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Best of John Grochowski
Heartland Poker Tour7 August 2007
While the big national casino news of the last several weeks has revolved around the World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas, poker is once again making a local splash with the latest Heartland Poker Tour no-limit Hold'em event aboard the Majestic Star II casino in Gary's Buffington Harbor.
With a week of qualifiers that began July 21 leading up to the six-player final table on July 30, Majestic Star poker room manager Dom Niro was geared up for a big crowd of entrants.
"We had people tell us they traveled all day to get here, and couldn't get in," Niro told me when we did my WCKG-FM radio show at Majestic Star on the opening day of qualifying. "But the great thing is, we still have a week of qualifying. Then can enter tomorrow, or Monday, all the way through Friday night."
The Heartland Poker Tour has proven to be a great fit for Majestic Star. In March, the last time the tour stopped in Gary, Jimmy Kroll of New Lenox won a Heartland record $140,963. The July stop looks even bigger, with the winner expected to take away more than $200,000.
"Jimmy was quite a character," Fred Bevill, color commentator on the Heartland telecasts that air locally on Comcast SportsNet., said when I spoke with him a week before the current qualifiers began. "People will love to watch him when that tournament airs (in October)."
There is some intermingling among tours, with Heartland players sometimes entering World Poker Tour events. But Midwesterners make up the largest segment of players. Most aren't full-time pros, but they're outstanding players proving themselves against tough competition.
"Real people, unreal money," says the Heartland Poker Tour slogan, and it seems the money gets more unreal every time an event comes to Majestic Star.
Majestic Star will be hosting another event this year, and it's a big one. The HPT Championship Open, featuring tour champions, comes to Gary starting Dec. 1. Before then, Heartland is expected to start a series of poker leagues at the various casinos that host its events, with winners also qualifying for the tournament of champions.
Season 3 of the Heartland Poker Tour begins airing on Comcast SportsNet on Sept. 15. The March Majestic Star event is scheduled to air Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, with the showing of the July event to be scheduled.
Between tournaments, of course, there's plenty of action in Majestic Star's big, busy poker room, with both no-limit and limit games and a full daily tournament schedule.
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Majestic Star has been busy outside the poker room, too. The new Don B.'s steak house and the Wings and Things restaurant have given a big boost to dining, and upgrades are coming to the Passports buffet.
On the casino boats, amenities include upgrades to the high-limit table games room. A new baccarat room features all mini-bac tables, but at some, players are permitted to handle the cards. That appeals to traditional baccarat players who like to slowly squeeze open the cards, looking for a little extra luck. The room features its own chef for Asian food.
Coming up is a Three Card Poker promotion where players dealt three of a kind or better qualify for a drawing to enter a tournament with cash prizes. Elsewhere on the gaming floor, Majestic Star is doing booming business at Rapid Roulette, in which instead of using chips, each player has a video touch screen --- instead of reaching over other players to bet with chips, you just touch the screen to bet credits. Very convenient, and it's still a live game with a dealer spinning a wheel.
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We've kept up with some of the stories coming out of the World Series of Poker, so I couldn't let the Main Event pass without a mention of the winner. In the $10,000 no-limit hold'em championship, the event that started it all at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas, Jerry Yang, a psychologist from California, took the gold bracelet that goes to the champion --- along with $8.25 million.
Yang, a native of Laos and the father of six children, just started playing poker two years ago. He stood in eighth place when the final table of 10 players began, but a series of aggressive plays moved him into command very quickly.
Those who follow the WSOP will note that the prize money is down by about a third from last year, when Jamie Gold took away $12 million along with his bracelet. Put that down to the effect of the bill President Bush signed into law last year, making it illegal for financial institutions to handle transactions for online gambling. The influx of qualifiers from online poker tournaments that had been growing the last several years declined.
The drop in online qualifiers left this year's main event with 6,358 entrants, the second-highest total in WSOP history, but down considerably from the 8,773 in 2006.
Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of John Grochowski