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Seminoles drop Mega Bad Beat, but caught up in promo fever

The Mega Bad Beat is almost dead.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida capped its Mega Bad Beat jackpot at $125,950 on May 25, and once someone hits that, it is kaput.

The short reason: Too much bingo poker. So stopping it is good news for real poker players, except...

More bingo poker promotions are on the way.

For the uninformed: The Seminoles' Bad Beat jackpot pulled $1 from each pot across the tribe's seven poker rooms, and created one huge jackpot, which got paid out when someone with at least four 10s lost to an even better hand.

But in recent months, the jackpot has hit a ridiculously disproportionate amount at the Hard Rock Tampa (some say the players there just checked down non-eligible hands, chasing the Mega), and players at the other card rooms didn't like paying out to Tampa players, many of whom may not have been playing "real poker."

"Now each property will undertake their own bad beat programs, in combination with other poker promotions," the Seminoles' Gary Bitner said. "And those will be rolled out over the course of the next several weeks."

Bitner said the Mega "was a huge success when it was first launched, especially at the larger casinos, especially Tampa. They get more play."

By my math, the bad beat has hit 32 times: 17 at the Hard Rock Tampa, six at the Hard Rock Hollywood, five at Hollywood Classic, three at Coconut Creek and once at Immokalee.

"It just wasn’t hitting enough at smaller poker rooms, so the smaller poker rooms lobbied to do their own programs that would have a meaningful effect on their own players and that was logical to the people in gaming," Bitner said.

"In addition to the bad beat, some of those dollars will now go to more immediate gratification type promotional programs that will just be more exciting and more interesting to poker players."

In other words, they're going for the high hand promotions that have packed players into such places as Mardi Gras and Calder, and, more recently, Gulfstream and the Isle.

Scott Long, co-publisher of Ante Up Magazine, says Florida is jackpot-crazy, probably more so than any other place in the nation.

"Florida is definitely one of the most jackpot-happy poker jurisdictions in the United States, and the root of it likely because of the Florida Legislature. Until the new limits debuted in 2010, rooms were forced to compete for players with promotions funded by the jackpot fund. So once the limits were lifted, players had grown accustomed to them and weren't willing to let rooms give them up. In fact, players are demanding more, which is why many rooms have gone to a $2 jackpot rake, in order to outdo the competition. Had the Legislature allowed rooms to deal "real" poker from the start, it's unlikely that promotions like these would have become so popular."

He continues: "Most poker rooms, aside from the largest in Las Vegas, take a jackpot rake. But for the most part, the promotions are tame - cracked aces wins a rack, simple bad-beat jackpots or freeroll tournaments for regulars. Florida rooms definitely have been more creative in their offerings, mostly because competition has demanded it."

And it hurts "real poker," Long agrees.

"When you have people playing certain hand combinations, or passively playing hands in order to get to showdown, they're doing it to hit a jackpot, not necessarily win a pot, and that changes the game. The flip side, of course, is that a solid poker player notices these changes and adjusts his or her game to them, so there is profit potential in playing against these players."

Long notes in the June issue of the magazine that the the $2 jackpot rake could someday go to a $3 rake.

"What's happened is that rooms are essentially 'renting' players. Players will come to one room for a strong promotion, and when the room's fund is depleted, those players will move on to next room with a big promotion. It makes it hard for rooms to establish any loyalty with their players."

"A true poker player knows the game is one of skill. So by allowing a one or two dollars to be taken from each skillfully-won pot and awarded to someone else based on luck should cause alarm in a skillful player's mind. But neither I, nor many Florida managers, have been successful in convincing players of this."

Categories: Poker (349)

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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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