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.
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...
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