I love Miami. Well to be honest, I love the Miami Dolphins. They’ve been my favorite team since I was a kid despite only being to their home city just one, that is until I decided to cave in to the hype, jump on the bandwagon and book a ticket for the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $10 Million Guarantee (SHRPO). It seemed the entire poker world was heading down to South Florida, and since I didn’t have to work, I thought it’d be a good chance to go down, hang with my friends and even play a little bit.
The plan was to try my hand at a couple of $575 satellites and hope to qualify for the $5,000 buy-in Main Event. I arrived on Thursday, August 22 just in time to catch the 2 p.m. satellite, and after dropping my bags off at the bell desk, I promptly registered. This particular satellite was held in the main poker room, which was across the property from SHRPO, so I began to make the long trek across the casino floor. A minute later I passed a well-known poker pro and something remarkable happened—I “qualified” for the Main Event!
To respect his privacy, I’ll keep the name of this pro confidential, but suffice it to say I’ve known him for a few years and we’ve always gotten along splendidly. Our paths hadn’t crossed in awhile, so we exchanged pleasantries before he asked if I was there to work. I informed him that I was there to play a bit and was going to attempt to qualify for the Main Event.
“You want me to put you in?” he asked nonchalantly while simultaneously leaving me flabbergasted. That’s a lot of money and I was honored he had enough faith in my to offer—I guess winning a bracelet has certain benefits. Anyway, I said let’s wait and see how I do in the satellite, which I promptly busted, and then took him up on his gracious offer. I was in the game.
I played Day 1b of the Main Event and I was excited to go despite having only one bullet to fire (you can read more about that in my recent piece on learn.pokernews.com). Aside from this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event, the SHRPO was the largest buy-in tournament I’d played, and given the smaller field size, I knew I’d get the chance to play with some fairly big names.
The biggest ended up being David “Doc” Sands, who I was pleased to learn doesn’t take as long to act as his reputation suggests. Sands and I didn’t get involved in any big pots against one another, and he eventually busted (he re-entered several times and ended up making a deep run). On the other hand, I had trouble getting anything going. We started with 30,000 and I did nothing but dwindle early on. I dropped to 8,000, worked it up to 40,000 and then ended up busting to Sam Soverel in the penultimate level of the night. Soverel was the bane of my tournament beating me over and over again (every time I had a good hand he had one a little bit better). It was frustrating but fitting that he was the one to finish me off.
I was extremely disappointed to bust, but alas that is poker. The toughest part is breaking the news to your backer, though he appeared to take it well. Whether or not he was being sincere I don’t know, but either way I was sure to let him know how much the opportunity meant to me. Even though I didn’t do much, I still got to play in one of the year’s biggest tournaments alongside the game’s best. Truly a great experience.
My bust-out disappointment disappeared on Saturday when I had the opportunity to attend the Miami Dolphins game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Granted, it was a meaningless preseason game, but I was still ecstatic to check out the Fins’ stadium, something I hadn’t done in the better part of a decade and only once at that. What’s more, my friend Garry Gates, who is a VIP host of sorts for PokerStars, won a contest on Twitter that gave us seats in a suite and a tour of the stadium.
Along with PokerNews Editor in Chief Donnie Peters and World Series of Poker bracelet winner Allen Bari, the four of us arrived at Sun Life Stadium to do a little pregaming. Beers, rum and a football got us off to a good start, and it only got better as free food was part of our reward experience. The best part for me was getting the chance to go down on the field during pregame workouts. What an experience to be on the ground looking up at the stadium—a surreal perspective.
Needless to say, I’m pumped for the upcoming season. Have a look at some of the pictures I snapped at the game.
Miami was great and the SHRPO was a great tournament. I expect I will be down there again in the near future. In the meantime, I am off to Barcelona for the start of the European Poker Tour Season 10.
Before I sign off, a very special thanks to Mickey Doft for letting me crash in his room all week. I understand as well as anyone that it’s a big sacrifice to open up your room after working 14 hours a day, and I greatly appreciate his kindness.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ChadAHolloway for more poker articles, stories and musings from the tournament trail.