet, and called the bluff


This is the story of a guy who used all the poker information he took in along the way. And it has earned him a seat at the World Series of Poker.

It's Joe Conti, a co-host on Poker Talk America, which airs at 4 p.m. weekdays on WBZT-1230 AM. (I admit to risking Poker Talk Fatigue, but the story is too good not to tell. So I'm going to give it to him.) It's the story of how he won a tournament at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, and earned a seat to the WSOP later this month.

He's a radio guy, so he can put the words together. So I'm going to get out of the way and let him tell it:

"I went into the tournament with a game plan. I was determined to apply many of the things I have learned on Poker Talk America and from the professional guests we have had on.

For the third straight WSOP satellite at the Kennel Club I was unable to build any significant chip stack. I found myself fighting the clock and the blinds for most of the tournament. So, channeling the professionals in my head, I paid close attention to the “M” factor (which is the cost of going one revolution around the table, including blinds and antes) With the exception of the early rounds where the blinds are low and the starting stack was 10,000 I was always behind in “M” a standard safe “M” is about 10-15 and above that often dictates a comfort level where the need to take risks and gambles are not necessary. I was for the most part around 5-8 with a couple of 3 “M” situations just to make things even more difficult.

It was a struggle to say the least, so I had to pick my spots very carefully, knowing that my next move could have easily been my last. I got a very good read of the players at my first table and even though I was not getting cards, I felt when I did, I knew who I wanted to be up against and those were the opportunities I tried to focus on. I attacked when I had decent hands and most of the times those decisions paid off.

I concentrated on 4 very important elements that I have been taught on the show which are: Position, Players (Tells) and Betting Patterns and my “M”

I was constantly aware of my M, and that allowed me to pick strategic situations that my stack suggested I had to, to stay alive.

I was then moved to what turned out to be the actual final table with over 90 players remaining (129 entered the tournament) and began that process all over again. Position, People, Betting Patterns and the “M”

At no point did I have more than 68,000 even when the final 10 players were determined I was the short stack at the table, but I knew my players, I knew their weaknesses and I was determined to apply the lessons I learned on the show at all costs. I never gave up.

I said to myself before I began that these are some of the best players in the world advising the listeners and myself on how this game needs to be played and I had to put my ego aside and respect their knowledge and instruction, and that is exactly what I did. I was able to steal the blinds when I sensed weakness and that allowed me to have enough for my blinds when they came along and some additional betting units.

Then came the moment of truth. There were 5 players left and it was me and another player heads up. I look down at pocket 9’s and make a raise, mind you I now only have about 75,000 units and there are a total if 1,290,000 units on the table. It comes around to this other player and he looks at his cards and moves all in over the top of me. The first thing I thought was DAMN! I don’t want to lose the tournament with a pocket pair, I just don’t. Pocket pairs I have been taught are the quickest way of hitting the rail and I had done that far to many times in the past and felt I need to think about this. Even if I felt he only had 2 over cards to my 9’s I was considering folding as I had not won but 1 or 2 races the entire day and just didn’t feel good about going in on a coin flip.

So I channeled Jerry Yang, I remembered where Jerry told me about foot tells, Tells that exist under the table. This is a practice I knew nothing of as little as a month ago. I had already observed his jugular vein and breathing pattern and saw that it was accelerated but that wasn’t enough, so I stood up as if I was thinking about my decision (which I was) and observed his feet. I said if this players feet are crossed beneath his chair I am going to put my tournament life on the line and call him (his feet were generally not crossed) I looked down and BAM! they were crossed (crossed feet indicate that a player doesn’t want to fight and is weak, therefore usually bluffing) I walked back to my chair and before I could sit down I snapped my cards face up and said CALL!

He had an Ace of clubs and a 3 of diamonds. He put his tournament life on a bluff (even though he had an ace, I had already raised the pot so he at the very least should have thought that I had a stronger ace) The tell Jerry Yang taught me was perfectly accurate.

My 9’s hold up, I double up and 2 hands later I have the rest of his chips.

The remaining 3 players appeared to be unsettled by my quick and aggressive comeback and they began to make some bad decisions trying to slow me down but there was no stopping me at that point and I began to take complete control of the table from that hand on and the heads up was only 3 hands long. I was still short stacked 2 to 1 but the very first heads up hand I look down at ace-queen of clubs I say All-In and my opponent called me quickly with only a king - deuce. I hit an ace and won the hand.

Two hands later I was the big blind and she raises to 100,000, I now have the chip lead and look down at 6, 7 of spades so I just call. The flop is 6, 7, 10, I check she bets another 100,000 and I move all in, she had KQ, a blank on the turn and a 6 on the river and I filled up and it was over.

The moral of the story I expressed to Frank was that, the lessons the pros give us on the air truly work, and if they are applied properly, it almost makes it unfair for those who know nothing of them. The stars were aligned just right on Saturday.


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May 13, 2008

Hone your blackjack via the Wii

As if playing your kid's tennis and golf isn't fun enough, now there's an improved way to play blackjack via the Wii.

V.I.P. Casino Blackjack offers "the richest and most realistic blackjack experience available today," promoters say, with fully realized characters, cards, and casinos rendered in real-time 3D.

The game takes full advantage of the Wii hardware, with multiple control schemes, including a point-and-click option.

The digital version of Wired tried the game out and offers a report.

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May 12, 2008

Preakness betting doubtful in Florida

Here we go again. As things stand now (Monday afternoon), there will be no simulcast wagering on the Preakness Stakes or any other races from Pimlico in Florida this weekend.

The lingering dispute over a purse contract between Calder and its horsemen has led counterparts at Pimlico, home of the Preakness, as well as Churchill Downs, Delaware, River Downs, Thistledown, Beulah Park and the new Presque Isle Downs (Erie, Pa.) to refuse to allow their signal to be simulcast to Calder. Since Calder is the Florida hub, this also shuts out every other pari-mutuel in the state.

A Kentucky Derby eve truce allowed the Derby, the Kentucky Oaks and their undercards to be simulcast into Florida pari-mutuels other than Calder. However, an encore is unlikely. Tampa Bay Downs, which had a contract with its horsemen, served as the hub for betting at Gulfstream Park and other sites. However, Tampa Bay Downs has ended its season, so that option is off the table.

Calder officials have been working quietly behind the scenes to talk horsemen into lifting the ban for Preakness Day as a courtesy to horse players. Last year, Florida bettors wagered $4.6 million dollars on the Preakness card, so the horsemen in both states will be hurting themselves by losing this windfall, a substantial portion of which goes into purses.

You might see ads promoting Preakness betting at area pari-mutuels but this is more based on what happened with the Derby than the actual situation. The same ads ran before the Derby and were erroneous until the truce was negotiated.

Until you hear otherwise here or in the daily Sun-Sentinel, it would be a good idea to call first before making a special trip to any track to bet the Preakness.


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May 10, 2008

Update on video poker quiz; and casino cars

Apparently some people had trouble getting to the video poker quiz we promoted in the print version of the Sun-Sentinel Friday. Sorry about that, my fault.

We were going to do our own version of a quiz by Michael Shackelford, taking his math and his situations -- with his approval. After all, he's done the math. Over and over. But then we thought if we just linked to his page, it would have the same effect for readers.

Didn't work. Lesson learned.

Anyway, the video poker quiz we're referring to is about a dozen situations, and answers on what to throw away and what to keep. Go to

Meanwhile, you likely saw my story today about casinos and cars. Every time I was out there doing research, I swiped my card at each casino, just in case. I figured if I had won, it'd had messed up the story -- but hey, at least I'd have a car.

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May 9, 2008

Mother's Day and casinos

More supporting evidence of how casino culture is permeating South Florida. It has become a place to take Mom on Mother's Day.

Among the options:

At Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, there is a "Stuff Your Purse" promotion, with up to $5,000 cash from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and a String of Pearls from Tiffany giveaway from, 2-6 p.m. with four winners each hour. Moms also get a free Berry Fusion Martini.

Gulfstream is giving away spa packages and jewelry, including Tiffany jewelry from 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and spa days from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The Isle Has a Mother's Day champagne brunch for $19.99 which includes a free family portrait.

Mardi Gras has brunch and dinner specials, and is giving all moms a rose and a free dessert.

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Take the video poker quiz

Actuary Michael Shackelford, also known as “The Wizard of Odds,” offers video poker and other gambling advice on his web site And it's a step or two more advanced than the info I had in today's gambling section.
He details video poker situations and what cards players should throw away and what they should keep.

He ran the situations through a computer to determine the best percentage play, based on playing “Jacks or Better” machines and the accompanying pay table.

“The correct way to figure out what to do is cycle through every way the replacement cards would come up and take an average what to win. There’s no practical way to do that with a pen and paper; there’s computer programs that do that for you,” he said.

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May 8, 2008

WSOP press conference

Organizers of the World Series of Poker had a press conference last week, and spelled out some of the particulars of their format change. If you haven't heard, the WSOP is going to play the main event down to nine players, give them all ninth-place money, then invite them back in November, when they will tape it all for TV, with a one-day turnaround.

Their main quote: "Instead of who won, you'll be asking 'who will win.?'" Also, that the event will now have 117 days of buildup.

It also noted that:

The WSOP has address the unsportsmanlike conduct rule and has tightened the rules on abusive language, though no specifics were provided.

Cellphones must be silenced, but a player can use them as long as they're at least one table length away.

One person asked if the time span before the final playdown would give opportunity for collusion, with players making deals. The WSOP said no, that people respect the game too much.

There also will be more breaks, and the evening will end sooner, meaning no more playing until 2 a.m.

As far as reporting the results in November, there's no sequestration. You see it, you report it.
‘It will only enhance the coverage,’ ESPN says.

Another guy asked if they were worried foreign players wouldn't come back if they made the final table. Dude, what are you thinking? If I'm in that final nine, I'd swim across the ocean for a chance to play. C'mon.

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May 6, 2008

Should horse racing be banned? PETA pounces on Kentucky Derby tragedy

I write about the tragic injury of the filly Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby, the issues it raises for thoroughbred racing and PETA's uninformed response in my Mayo on the Side blog today.

Click here to read it.

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May 2, 2008

More on points and casinos

I wrote today about the Seminole casinos rolling out an expanded points rewards system, and it brings the question about other South Florida casinos.

Mardi Gras declined to participate, and I'm still trying to hear from Gulfstream.

But the Isle spelled out how it gives out points this way:

According to Linda Powers, Senior Director of Marketing for the isle, slots players earn a point for every $10 of coin in.

For video poker players, a point is equivalent to $20 of coin in. For racetrack players, a point is equivalent to $10 wagered. A patron earns 25 points for every hour of tracked poker play.

So that brings us to what an Isle point will get you (still working on that one, any players out there willing to help?) And as far as I know, the Isle is the only place that offers points for poker and horse racing.

Points may be redeemed for goods and services throughout the casino. During select dates, players may redeem their points for IslePlay."

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Lost weekend: No Kentucky Derby betting in South Florida?

Here was my Saturday dream scenario: Hit the trifecta on the Kentucky Derby, then celebrate with a budget-busting dinner at Mark’s Las Olas.

Oh well, so much for that.

Mark’s abruptly closed its Fort Lauderdale flagship restaurant on Thursday, a loss to South Florida foodies who’ve long admired chef Mark Militello.

And Kentucky Derby betting in South Florida remains up in the air because of an ongoing dispute between thoroughbred owners/trainers and Calder Race Course.

There could be an 11th-hour change today or tomorrow. But as of now no bets will be taken on any races from Churchill Downs (including today’s Kentucky Oaks) at Calder or other local simulcast outlets, including Gulfstream Park, the Isle Casino at Pompano Park, Dania Jai-Alai or Palm Beach Kennel Club. (FYI, I just got an email blast at 1 p.m. from Dania saying betting is back on. //Nick Sortal)

(UPDATE: As of 12:15 p.m. Friday, I just got word that Gulfstream Park and Magna Entertainment had cut a separate deal with Churchill Downs allowing Gulfstream to simulcast the Derby card on Saturday. It is unclear if this is legal, since thoroughbred simulcasting within 60 miles of a Florida track running a live race meet usually has to come from the live track's "hub." It is unclear if Gulfstream's move will prompt legal challenges from the local horsemen or competing tracks).

The closest sure-thing simulcast outlet to bet the Derby card is the Naples dog track in Bonita Springs, across Alligator Alley, about a 90-minute drive from South Florida.

For bettors, Derby Day is the holiest day of the year, with Breeders’ Cup day right behind.

Getting shut out of the action because of intra-industry squabbling only leads to frustration and alienation.

The confusion surrounding the Derby situation will make things worse. Gulfstream Park had an advertisement in today’s sports section saying it would take bets on the Kentucky Derby. If that’s not the case, bettors who make the trip have every right to be angry.

I’m going to be real miffed if Bsharpsonata wins today’s Kentucky Oaks for fillies, or if Pyro wins the Derby, because that’s where my money was going to go.

Feel free to share your picks below.

With no betting available, this will be strictly for posterity’s (not prosperity’s) sake.

AP Photo (2007)

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No Derby betting in South Florida

Dania Jai-Alai is among the places that will not be able to hold simulcast betting for the Kentucky Derby Saturday.

As our Tom Jicha wrote in Friday's sports section, a snag between horsement and management at Calder has effectively blacked out betting on the race at South Florida parimutuel sites.

But as Dania correctly points out, it can still show the race. You just can't bet on it.

Small consolation.

Other places, such as the Isle and Palm Beach Kennel had promotions planned. I haven't put in calls to them, but I'd bet they're scratching their heads over what to do now.

Meanwhile, it's just another punch to parimutuels trying to keep up with a high state tax and a public that can take its entertainment dollar elsewhere. Not a good turn of events if you like to gamble in South Florida.

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May 1, 2008

World Series of Poker delays final table until November!

Those days of knowing the result of the World Series of Poker in July, then waiting for the ESPN telecast in November are over. The WSOP is playing down to its final nine in July, then waiting three months to play the final table down and air it quickly on TV.

The last nine players of the $10,000 World Championship of No-Limit Texas Hold’em, known as the Main Event, will compete on Nov. 9-10 instead of the originally scheduled date of July 16, the WSOP announced today.

"Our intent is to provide an even bigger stage for our players," said Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the World Series of Poker, in a news release. (Nick's comment: And make more money. C'mon. Fess up. OK, back to the release...)

All other 2008 WSOP tournament structures and schedules remain unchanged. This announcement affects only the final nine players of Event No. 54, the Main Event World Championship.

"This is a huge step forward for poker and more specifically poker on television because it will help create more buzz around the final table and that is good for all of us,” said Daniel Negreanu, a three-time bracelet winner.

The 39th annual World Series of Poker will take place from May 30th to July 14th at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Main Event will begin on July 3, with the Final Table being determined on July 14. The nine players who advance to the Final Table will return to the Rio on Nov. 9 to play down to just two players. The final two will go head-to-head late in the evening on Nov. 10, the release said.

The winner of the Main Event is expected to be crowned in the early hours of Nov. 11. ESPN will edit the two-day final table action and televise it in from 9-11 p.m. that night.

ESPN will begin its coverage of the 2008 World Series of Poker on July 22. Viewers will see two hours of original poker programming every Tuesday through Nov. 11. Telecasts will be aired at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. July 22 through Sept. 30 and at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. from Oct. 7 through Nov. 11.

Each of the players who make it to the WSOP Main Event Final Table will receive ninth place prize money on July 14, when the finalists are determined. Harrah’s will then provide each of those players with a trip for two for their return to Las Vegas in November to play the final portion of the tournament.

The release points out that from July 14 to Nov. 9, players will have an opportunity to line up sponsorships, coaches, review the play of all their competitors, participate in other tournaments, and take advantage of the new publicity and promotional opportunities.

My angle on this: I really, really need a local to make the final table (can you say Fred Goldberg?), so I can talk editors into a Vegas trip in November to cover our local.

And, if you're playing in the WSOP, send me an email. I'm compiling a list.

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The Isle promotions for May

Here's what's up at the Isle in May, according to the casino:

Win big cash with big races as the isle invites you to swipe your IsleOne card to receive a game piece during the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3, and the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 17. If the random numbers on the game piece match an official winning combination, you could win up to $10,000 in cash each time!

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 11! In honor of mom, the isle buffet will serve a champagne brunch for $19.99 which includes a free family portrait. Bring the whole family to enjoy carved roast beef, turkey, and made-to-order omelets and crepes from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Tax and gratuity not included.

On Friday, May 16, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., win a share of $25,000 in cash and IslePlay in the $25,000 Spring into Cash Sweepstakes. At 10 p.m., the grand prize winner will receive $10,000 in cash.

On Sunday, May 18, $16,500 in random jackpots will be awarded during the casino’s Red Hot IslePlay promotion. Starting at 2 p.m., any IsleOne member playing their favorite slot machine with their IsleOne player’s club card properly inserted is eligible to win $500 in IslePlay every 15 minutes until 10 p.m.

Three lucky winners will drive home a brand new Mustang on Monday, May 26. Win a red Mustang at 3 p.m.; a white one at 6 p.m.; and a blue one at 9 p.m. Plus, five winners of $500 in IslePlay will be selected at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Guests can receive a free entry every day in May with your IsleOne card.

Further details and rules for each promotion are available at the IsleOne club or visit

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About the author
Maybe you've made the right play, maybe you haven't. Your heart speeds up, your stomach rumbles.

That's why it's called gambling.

ACTION is a view of the numbers, the psychology and the flavor of gambling here in South Florida, through our lens.

We do have one sure bet. There's something here for you.

NICK SORTAL began playing 3-card "gut" and "Indian poker" on high school band trips, moved on to "night baseball" and "pass the trash" during a Dr. Pepper-infused midnight game in the 1980s at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and now play in a regular neighborhood Hold 'Em game in Plantation. I have been given the assignment of writing about the gambling life in South Florida casinos for the Sun-Sentinel...which means sitting around watching poker on TV now counts as research.
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