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.
Fridays can be dull — the office empties out early, things are slow and people are generally just dragging on 'til they can hit Happy Hour and start the weekend off with a buzz.
Thus, we recommend a bit of fun for those who love to take their chances playing cards: making new friends at a small, friendly poker club!
According to a tip culled by our friendly, neighborhood rock critic/lady of listings Linda Ray, the Village Inn at 6251 N. Oracle Road plays home to a number of friendly card sharks who eat lunch from 11:30 a.m. to noon, then play poker in games of the dealer's choosing 'til 3:30.
Now, I'm assuming since this is taking place at a restaurant better known for pie than it is for breeding card sharks, we'll safely assume that you won't be risking any money playing these hands — but, according to the tip we got sent in, "a good time awaits you!"
Probably not that kind of good time, but hey, who can turn down cards at lunch on a slow day?
If you're interested, give a call to 297-9515 — or just show up, order some pie and play a few hands.
It was already lining up to be a quite unproductive workday for yours truly, what with the after-effects of attending the Die Hard marathon — Lord help you if you pay money solely to see the fifth installment — still rattling my psyche.
Then the World Series of Poker announced the 2013 series schedule, and any chance of workflow was lost. Thank you, WSOP.
The 44th World Series, held again at the Rio in Las Vegas, will run from May 29 to July 15, with 62 fancy-schmancy gold bracelets and millions of dollars up for grabs over the seven weeks of play. Buy-ins for the open bracelet events range from $1,000 to $111,111 and the first $1K event is guaranteeing $1 million to the winner.
The Main Event, with its standard $10,000 buy-in and no-limit hold'em format, starts July 6 and will stop July 15 when nine players remain. Those final tablists, known as the November Nine, will return later to play for super big money. Last year's champion, Greg Merson, won more than $8 million for taking the Main Event title.
There will also be countless cash games and side events, including an awesome $235 buy-in tourney each day at the Rio that yours truly final tabled two years ago and plans to do at least twice more this summer.
Expect a horde of local players to make pilgrimages of varying length to the WSOP, whether it be for a one-and-done weekend warrior-type trip or for an extended stay in hopes of hitting it big, like Tucsonan Sean Getzwiller did in 2011 when he won more than $600K for taking down a $1,000 no-limit hold'em bracelet event.
My Valentine's Day plans are all set up. Have been so for quite some time, thanks to my obsession with details and planning ahead.
Then Casino del Sol's latest email hit my inbox, and now it's time to re-evaluate my priorities. And those of my wife.
The far superior of Tucson's two tribal gaming outfits — hey, Desert Diamond, got any more visits from the Dazz Band coming up? — has a pair of uniquely attractive events for next week that are likely to draw vastly different audiences.
First up is 'Hunks, The Show,' which apparently is an all-male revue of some sort that is going to be in Del Sol's Events Center on Tuesday night. The free-for-all-Club-Sol-members (note: joining this club is free, so if you're not already, do so!) event that is described as a "live high-energy production that showcases creative choreography and extravagant costumes guaranteed to captivate women of all ages!"
I'm sure men are allowed to be captivated, too. And not just by the choreography and costumes. Check out this clip to see if Hunks is up your alley:
Two nights later, on V-Day, Del Sol's poker room has spiced up its weekly $100 deep stack tournament by having 2004 World Series of Poker champion Greg Raymer set to participate. The oversized professional known as 'Fossilman' for his penchant for using fossils as card protectors while at a poker table — and who also enjoys slipping on some freaky snake-eyes glasses before staring you down when in a hand with him — will have a $500 bounty on his head that whoever knocks him out would collect.
Here's Fossilman in action from 2004, when the former patent attorney from North Carolina became a (poker) household name and won $5 million:
Now, to figure out a way to be allowed to go to the latter without having to also attend the former...
My New Year's resolutions are a mixed bag of the usual (lose weight; manage money better) and unachievable (dunk a basketball; cross a name off my 'List'), along with some that just happen to have a chance of happening real soon thanks to Casino del Sol:
- I resolve to win a big pot off Andre Reed, then reassure the former Buffalo Bills wide receiver that this shouldn't feel as bad as all those Super Bowl losses.
- I resolve to catch cards on the turn and river to bust former UA great Antoine Cason, then ask him if he thinks this is what Norv Turner felt like at the end of each season with the San Diego Chargers.
- And I resolve to win a charity tournament hosted by one of Tucson's most well-known recent pro baseball players, while at the same time helping out a great cause.
All three of those resolutions can be achieved next Saturday, Jan. 12, at the 2nd Annual Shelley Duncan Celebrity Poker Classic at Casino del Sol.
The $200 buy-in tournament has a guaranteed prize pool of $12,000, with $50 of each entry going toward the Tucson Youth Baseball Association, which helped produced Duncan, a former UA baseball standout who has played for the New York Yankees and is currently with the Cleveland Indians.
Duncan is among a plethora — oh, I also resolve to quote Three Amigos in as many blog posts as possible this year — of celebrities scheduled to participate in the tourney, which starts at 7 p.m. Along with the aforementioned Andre Reed and Antoine Cason, others expected to play include former Arizona Cardinals lineman Bertrand Berry, former UA long distance runner Abdi Abdirahman, Arizona Diamondbacks great and Mr. An's No. 1 Son Luis Gonzalez and other people you might not recognize at first but you'll be sure to tell others you (unsuccessfully) tried to bluff them.
Registration is available online for the tournament, while in-person entries will be taken only on the day of the event.
There are three players remaining in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, a $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament that began in July with nearly 6,600 entrants and resumed Monday night with just the final nine.
Among those still alive: 21-year-old Jake Balsiger, an Arizona State University political science 'major' who would be the younger WSOP Main Event winner ever if he were to emerge victorious this evening at the Penn & Teller Theater inside the Rio in Las Vegas.
Balsiger sits in third place in chips, trailing Greg Merson and Jesse Sylvia, both 24-year-old professional poker players. Each player is guaranteed more than $3 million in prize money, with the winner nabbing $8.53 million.
Psuedo-live coverage of the final table airs at 5:45 p.m. tonight on ESPN2, with the action showing up on TV about 15 minutes after it actually happens because the broadcast will show the players' hole cards.
Is that costume you're planning to wear for Halloween contest-worthy? Is it one that would also enable you guzzle drinks, gamble and gyrate to devil-themed music? Or do you just want to see other people look silly doing all of that?
Then Casino del Sol should be part of your Oct. 31 itinerary this year.
The casino is hosting what it bills as Tucson's largest Halloween party from 9 p.m. to midnight, with costume contests that award freeplay (which, if you use it properly in the slot machines, can be easily cashed out), food and drink specials and maybe the most appropriate cover band for the night: Astrocreep, a Rob Zombie 'tribute' band.
The best overall costume will win $1000 in free play, while $250 in free play is being given out for 'most original' and 'best group' categories.
Even if you don't plan on dressing up this year, this event could be worth going just to see how much security flips out when it sees some of the getups they'll have to frisk for weapons and contraband, not to mention having to card 40-year-old women who've managed to make themselves look 16 for an evening.
Some of the fondest memories of my post-first-marriage years involve playing poker in Desert Diamond Casino's old rickety, wobbly, cramped quintuple-wide trailer that served as a poker room for several years in the mid-2000s. With its own bathrooms, parking away from the rest of the casino and a door blocking out all the slot player smoke, that room was the hotbed of poker action in Southern Arizona for years.
But when Desert Diamond tore down its Nogales Highway location to build a newer casino-hotel version, the poker room was 'upgraded' to a spacious room that had close to 20 tables when it opened in fall 2007.
Sadly, the room never looked that full, even on the busiest of nights.
So it's not surprising to hear that the Diamond has booted poker out of those digs and relegated to a smaller room wedged between the food court and the bingo hall just inside the casino's front entrance. The official transfer of the room occurred overnight Wednesday into Thursday, and only eight tables made the trip over.
(Compare that to Casino del Sol's poker room, which increased to 14 tables with its most recent remodel this past year.)
Despite the downgrade, the poker powers-that-be at the Diamond seem to finally be wising up to its increasingly crummy tournament schedule, which hadn't changed much in six years other than to eliminate tournaments due to lack of interest and lack of house-added funds to beef up the prize pool.
A new Tuesday night tournament is in the lineup, replacing the old $135 buy-in that had a horrible structure, horrible starting chip stack and even worse payout schedule. Who wants to play a tourney where you 'make the money' but lose money if you finished 8th, 9th or 10th?
Now Tuesday is a $115 buy-in, with a $4,000 guarantee to the prize pool and a cap of only 50 players. The top eight get at least $210, with first place collecting at least $1,000.
This tourney goes along with Monday and Thursday morning, and Monday and Wednesday night 'Cup of Coffee' tourneys with a $35 buy-in, 40-player cap and $500 added to the pot. These quickie tourneys usually split the $1,700 prize pool among the top four players.
Hopefully the smaller Desert Diamond poker room will lead to an improved atmosphere. Having regular players earn comps for their hours logged at the table might help, just ask Casino del Sol.
This decades-old series features readings by well-known Tucson writers and an open mic for poets, performance artists… More