By Matt Savage
Arriving at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa for the very first time was quite a surprise. I have always been told by players that have been here before how amazing of a property it is but I have to be honest I didn’t truly understand why. I guess I was just loyal to the Hollywood Seminole Hard Rock property where I have attended events for over 10 years but I have to say this one blew me away. It’s a massive property with a great hotel, swimming pools, restaurants, and a gaming floor you have to see to believe.
I definitely need the thank the great leadership team here at Tampa Seminole Hard Rock which includes Steve Bonner President of Tampa Property, Charleen Ripley VP of Table Games, Director of Poker Marketing Tony Burns, Director of Poker Pablo Perez, Tournament Manager Yi Li, and the dealers and staff which are the backbone of making an event like this a great one.
As part of my job as Executive Tour Director, I attend these events and give welcome speeches and final table announcements plus work with the Tournament Manager, Director of Poker, and our WPT global tour management to review the schedule, structure, pay tables, and everything pertaining to the World Poker Tour event. I also conduct interviews and do meet and greets with the players.
Luckily enough at this event due to it being a first time WPT venue we had the honor of having CEO of the World Poker Tour, Adam Pliska, in attendance as well as legendary WPT commentator Vince Van Patten, Royal Flush Crew member Tyler Campbell, and two of the best in the business Sam Carioti and Keta Ozolina from our global tour management team.
I always love going to a new property and this one was no different but the fact that it was such an amazing property made it all that more special. Coming out of the pandemic it’s nice to see players I haven’t seen in quite some time and at this stop, I met so many people that I had never met before which is always nice.
Although I didn’t get to play any golf on this trip which is a bummer I did get away for one night to see the Tampa Bay Lightning blow out the New York Islanders eight to zero and I may or may not have had a little something on the home team so it made for a very fun night.
The tournament was a huge success with 1,165 entries over the two day start and saw a collection of WPT Champions, touring pros, local players, and over 140 satellite winners.
The final table came down to a great one which included three World Poker Tour champions (Brian Altman, Zachary Smiley, and Jonathan Jaffe) and three hopeful players looking to add their name to the Mike Sexton WPT champion’s cup.
Two-time WPT Champion and current Hublot WPT Player of the Year Brian Altman started the final table with a whopping chip lead and over half the chips in play.
The action was fast and furious at the final table which led to four quick bustouts and got us to a heads up battle between Altman and Texas businessman Gabriel Abusada.
Gabriel offered Brian a deal so that “he would make more money than second” but it was quickly turned down. When the smoke cleared Altman completed his wire to wire final table dominance and added a second diamond to his plaque on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup for his 3rd WPT title joining Anthony Zinno, Chino Rheem, Eric Afriat, Carlos Mortensen, and Gus Hansen. Brian is now just one title behind Darren Elias who has four.
Final table results:
1st Brian Altman – Boston, MA $613,225
2nd Gabriel Abusada – Tombull, TX $408,825
3rd Zachary Smiley – Toledo, OH $302,200
4th Jonathan Jaffe – Longmeadow, MA $225,675
5th John Haas – Tampa, FLA $170,275
6th Will Berry – Norman, OK $129,825
I definitely look forward to coming back to the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa property in the future and hope that our WPT relationship is a long one.