Three significant occurrences went down in the world of poker in recent days: The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino set a state record for entries in a tournament, a top local pro made history, and a familiar face came from behind the microphone to prove that not only can he talk a good game, he can play one.
A record field of 5,018 entrants turned out for the first event of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Poker Open series at the Seminole Hard Rock. Tournament director Tony Burns had expected a large field, citing the tournament’s format: $1 million guaranteed prize money for a $360 entry; that’s a low buy-in in the world of poker. The previous record was set earlier this year at the Lucky Hearts Poker Open (4,075 entries). The tournament concluded Monday, with the final nine players agreeing to divide the prize money based on the current size of their chip stacks. Rafael Reis, 34, a poker player from Brazil who often plays at the Seminole Hard Rock, was the winner, pocketing $155,642.
Maurice Hawkins of West Palm Beach became the first player in the history of the World Series of Poker Circuit to win three Circuit main events in one year. Hawkins defeated a 261-player field Monday at the Palm Beach Kennel Club to earn his eighth career Circuit gold ring, which puts him tied for second all-time. The win earned him $95,921. Hawkins, obviously having a stellar year, also made the final table of a World Poker Tour tournament in 2015.
Mike Sexton, the lead broadcaster on the World Poker Tour events you see on TV, finished atop a field of 648 for his first WPT main event title in Montreal on Friday. He earned $425,980. If you became a poker fan during its TV boom during the early 2000s — like I did — you know Sexton. His commentary during World Poker Tour telecasts enlivened what had previously been an unwatchable activity, and Sexton has gone on to become possibly poker’s greatest ambassador. But he also loves to play. At WPT events at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, for example, Sexton always entered the main event, hoping that he would run so well that someone else would have to take over his seat in the broadcast booth, describing the action at the final table. Last week, Tony Dunst needed to be summoned to replace Sexton in the booth.
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Gulfstream Park’s popular Symphony of Lights returns Friday, featuring a 50-foot tree decorated with thousands of lights synchronized to holiday music. Light shows are on the hour from 6-11 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31.
Friday night’s kickoff includes photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a stilt walker, juggling acts, face painters, tattoo artists, a coloring station and train rides. Santa and Mrs. Claus will appear every Friday and Saturday through Dec. 24, as well as on Sunday, Nov. 27.
Go to gulfstreampark.com or call 954-454-7000.
CAR GIVEAWAYS AND MORE
▪ Slot players at Hialeah Park have been accruing drawing entries for a Ford F-150 truck. Drawing for smaller prizes is Friday night, with the big prize being awarded at 1 a.m.
▪ Casino Miami gives away Ford Fusions at 2 a.m. Friday (actually, that’s Saturday morning) and 11 p.m. Sunday.
▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek awards a Lotus Evora and $10,000 in free play from 7-11 p.m. Saturday. Eight winners every hour will select a model and receive the prize the model is holding in a concealed box. Six will receive $200 in free play and two will become finalists to return following the 11 p.m. drawing. Immediately following the 11 p.m. drawing, finalists will select a box and receive from $400 to $1,000 in free play or the Lotus Evora Grand Prize.
▪ Mardi Gras completes its “Race in to Win” with a Dodge Charger giveaway Tuesday. Slot players can still qualify for the final drawing by being selected during hourly drawings from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday.
▪ Seminole Hard Rock slot players who earn 10 or more comp dollars Tuesday can win $30 to $1,000 in gift cards or Free Play from 4-7 p.m. Gift card brands include Macy’s, Banana Republic and Publix.
▪ Peter Fernandez & The Open House Band will be performing at 10 p.m. Saturday at Stage 305 inside Magic City Casino. Admission is free. For VIP tables, call 305-649-3000.
Get daily gambling news at SouthFloridaGambling.com