You never know who the most formidable opponent is at the poker table. It could be a young hotshot, the woman with the sunglasses or even a 97-year-old man.
Participants in the fifth annual Jeff Conine Poker Classic learned that the hard way last week, when Victor Arnold, who turned 97 on July 8, was one of two big winners in the field of 230, dividing about $15,000 with Marshall Weinberg of Davie.
But the July 11 poker success isn’t the only thing that sets Arnold apart.
“I can still drive at night, and don’t even need glasses,” says Arnold, who works part-time, overseeing a millionaire’s mansion in Fort Lauderdale. He hits the owner’s exercise room each visit, getting in weights, rowing and elliptical work.
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Arnold, of Boca Raton, says he plays mostly at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek but also sometimes plays at the Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach, which hosted the Conine tournament. He began playing in South Florida at the Seminole Classic Casino about 20 years ago, when bets were capped at 25 cents and pots at $10.
“Playing poker, and watching Jeopardy, keeps me sharp,” said Arnold, whose wife died nine years ago.
Arnold moved to the United States from England 27 years ago after serving in the British Navy from 1940-46, during which time his ship was struck three times. He also survived liver cancer at age 52, while occupied as a salesman for local ads shown in theaters before the main feature.
Arnold says he plays a patient game, and was buoyed by being dealt aces three times.
The tournament raised $100,000 for Conine’s Clubhouse, a home-away-from-home for parents of patients at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
Local in WSOP
Jerry Wong, who frequently plays at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, reached the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event late Monday night.
Wong, who lists his official address as Brooklyn, N.Y., also has won cash in tournaments at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, the Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach and the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Wong is in eighth place. ESPN begins airing taped footage of the event on Sept. 11, and the players still alive from the field of 6,770 resume play on Oct. 30. First prize is $8 million.
Other locals also made news in Las Vegas. Jason Mercier of Fort Lauderdale earned player of the year honors for the 69 events. He won two tournaments and finished second in another, collecting $960,424.
Stacy Matuson, featured in this column on May 27 as CEO of a dealer school, finished 169th in the main event, earning $42,285. Bad luck prevented her from going deeper: Her all-in with A-A was called by a man holding a king and a jack. Alas, two kings hit on the flop and Matuson was ousted.
Mukul Pahuja of Coconut Creek finished 138th, Andre Crooks of Greenacres 153rd, each earning $49,108. Each has made the final table of a World Poker Tour main event at the Seminole Hard Rock.
▪ The Ramil and Pita show returns to Magic City Casino at 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $15. Mario Ramil is known as a stand-up comic; Andy Pita is a Latin Urban Pop singer who is known on YouTube with multiple pep rally speech videos and showcasing his musical talent on “Eslow Motion,” a fan favorite song and video from his musical group Los Primeros. At 10 p.m. Saturday, Peter Fernandez and The Open House Band perform. The show is free.
▪ Calder Casino gives away $5 in free play for those who bring in $5 or more in school supplies by July 31. The goods go to Skyway Elementary School in Miami Gardens and Robert Renick Educational Center. Supplies must be in new, unopened packages, and if your donation is close to the minimum, the casino requests a receipt.
▪ Lucy Grau plays at Casino Miami at 9 p.m. Saturday. The casino also has a new member program: Sign up for a Viva Card and receive $25-$100 in free play. Bring in a competitor’s middle or top tier card and receive $50 or $100
▪ Hialeah Park has 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 Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood has a Super Jackpot Party from 8 to 10 p.m. Monday. Players who won jackpots of $1,200 or more from April 1 to June 30, 2016 receive an entry into the drawing, which pays out $75,000.
▪ Coco’s Lucky 5s returns to Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Three slot players every 15 minutes from noon to midnight Sunday will be called to win $555 in free play.