The Arizona Lottery announced yesterday that the state's tax on those with largely hopeless dreams of instant wealth hit record numbers for the fiscal year of 2013, continuing a run of six consecutive years of new highs. $692.9 million in tickets were sold in whatever made up version of 2013 the Lottery uses, which based on 2012 Arizona population numbers would mean that $140.55 in tickets were sold per adult in our state*, although since my wife an I bought a total of $6 in tickets last year, someone (likely standing in a line at the customer service desk at a Safeway right now) is clearly making up the $275 the Gibsons aren't buying.
According to the Lottery's press release, the two largest jackpots in Powerball history contributed to this astounding numbers, plus they added some contests.
For what it's worth, while the Lottery didn't mention the total in prizes given out to winners, $176.5 million went back to the state in funding and $47.1 million in commissions were paid to retailers. So, thanks for playing, lottery aficionados?
* This is at least a little off, since the numbers I'm using were for the number of Arizonans 18 and over and you need to be 21 to buy a lottery ticket. Either way, people buy a lot of tickets.
As much as the National Football League and the NCAA would like you to believe otherwise, there's no denying the unofficial — some would say unavoidable — link between college and professional football and the concept of wagering on said sports.
Go to any sports book in Las Vegas, and football is far and wide the most active sport in terms of bets placed. And though sports betting isn't "legal" anywhere else in the U.S., ambitious bettors who shall not be named specifically know there are plenty of offshore-based online sites that will gladly take your bets.
Such betting exists for any and all sports, but football is by far the king.
There is no official form of sports gambling in Arizona, but thanks to the promotions people at Tucson's local casinos, you've essentially got the next best thing: the prospect of free money that is loosely linked to college and pro football. And to spending time in the casinos.
Both Casino del Sol and Desert Diamond Casino have football-based promos that begin this week, and some of them even come with the "no purchase necessary" tag, if you can believe it.
At DDC, you've got two options: you can test your skill at picking the winners of NFL games, for the chance of winning free play in the slot machines; or you can just be a UA football ticket holder and rake in the free play for simply going to games.
DDC has enhanced its Cats Play, We Play promo this fall, putting a premium on the UA winning its games. Present a ticket stub from a Wildcats home game within three days of the contest and get at least $10 in slot play. If Arizona won the game, though, it's upped to $20.
(Writer's note: I might be swayed to sell my second ticket to each game for $9 or $17 in cash, depending on the outcome each week.)
The Pick The Pros campaign begins Friday, even though the first NFL game isn't until Sept. 4. Picks are made via kiosks inside the casino, and if you're among the top 20 in that week's rankings, you get $100 in slot play. Somehow correctly pick 197 of more (!) of the 239 games included in the contest and you'll get a $1 million prize that's paid in 20 annual installments.
Del Sol also has a picks contest, dubbed the Kickoff Pickoff, but unlike last year's similar promo this time around you're not limited to just one entry per NFL week. You can enter a seemingly infinite number of times, and make different picks, as you get one entry per day that you swipe your player's card at the casino kiosk. You can also get additional entries if you collect enough points on your card in a day.
Del Sol's weekly prizes are tiered, with $2,500 in free play given out each week and $1,000 of that going to the top picker. There's also $1,500 free play "quarterly" performance prizes, and the season's overall winner is guaranteed $5,000 in cash. If that winner gets 210 (!!) of the 239 games right, though, the prize jumps to a milly.
Del Sol also has brought back its uber-popular scratch-off game for NFL and college games that are broadcast in the poker room. If you're in a live game, you get a ticket, and if the last digit of each team's scores matches what's on your card you can win straight cash homey for each quarter.
Expect both casinos to bring forth similar promotions come college basketball season, too.
Just like there are many ways to skin a cat, there are also infinite approaches to playing slot machines.
For some, it's betting the most you possibly can each pull in hopes of hitting some big score. For others — like my mother, the minimum bet master — if you're frugal enough you can make $20 last all day, while at the same time gorging yourself on free soft drinks and maybe consuming an entire pack of smokes.
And for others, it's more a matter of making a wide berth around any and every machine that promises riches for as little as one penny (but wagered in 40- or 50-cent increments, mind you) because there's no way you can win on those things, right?
Whatever your approach is, throw it out the door if you happen to be at Casino del Sol between 12 and 5 p.m. Saturday. That's when you have a chance to qualify for the 2013 Game King Championship Video Poker Tournament.
Yes, a tournament on a slot machine.
Such tourneys are all the rage in Las Vegas, where an entry gives you a fixed amount of time and a pre-set number of credits to go apeshit and try to end up with a higher balance than anyone else. Payouts vary, depending on the tournament.
The Casino del Sol tourney has a $5,000 prize pool, which might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things. But remember, it won't cost you a thing to play.
To enter, anyone who has a Club Sol card (which can be gotten for free) can get a chance to play a session of video poker slots on the DoubleDown Casino, an online social gambling game that is accessible through Facebook and with whom Casino del Sol has had a working relationship for the past year or so. The top 90 or so scorers in Saturday's qualifying move on to the tournament finals on Sunday, where they'll join five people who won entry via the online game.
The online winners also got an all-expenses paid trip to Tucson for the tournament. I know, and we have to live here for free.
To help you get ready for the big tourney, check out this 10-minute (!) video chocked full of strategy and tips. And if that doesn't whet your whistle, there's like 2,000 more on YouTube.
A record 1,299 people entered (and in some cases, re-entered) the 9th annual Arizona State Poker Championship over the weekend at the Casino Arizona Talking Stick Resort near Scottsdale, with 172 of them surviving to today's play.
I don't know the names of every person who plays poker locally — some of you I just know as 'that guy I beat in a big pot' — but I recognized at least five people who made it to Monday's semifinals and a chance at the 130 spots splitting nearly $1.3 million in prize money.
Lee Gaines, Mark Ivan, Raena Janes, Tirza Sanders and Nadim Shabou were among those who restarted play at 9 a.m. today. At last check (around 2 p.m.) the field was down to 80 players, and play was expected to go until the field got as close to the final table of nine as possible.
Tuesday's final round will pay out the big bucks, with first place getting more than $246,000, not to mention a swanky trophy.
When I get updates on any locals I will pass them along.
Jackpots and other such promos aren't what draws me to a poker table, but I understand the allure of a shot at free money. And if that is you're cup of tea, you might want to get down to Casino del Sol before the end of Wednesday.
Nearly $50,000 is up for grabs in the Casino del Sol poker room's Super Jackpot promotion, which comes to end at midnight July 31. If you happen to get four of a kind or better in a hand, and still lose, you, the person who beat you, the rest of the table — heck, everyone seated in a game — will split the Super Jackpot that is over $49,000 and has been building since April.
If it doesn't hit by the end of July, at least some of the funds collected for that promotion will get funneled into the regular bad beat jackpot, which itself stands at more than $30,000. That jackpot triggers if someone has their full house of aces full of jacks beaten by a four of a kind or better.
Poker room director Rick Chaurette said the Super Jackpot was always intended as a temporary promotion, meant to draw in traffic during the slow summer months. If it hasn't hit by the end of July between $15,000 and $20,000 of it will get added to the regular jackpot, but not until after it's hit at its current payout.
Chaurette said the Super Jackpot hasn't provided as much of a spark as expected, and certainly not as much as the Progressive High Hand promo that began July 1 and will continue. That offer, which awards between $50 and $500 to the first person during a given 8-hour time frame to hit a qualiyfing hand. If no one gets, for instance, a 10- thru king-high straight flush during a time period, another $50 gets added to that category for the next day's corresponding time.
"It's been fun," Chaurette said of the high hand promo. "People have enjoyed it."
While action in Del Sol's room has been down this year from 2012, when the buzz surrounding the recently opened hotel was still driving traffic, Chaurette said the poker room has remained up overall every year since 2008.
It's been a moderately successful summer for Tucson-area poker players at this year's World Series of Poker. Through Friday a total of 17 rounders with ties to Southern Arizona had cashed a collective 21 times in the series' first 60 events, taking home a little more than $96,000 in prize money.
But 2013 could go from good to great for the local scene depending on whether anyone from around here can make a deep run in the big one.
The $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event kicks off today at the Rio in Las Vegas, a tournament that over the course of three opening-day flights is sure to draw at least 6,000 entrants that will end up fighting for a first prize of more than $7 million. Exact numbers won't be known until Monday evening, but all signs point to close to 7,000 participants this year.
Tucsonans have had some brushes with greatness in the Main Event over the years, most notably when "Tucson" Don Holt finished second in the 1991 tourney. More recently, Deb Blair finished 176th out of 6,358 players in 2007 (earning the distinction as Last Woman Standing) and in 2010 Garrett Adelstein was among the chip leaders with about 300 players left but ultimately finished 222nd out of 7,319.
Check back with The Range to see how Tucson players fare through this tournament, which will run through July 16 when it gets down to the final table of nine. Those 'November Nine' will then return several months later to play down to a winner in a made-for-TV (read: ESPN) finish.
Large collections of people of a certain age coming together for a special event is a sight to see. Anyone who's been at Fry's on Senior Wednesdays (1st of the month; you've been warned) can attest to this.
But it pales in comparison to what will go down today in the Rio Convention Center in Las Vegas, where a likely field of more than 40,000 cards-loving men and women compete in the Seniors No-Limit Hold'Em Championship at the World Series of Poker.
The 2012 version of this event drew more than 4,100 entrants willing to pony up $1,000 — and admit they were 50 years old or above — and resulted in a $603,000 first prize. Three of the 423 people to cash in the tournament were from Tucson, among the best performances for local rounders during last year's WSOP.
Several Tucsonans are expected to enter today's tourney, which was set to begin at an early-for-most-poker-players 10 a.m., and the Rio even shuffled around its restaurant hours to accommodate the droves of early bird special lovers.
Among the locals in the field are a quartet of old friends who all share a love of poker. Nick Adamakis, 52; Fred Adler, 52; Mark Crawford, 50; and Bruce Schulman, 54, guys who have played at many of the same tables for many years. Each was an integral part in the well-regarded Monthly Poker Tour that was held at several Tucson homes during the 2000s, and each has made the trip to the WSOP before.
For Adler and Schulman, though, they've taken their love of poker to the extreme this year with what they call a 'life lasting bet' to be the first to make the final table of a WSOP event. The winner of the bet must foot the bill for the two to vacation in Hawaii for a week, while the loser ... they get to be the winner's butler.
If that wasn't kooky enough, each man has already pre-selected the, ahem, outfit the other would be required to where as they, um, buttle.
"Last year, I told Bruce that if I win the bet, his outfit would be fluorescent bow ties with matching thongs every day he was the butler," said Adler.
Schulman has apparently also chosen for Adler to don a banana hammock if he were to be the winner, a look he tried to have Adler psuedo-model at Crawford's 50th birthday party last week ...
No, you can't unsee that.
Any cashers from the Seniors tourney from Southern Arizona will join a list of seven locals with a combined nine cashes in WSOP bracelet events through the first two-plus weeks of the series. The leader is Sean Getzwiller, a 2011 bracelet winner who has cashed three times so far, while Anthony Mender's 26th place finish in a $1,500 Omaha 8-or-better event earned him a 2013 local-best $8,377.
There are also three locals alive in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em tourney that began Thursday. Among them is one of Tucson's top female players, Raena Janes.
The 44th annual World Series of Poker began on Wednesday in Las Vegas, and already it's lining up as a strong showing by poker players with local ties.
And that's even before the Weekly's resident poker expert (ahem, that would be me) gets there later this week.
The first four events (out of 62) have resulted in three Tucson-connected rounders cashing, with University of Arizona graduate Lee Gaines leading the charge. Gaines, who supplemented his time at the UA a few years back by cleaning up in online poker under the moniker 'Bill Ivey,' earned $7,850 for placing 28th in a $1,500 buy-in 6-handed no-limit hold'em tournament that finishes up today.
It's the fourth career WSOP cash for Gaines, who is originally from Cottonwood.
The first event of the series saw Tony Phan cash in the Casino Employees $500 NL hold'em event, while previous WSOP bracelet winner Sean Getzwiller cashed in a $1,500 NLHE event that drew more than 3,100 players.
Getzwiller is also among at least four locals who are still alive in what WSOP officials have dubbed the Millionaire Maker, a $1,500 NLHE tourney that collected a whopping 6,343 entrants (most ever to enter a tourney on a single day) on Saturday. The event had guaranteed $1 million to the winner, regardless of the turnout, but because of so many participants the winner will get just short of $1.2 million.
That tournament resumes Sunday afternoon with almost 1,500 players remaining. The top 648 will get paid.
Locals are also faring well in the side events at the WSOP, as local real estate agent Andy Fitzpatrick finished 8th in one of the daily 'deepstack' events for a $3,800 payout. These daily tournaments at the Rio cost between $135 and $235 and can lead to a haul of more than $40,000 for first place. It's also where yours truly plans to participate the most during my upcoming visit.
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