Entertainment

Locals hold their own at big Hard Rock poker event

Four tournaments played out simultaneously last week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, with locals winning two of the events.
Four tournaments played out simultaneously last week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, with locals winning two of the events.

Two local players were among the four winners during the climactic night of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open last week. It was the second annual Big 4, a four-tournament finale at Hard Rock Live.

The Big 4 features staggered structures designed to cascade toward their completions, with the final four tables playing out alongside each other in front of a live audience. The completion of all four events was filmed by Poker Night in America for later airing on CBS Sports Network.

Bradley Snider of Plantation won the $2,650 Freeze-Out event, and collected $246,400. Ruslan Dykshteyn of Hollywood took first in the $1,100 Re-Entry and earned $151,000.

The main event winner was Jason Koon of Weston, W.V., who earned $1 million in the $5,250 buy-in SHRPO Championship. Koon is a professional poker player and has more than $5 million in career earnings.

Marvin Rettenmaier of Stuttgart, Germany, won the fourth event completed Tuesday, Aug. 16, the $25,500 High Roller. He earned $787,497. The event drew 105 entrants.

Snider’s event drew 529 entrants. He is a math major at Princeton University, and began playing poker only recently. This was his first career cash.

Snider told SHRPO.com that he plans to keep poker as a recreational activity and has no plans on skipping out on his education.

“I think poker will continue to just be a serious hobby for me,” he said. “I really enjoy playing casually and thinking about the game. And this will let me play a lot more poker in the future.”

(I used the word “collected” higher up, rather than “took home” cash. A player with little tournament experience likely didn’t put up the $2,650 on his own, but instead had investors. So that means that on the other side of things, he’s also not stuffing $246K in his pocket, but instead parceling good chunks of it out to backers. So don’t ask him for money.)

Dykshteyn, who moved to South Florida from New York about three years ago, survived a field of 828.

The conclusion of The Big 4 wrapped the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open series, which kicked off July 28 and consisted of 28 events. The tournaments drew more than 2,300 entries, and 16 of the tournaments carried guarantees. Player registration fees covered 15 of the 16, but the main event, with a $5 million guarantee, fell $892,000 short — which the Seminole Hard Rock contributed. As they always do, Seminole officials will look at tournament structures, examine player feedback and study large poker events held elsewhere before nailing down next year’s series.

Jai-alai documentary

The ESPN 30 for 30 film, titled “What the Hell Happened to Jai-Alai,” was released earlier this month via ESPN.com/30for30. Parts of the 15-minute piece also aired during SportsCenter.

The filmmakers note that at one time there were more than 20 frontons across the United States. Now there are just two, in Miami and Dania Beach.

Florida added competition for the gambling aspects of the game by starting a lottery in 1988. Then, between 1988 and 1991, the top players, who had a small following among gamblers, disappeared from the game from during a strike between labor and management over wages and forming a union. Replacement players stepped in, while the striking players stood outside berating the patrons who came to watch the games.

The NBA, MLB, and NHL all came to town about then (the Heat in 1988, the Marlins in 1991, and the Panthers in 1993). In 2004 the Seminole Tribe of Florida began offering slots; two years later racetrack casinos came to Florida.

Today fewer than 100 people come to watch jai-alai, even on the busiest days. The games are conducted only because state requires such pari-mutuel activity to maintain a slot-machine license. The games are a big money-loser: there isn’t enough gambling activity to cover each fronton’s roster of 36 players, each earning $40,000 and up.

Casinos have tried to cut jai-alai costs, something that only creates more lack of interest. The Dania Beach fronton is partially owned by the same men who own the Naples Dog Track and Magic City Casino (formerly Flagler Dog Track). Rather than pay for three pari-mutuel simulcast channels, they broadcast their events on just one, staggering the action across the day. That means Dania usually runs its programs at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., disappointing casino visitors on weekend prime time who might want to enjoy some jai-alai, but see only an empty court.

Coming up

▪ Hialeah Park continues its Saturday giveaways. Players’ club members receive free entries and can earn more entries with every 25 points earned. The prizes are $1,000 in free play hourly from 2 to 4 p.m., $2,000 cash at 5 p.m. Then it’s $1,000 in free play hourly from 9 to 11 p.m., and $2,000 cash at midnight.

▪ A large satellite poker tournament leading up to the $200,000 Seminole Immokalee Poker Challenge is set for 6 p.m. Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Buy-in is $225, with six packages to the Immokalee event guaranteed. Packages include a $1,100 buy-in to the WPTDeepStacks Immokalee Main Event at Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee on Sept. 9, a three-night stay at Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee and $525 cash.

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach has an instant win-while-you-play promotion on the slot floor. The casino designates a specific area of the slot floor, and doles out free play to those selected in that area with the player’s club card inserted. The promotion runs hourly from noon to 4 p.m. on Mondays and 3-7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek gives away $1,000 in free play every 30 minutes to five patrons from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Players may insert their Seminole Wild Card into any slot machine daily for one free entry and receive an additional entry for every $1 Comp Dollar earned.

▪ At Calder Casino, slot players 55 and older receive $10 free play with 20 points earned on Tuesdays. The promotion is ongoing.

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach has an instant win-while-you-play promotion on the slot floor. The casino designates a specific area of the slot floor, and doles out free play to those selected in that area with the player’s club card inserted. The promotion runs hourly from noon to 4 p.m. on Mondays and 3-7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Twitter: @NickSortal

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