Music & Nightlife

After a hot start in 2017, gambling writer decided to fold ’em

Gambling writer Nick Sortal experienced a high point for 2017 when he won $1,000 via a high hand jackpot at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood in May. Things went downhill from there.
Gambling writer Nick Sortal experienced a high point for 2017 when he won $1,000 via a high hand jackpot at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood in May. Things went downhill from there. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

I’ve often said poker is like golf: If you have a great day, you can’t wait to get back out there. If you stink, you don’t care if you ever play again.

I experienced both sides of that spectrum in 2017. The first half of the year, I was at a card room at least twice a week, often leaving with more cash than I started with. Then I hit a slump, Hurricane Irma paid us a visit and I just didn’t have any desire to go play.

But knowing when to fold ‘em meant that I finished the year still in the black. My gambling journal for 2017 ended with me up $834, almost exclusively via poker.

I keep a gambling journal every year to scour for any trends, as well as to protect myself come tax time. (Big gambling wins in certain circumstances can be offset through properly documented losses.)

This year, it showed I was on pace to match my 2016 career-best haul of $3,991. I play mostly $1-$2 no-limit poker, sitting down with about $140 in chips each session. I was up about $2,000 through May, with a $1,000 high hand (less a $100 tip) score after I hit for four aces at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood on a Friday afternoon.

But then in August, I hit a slump. Every time I bluffed, my opponent called. Every time I thought I had a winning hand, it turned out to be second best. (It’s better to just have lousy cards, fold, and not have money invested. But that’s the curse.)

All told, I had 18 losing sessions out of my final 23 of the year. (Dolphins, I feel ya.) It got to the point where I dreaded sitting down at the table, wondering how I was going to give my chips away this time. I play a patient, logical game. But my confidence disintegrated.

So I’ve just stayed away. All told, I played poker 58 times this year, compared to 135 in 2016. I was plus $1,310 at the Seminole Hard Rock, plus-$410 at Hialeah Park, plus-$405 at the Isle Casino and Racing and plus-$19 at Magic City Casino. But I lost $442 at Seminole Coconut Creek, $420 at Mardi Gras, $332 at Gulfstream Park and $45 at the Casino @ Dania Beach.

Will I get my mojo back? We’ll see. But here’s where my 2017 log helps: I know, even after hitting a rough patch, I ended up in the black.

Coming up

Gulfstream Park gives away a Chevy Cruze at 11 p.m. Jan. 6, 13 and 20. (Jan. 27 the property will be packed for the Pegasus World Cup horse race.) Players can obtain five times the usual number of entries for the Saturday drawings by playing slots on Mondays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Each 100 slot points earned nets one drawing entry.

The Seminole Hard Rock gives away a Sobella Hard Rock pillow set from 2-8 p.m. Sunday. Players who earn six comp dollars playing slots from midnight to 7 p.m. on Sunday earn the prize.

The first Friday of each month is Ladies Night at Calder Casino, with live music from the Fusion Band and drink specials. The casino also has drawings from 6-9 p.m. for Grey Goose gift sets and shopping gift cards.

The Wailers play at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Casino @ Dania Beach. The group, originally co-founded by Bob Marley, is currently led by bassist and co-founder Aston “Familyman” Barrett. Hits include “Three Little Birds,” “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Jamming.” Tickets start at $25.

Magic City Casino continues to offer three low-stakes poker tournaments a week. Entry is $80 at 8 p.m. Mondays and $50 at 2 p.m. Thursdays and 4 p.m. Sundays.

Mardi Gras Casino has reopened its poker room, although the slots portion is still closed because of damage from Hurricane Irma. The Big Easy Poker Room has free tournaments at 7 p.m. daily and a $10,000 guarantee free event at 1 p.m. Sundays.

Seminole Classic Casino gives away up to $2,600 in free slot play from 6-10 p.m. Saturday via its “Three Strikes” promotion.

Mondays are $100 Hot Seat days at Hialeah Park. A random slot player is picked every 15 minutes from 7-10 p.m. to win up to $100.