Little risk, big reward in weekly $10,000 free poker tournament


David Litvin is director of poker operations at Mardi Gras’s Big Easy Poker Room. The card room has a $10,000 guarantee free poker tournament at 1 p.m. Sundays.
David Litvin is director of poker operations at Mardi Gras’s Big Easy Poker Room. The card room has a $10,000 guarantee free poker tournament at 1 p.m. Sundays.

Sure, the top pros chased a top payout of $8 million at the World Series of Poker earlier this month, but they each had to reach into their pockets and pay $10,000 to enter. On Sundays, you can play for the big bucks, relatively speaking, in a South Florida tournament that is free to enter.

The Big Easy Poker Room at Mardi Gras Casino offers a tournament at 1 p.m. Sundays that guarantees $10,000 in prize money. It is one of eight free tournaments at the card room each week.

For cheapskates like me, it’s a good endeavor, even though “free” is a bit of an overstatement. Patrons can start with 500 chips for free, but that’s not what most players do: Some choose a “chip-up” of 8,000 chips for $50; others pay $100 for 16,000 chips. But, yes, some players have made the final table after starting with just the 500 free chips.

The event draws about 120 players, including a recent Sunday I played in it. And as I usually do, I hung in there OK, but never amassed enough chips to finish in the money. After buying in for the 8,000 chips, I was eliminated somewhere between 30th and 40th.

In this case, the top 15 players received at least $100, with first place paying $2,800.

Mardi Gras director of poker operations David Litvin takes pride that his tournaments never have antes — a policy I like because dealing with antes slows down a tournament and also because I’m a conservative player, and giving away chips while waiting for good cards bleeds my stack down to almost nothing.

Mardi Gras’ other free rolls are at 7 p.m. and carry guarantees of at least $1,500, with the same spend-money-go-start-with-more-chips technique for building the prize pool.

Casino guide available

The 2017 version of ‘The American Casino Guide,’ created by Steve Bourie of Hollywood, is now available. The guide been published since 1992 includes coupons and lists games offered, nearby hotels and state maps with casinos pinpointed. (Forty-one states now have some kind of casino.)

The American Casino Guide also includes coupons, often for match play or drink, food, hotel and senior discounts.

Local coupons include a free hat at Hialeah Park and $10 in free play and two food specials at Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach.

The book costs $18.95 in stores and select AAA offices. It’s $13.49, plus shipping, via AmericanCasinoGuide.com. The site also has a list of the coupons available, by casino.

Thanksgiving food, fun

▪ Council Oak Steaks & Seafood at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will feature a three-course prix fixe menu for $55 on Thanksgiving. Butternut squash soup, followed by turkey accompanied by roasted root vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing and a cranberry and orange compote and is completed with pumpkin nut cheesecake with a praline crust.

▪ Blue Plate will offer a Thanksgiving special for $22.95: an appetizer of butternut squash and apple soup, followed by a main course of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, honey-glazed carrots and homemade turkey gravy.

▪ Calder Casino’s buffet runs from 2-8 p.m. Thursday. For $18.99, the fare includes carved turkey, pumpkin pie and plenty of items in between. Reservations are recommended for parties of more than six. Call 305-625-7227. The casino also gives away up to $1,000 free play with its Turkey Spin kiosk game. Earn 30 points from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving to play.

▪ Mardi Gras has a Thanksgiving Day Progressive Hot Seat hourly from 6-11 p.m. Prizes start at $250 cash and escalate to as much as $1,000 cash.

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek gives away $555 in free play every 15 minutes from noon to midnight Thanksgiving Day.

▪ The Seminole Hard Rock also has Supercharged Hard Rockin’ 7s. One player will be selected every seven minutes from 6 p.m.-midnight to win $777 free play. Bonus drawings will occur every hour from 7 p.m. to midnight.

▪ Seminole Classic saves its big event for Black Friday. From 6-10 p.m., winners will be electronically selected every 30 minutes. From 6 to 7:30 p.m. four patrons will receive $1,000 free play, from 8 to 9:30 p.m. four players will receive $1,500 free play and at 10 p.m. one winner will receive $10,000 cash.

Other news

▪ Casino Miami gives away the first of three Ford Fusions this month, at midnight, Wednesday, Nov. 23. Other dates are Friday, Nov. 25 at 2 a.m. (actually, that’s Saturday morning) and 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27. Slot players can accrue points on their player’s club card.

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach has changed its jai-alai Monday schedule. Matches are at 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with 4 pm. Matinees on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

▪ Stardust One, a rock band from Hialeah, and Esther Ku (“Last Comic Standing”) perform at 9 p.m. Friday at Magic City Casino. Tickets are $10.

Get daily gambling news at SouthFloridaGambling.com