Hard Rock Poker Showdown: Big turnouts chased big money

A 30-second clock kept players focused during the World Poker Tour’s Tournament of Champions at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.
A 30-second clock kept players focused during the World Poker Tour’s Tournament of Champions at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.

Thirty tournaments, more than $9 million in guaranteed prize money and the debut of a 30-second clock created multiple story lines and noteworthy moments at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, which ended Sunday in Hollywood:

Shot clock: Most players said they liked the 30-second “action clock,” used for the first time in the Tournament of Champions, although pro Matt Salsberg twice had hands ruled dead in the first hour, including what he said was a flush against Matt Waxman’s three jacks. Waxman said: “It’s the player’s responsibility to know how much time is left on the clock. But it’s something the players had to adapt to.” Suggested tweaks include extending the clock to one minute on river bets, because counting out chips and mentally reconstructing the hand takes time.

Turnout: Poker rooms place guarantees on events to entice players, and in this case, the interest was obvious. The Seminole Hard Rock’s main event, which carried a $2 million guarantee, attracted 1,222 entrants at $3,500 each for a $3.9 million prize pool. The Finale event also guaranteed $2 million and drew 342 players at $10K each for a $3.2 million pool. And the Seminole Hard Rock smashed the $1 million guarantee for the $25,500 High Roller tournament, paying out $2.35 million.

Locals: David “Chino” Rheem, 36, of Los Angeles, first developed his poker chops 15 years ago at the Seminole Casino Classic bingo hall in Hollywood. He won the $10K buy-in Hard Rock Finale and $690,885, the largest score for anyone in the series. Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, of Hollywood, finished third in the Tournament of Champions Sunday, earning $140,450. Mizrachi, who has earned $14.8 million in tournament poker, had taken the chip lead as the field narrowed to three, only to misplay a hand and be eliminated in what was a stinging turn of events for his family and friends. Jonathan Jaffe (Fort Lauderdale) finished fourth, winning $95,400, and Noah Schwartz (Sunny Isles) earned $74,200 for fifth.

Controversy: The field narrowed to 10 in a qualifying tournament that awarded seven seats (each worth $25,500) to the High Roller event. Down to so few chips she couldn’t even bet the required big blind and antes, Lily Kiletto received an unexpected gift when Mike Dentale folded his big blind. Players at the table shouted that Dentale colluded to help Kiletto survive, but he later posted that he was “really drunk” and simply didn’t know that he already had Kiletto covered.

Charity: Former Dolphin Jason Taylor finished third among 124 entrants in his own tournament, which raised more than $17,000 for the Jason Taylor Foundation, a children’s charity. Chiropractor John Virga, a longtime friend of Taylor’s and a foundation supporter, defeated WINZ-940 AM host Andy Slater to win and earned $5,035.

Ultimate Miami

Ultimate Miami, which enables local talent in the fields of mixology, entertainment and culinary arts to compete for a cash prize of $5,000, starts auditions this weekend at two casinos.

Ultimate Miami Voice Auditions are 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday at Magic City Casino and Saturday at The Casino @Dania Beach. Comedy is at 8 p.m. May 4 at the Palm Beach Improv, May 6 in Dania Beach and May 7 at Magic City.

The finals are June 10-11 and June 17-18. Go to theUltimateMiami.com for more info.

This weekend

▪ Casino Miami continues its “Spring into Cash” promotion. Hourly free play drawings are from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The grand prize is $2,500 cash at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., plus free slot play prizes of $100 to $1,000.

▪ Fridays are Teachers’ Day at Calder. Players’ club members with a valid school ID receive $10 in free play after earning 20 points.

▪ Miccosukee Resort & Gaming has “friends with benefits” in April. Slot players who bring a new member to sign up get $10 in free play. The new patron gets $30 in free play.

▪ Hialeah Park offers “Guest Appreciation Day” from 9 a.m. to midnight on Thursdays. Players club members who earn one point are eligible to receive $5, $10, or $20 free play, depending on their card level.

▪ The Isle Casino gives away two BMWs at 11 p.m. Saturday. There’s also two Beatles-related free concerts in the casino’s Fling bar: “Across the Universe” is at 10 p.m. Friday; “Beatlemania,” at 10 p.m. Saturday.

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek gives away a Lexus RX350 and $25,000 Saturday. From 6-10 p.m. hourly, eight people will receive $250 free play and two will become finalists and return following the 10 p.m. drawing. One of the finalists wins the car and another wins the cash.

Get daily gambling news at SouthFloridaGambling.com. Follow Nick on Twitter via @NickSortal