After too much time at home, a South Floridian makes it to Vegas

Las Vegas hotels such as Planet Hollywood are so massive that FitBit wearers can burn up their 10,000 steps without leaving the property.
Las Vegas hotels such as Planet Hollywood are so massive that FitBit wearers can burn up their 10,000 steps without leaving the property.

I have been so focused on gambling in South Florida that I sheepishly must admit that I went more than a decade without visiting Las Vegas.

But that changed earlier this month with a two-day jaunt. I stayed at Paris Las Vegas and visited the Rio, Bally’s, the Bellagio and Planet Hollywood. Here are my observations:

They’re not kidding about entertainment. Las Vegas figures show that gambling is less than half of the hotel revenues, and you could almost argue Las Vegas would do just fine without gambling. Celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay are displayed on billboards that used to brag about the best slot payouts. Big-name acts such as Britney Spears were in town for my visit, but there’s also the smaller entertainment, and it’s everywhere: A dueling piano show in a small bar, a tribute band in the lobby, even a topless country music revue.

I’m grateful for my Bravo app. Most poker rooms are linked to a system called Bravo, which tells how many games are going and what type. There were 14 card rooms with action within one mile of my hotel, but six of them had five tables or fewer. That meant if I wanted to get into a game right away, I should choose one of the other eight. I played at Planet Hollywood, the Rio, Bally’s and the Bellagio, with swings of minus-$100 to plus-$100 at $1-$2 no-limit Hold ’em before leaving a lukewarm plus-$5.

After years in South Florida, I forgot how massive Vegas hotels are. Twelve of the world’s 20 largest hotels are in Vegas, each with 3,000 rooms or more. The lone hotel casino in South Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, has 500 rooms. (To give a decent sense of scope to those who haven’t been to Vegas recently, the only place close to South Florida over that 3,000 mark is Atlantis, on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.) Those of you who wear FitBits can get in those 10,000 steps without leaving the property.

And, of course, my final observation is kind of obvious: I’m not going to wait another decade before my next visit.

Unsportsmanlike act

Almost everybody has been on the wrong end of unsportsmanlike acts at the poker table, but rarely is it during the World Series of Poker. And even more rarely when it’s for a player’s tournament life.

But that’s the storyline that has overshadowed an otherwise stellar run by Stacy Matuson, of Delray Beach. She eventually finished 169th out of the field of 6,737, earning $42,285.

Matuson said she was dealt pocket queens on Day 5. William Kassouf of London, an opponent she had pegged as “obnoxious but entertaining,” called. Matuson raised each street on a rainbow board of 5-3-2-8-10 and Kassouf shoved all-in after the river. By then the ESPN cameras had made their way over and he heckled Matuson: “You don't want to be eliminated in front of the whole camera crew, do you? The whole world?" and “you show, I show.”

“I’d never seen anything like it, no,” she said a week later, discussing the events.

Kassouf continued after the floor manager was called, and even as tournament director Jack Effel stepped in. Kassouf was told he’d get a large penalty if “one more word” came out of his mouth.

So Kassouf then made animated gestures at Matuson, including zipping his lips and motioning for her to fold.

She eventually folded face-up and Kassouf showed his bluff. He was assessed a one-round penalty.

“I feel completely disappointed in myself,” she said. “I have no one to blame but myself.”

3 years of Hialeah

Hialeah Park will celebrate the third anniversary its casino opening with a three-day celebration Aug. 19-21.

Los 3 De La Habana takes the stage of the outdoor Fountain Terrace for a free show at 9 p.m. Aug. 19 and Willy Chirino and Johnny Ventura perform at 9 p.m. Aug. 20 on the Amphitheatre stage. Those tickets are $25 for reserved grandstand, $20 for lower level general admission via tickets.ticketforce.com or the Hialeah Park box office.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 21 is the Jumpin Jack Open Car & Truck Show in the paddock gardens.

Go to HialeahPark.com.

Charity poker at Hard Rock

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood is including a charity event for the third straight year as part of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, this time to benefit the Maximum Hope Foundation, founded by “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Brad Garrett.

The tournament is at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12. Entry is $300 (with re-entries) and includes a player party at 5 p.m. at L Bar inside the hotel.

The event kicks off championship weekend. The SHRPO runs from July 28 – Aug. 16, featuring “The Big 4” — a four-tournament finale. Go to SHRPO.com.

This weekend

▪ Casino Miami has a $30,000 Summer Free Play Bash, given away from 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday, July 10, 17 and 31.

▪ Gulfstream Park gives away a Chevy Camaro at 11 p.m. Sunday, with smaller prizes starting at 6 p.m. Slot players who earn 100 points receive a drawing entry.

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek gives away $75,000 in cash and free play from 5-11 p.m. Friday, with 10 names chosen each hour for a prize of up to $5,000.

Twitter: @NickSortal