08/03/2010 10:43AM

Action for horseplayers heats up


LAS VEGAS – The first week of the Del Mar and Saratoga meets are in the books – figuratively and literally.
The race books here have received a welcome boost in business with the two premier summer horse racing meets opening last week. The books can turn into ghost towns after the Triple Crown races have come and gone, but Del Mar and Saratoga always brings the players back. And obviously, the race books try to draw the crowds to their own properties, so even though the number of promotions isn’t what it used to be (longtime DRF readers will remember how I used to have a weekly list of the free and low entry-fee contests around town) it’s still the most we have seen in a long time. Here’s a quick rundown of the options for locals and visitors during the prime summer meets:
◗ The Station and Fiesta casinos have been hosting their property-wide qualifying tournaments for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship this spring and summer and will continue to do so through the end of August (no coincidence that it coincides with Del Mar and Saratoga). Preliminary contests that cost just $20 per entry are held each Friday at all of the Station and Fiesta casinos throughout the valley. The winners of those contests advance to the monthly finals, which anyone else can enter for $200, to play for a berth in the 12th NHC, which will be held Jan. 28-29, 2011 at the Red Rock Resort. The July finale is Saturday at Santa Fe Station in the northwest part of the Las Vegas valley. August’s finale is Saturday, Aug.  28, at the Green Valley Ranch in the southeast suburb of Henderson.
◗ A big gathering of horseplayers is wrapping up Saturday with the three-day Gold Coast Summer Classic at the off-Strip casino (just west of Las Vegas Boulevard on Flamingo Road). The entry fee was $400 and the top 50 players will cash with the top 10 earning seats in the $1,000 buy-in 2011 Horseplayer World Series on Feb. 17-19, 2011, at the Orleans.
◗ For those looking for smaller contests, the Las Vegas Hilton hosts its SuperBook Saturdays contest with a $30 entry fee through the end of August (putting it on hiatus once football season starts).
◗ Jerry’s Nugget in North Las Vegas (just north of downtown on Las Vegas Boulevard) has a $10 entry fee with a $500 prize pool during Del Mar.
◗ The South Point, located on the extended south end of the Strip (south of Mandalay Bay but not as far south as the M Resort), has a Thursday contest with a $20 entry fee in which players try to go 6 for 6 on a single entry There are weekly prizes for the highest combined win payoffs, with the main prize carrying over if no one has a perfect card.
◗ Back to the bigger tournaments, Wynn Las Vegas is hosting the Race Handicapping Challenge on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6-7, with just Del Mar and Saratoga races. The entry fee is $2,000 with a guaranteed $125,000 prize pool.
◗ On Aug. 26-28, the Las Vegas Hilton hosts its thrice-annual Pick the Ponies tournament. The entry fee is $500, but those beating the early-bird deadline of Monday, Aug.  16, only have to pay $400 with the Hilton kicking in the other $100 to the prize pool.
November Nine poker lineup set
The No-Limit Texas Hold’em World Championship, aka the Main Event, set its final table at the Rio All-Suites Hotel back in the early-morning hours of Sunday, July 18. The 27 players – out of a second-highest ever field of 7,319 – who survived the first seven days of play actually started playing down to the final table at noon on Saturday, July  17. After nearly 12 hours, with just a 90-minute dinner break and a few other scattered breaks, the field was whittled down to the 10 that were combined into one table. The rules call for the November Nine to be the ones advancing to the final table on Saturday, Nov. 6. Play continued until nearly 6 a.m. before the last player was eliminated. The November Nine all received ninth-place money of $811,823 and are all fielding endorsement deals and sponsorships to capitalize on their 15 minutes (or four months) of fame. Here are the November Nine (each player started with $30,000 in tournament chips for their $10,000 buy-in):
Jonathan Duhamel of Boucherville, Quebec ($65.9 million): The chip leader used his big stack to bully the table and build his lead on the final night, but he has got a big bulls’-eye on his back.
John Dolan of Bonita Springs, Fla. ($46.2 million): Combined with Duhamel, they have more than half of all the chips in play.
Joseph Cheong of La Mirada, Calif. ($23.5 million): Claims to have played in 10,000 tournaments at the age of 24. He certainly plays like an experienced pro.
John Racener of Port Richey, Fla. ($19 million): Another poker pro who is not a household name, but he has a World Series of Poker Circuit title and 11 WSOP cashes.
Matthew Jarvis of Surrey, British Columbia ($16.7 million): He also considers himself a full-time poker pro, though most of his experience has been online. In the modern era, that’s quite common, especially since Chris Moneymaker’s title in 2002.
Filipp Candio of Caliari, Italy ($16.4 million): He’s the only player from outside North America and is a champion on the Italy Poker Tour.
Michael Mizrachi of Miami ($14.4 million): Known as “The Grinder,” he’s the most recognizable name left in the field. He will be the focus of a lot of coverage you see leading up to the final table.
Soi Nguyen of Santa Ana, Calif. ($9.6 million): Those familiar with the world of poker tournaments know that Scotty Nguyen’s last name is pronounced “Win.” This player would be “So I Win.” Too bad he doesn’t have more chips.
Jason Senti, St. Louis Park, Minn. ($7.6 million): The short stack when they return in November. But never say never. The old saying is all you need is a chip and a chair to have a chance.