Friday night had plenty of laughs, provided not only by host, Brad Garrett, but, also, by boisterous poker players having a delightful time at the Charity Series of Poker event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
And the number that mattered most was $20,000, the approximate amount raised for Garrett’s charity, Maximum Hope Foundation.
“I started this non-profit when I realized how lucky I was to have two healthy children, and wanted to help those parents who are wiped out financially while their son or daughter battles to survive,” said Garrett, the Emmy-winning co-star from “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Since Garrett founded Maximum Hope Foundation in 2007, more than 1,000 families caring for a child with a life-limiting illness have received financial relief. Maximum Hope provides financial help for necessities like rent, utilities, groceries, or gas.
Garrett was an outstanding host, likely the best for a charity event in the few years the Seminole Hard Rock has put on such events. He visited and posed for photos with everyone during the 5 p.m. happy hour at the L Bar, then handled the microphone for raffles, joking with the winners.
As usual, South Florida players turned out, including Jessica Dawley, Kyle Bowker and Chance Kornuth, who showed up about an hour into the tournament, but was greeted with a smile by almost everyone.
Kornuth, who has a Daniel Negreanu-type personality (minus the Tweets), fired (I think) three $300 bullets, but they paid off: He topped the 167 entrants and won $5,000 and a seat in the SHRPO main event.
After three months of being seemingly card dead, yours truly got hot at the right time and ran up my chip stack enough to coast into a fifth-place finish.
The evening started off unpromising, although I was dealt great cards – a couple of A-Ks, a pair of 10s, etc. — I either didn’t connect on flops or didn’t play them well enough to build much more than my 10,000 stack. I dwindled down to about 5,000 before doubling with Q-Q and folded most of the time through the 9:15 p.m. break/rebuy deadline. I caught a 10 on my K-10 all-in against A-9 after another drought to keep me just over my starting stack.
We were down to about 45 or so, about one-third of them with large stacks, and I asked my friend, WMEN’s Andy Slater, who had a similar stack why were even hanging around.
The next hour or so, I found out. I called what turned out to be an A-8 with my short stack and the 7-9 of hearts, hitting 7-7 for my second survival as an underdog. Then I moved tables, first ending up next to Kornuth, and getting doubles on my A-J vs. his K-10 and another big one, which I don’t remember. I also got A-A, which I misplayed by going all in after a small stack shoved and Kornuth called. (I should’ve flat-called and let Kornuth take a shot at it after the flop but just didn’t have the intestinal fortitude.)
I also eliminated Garrett, who shoved with a small stack and a 5-5. I held A-10 and the 10 hit. Actress Jennifer Tilly also ran deep, while also charming the room with her personality. Phil Laak, you are a very lucky dude. I think both Garrett and Tilly were final 15.
So I made the final nine, which included Kornuth, Stout, Kyle Bowker and Seminole Hard Rock poker manager, Tommie Bates. I think Kornuth knocked out most of the next four, amicably calling all-ins even while behind, maybe 65-35 percent on a couple. I misplayed two hands, putting in big raises but not committing all my chips, only to miss flops and be out of position. Disheartening.
The end came when Nick Yunis made a bet that covered me and turned over J-10 to my A-Q. I hit the A-Q on the flop but the turn and river were both 10s, giving him a set and a difficult elimination to swallow. But if we’re going to weigh whether luck was on my side Friday night, it clearly was, so I don’t have much to gripe about.
Now it’s serious poker. A four-tournament finale starts at noon Tuesday at Hard Rock Live and filmed by Poker Night in America. Television personalities and poker players Ali Nejad and Maria Ho serve as live emcees and provide commentary for all four final tables simultaneously.
Follow live via PokerNight.com and get updates at SHRPO.com.