By Sean Chaffin
Live tournament poker in the United States on the World Poker Tour is back. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida kicks off the first of two upcoming events on the Main Tour in January and March.
The WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open begins with two starting flights on Jan. 22 and 23 and a new champion crowned on Jan. 26. The entire series got underway Jan. 14 with a nice schedule of 26 events.
After close to a year without live events in the US, the Lucky Hearts Poker Open offers players a chance to get back to the WPT tables – albeit with added safety measures in place. The event continues Season XVIII and features a $3,500 buy-in and $1 million guarantee.
As in past events, the tournament also awards Hublot WPT Player of the Year points and entry into the season-ending Tournament of Champions presented by Baccarat Crystal. The winner also joins the Champions Club and adds his or her name to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.
Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood tournament manager Jason Heidenthal says players will find a smaller series but still with some nice events. The goal for the property overall has been to provide a clean and safe series players will enjoy.
“We always make a list of goals for each series,” Heidenthal says. “And at the top this year with this series is to get poker back out there, but in the safest possible form offered. That’s the number one priority – to make sure that players feel comfortable coming back to the room and that they are safe while in the room.”
Numerous safety measures in place
As the poker world enters into a new environment due to COVID-19, players can expect some changes in the WPT environment at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood. The property reopened in June and the company incorporates numerous safety protocols as part of the “Safe + Sound” program. This set of initiatives includes:
• mandatory masks for all players and team members
• temperature checks upon entry
• physical distancing
• frequent cleaning
• the use of state-of-the-art air filtration systems
At the poker tables that will mean eight-handed play, Plexiglass dividers between every player and dealer, masks on while playing, and regular cleaning of chips and cards.
“This property has done a tremendous job of making everything safe here for the team members and players,” Heidenthal says. “We’ve returned back to work and it’s a wonderful environment. It’s team member friendly and also very player-friendly. The Safe + Sound protocol has been great.”
Players will also find more distance between tables and the use of hand sanitizer is mandated after any player leaves a table. The property has run a few tournament series since reopening and players have been pleased with the resort’s efforts so far.
“They come here and give it a shot and see all the safety measures we established in the room, and they enjoy it,” Heidenthal says. “They see what we do and I think that’s what keeps them coming back.”
A slimmed-down, but fun Lucky Hearts schedule
Players heading to South Florida will find some great options when it comes to the Lucky Hearts side event schedule. The entire series runs through Jan. 26 and players will find a wide range of tournament options.
In the COVID era, creating events with guarantees can be a struggle when trying to determine how many players will show up to play. But the series does have 11 events with guaranteed prize pools and a few highlights include:
• January 20 – $1,100 NLHE Single Re-entry ($100,000 guaranteed)
• January 24 – $400 Black Chip Bounty Single Re-entry ($50,000 guaranteed)
• January 24 – $1,700 Purple Chip Bounty Re-entry ($100,000 guaranteed)
• January 26 – $5,000 NLHE Re-entry ($100,000 guaranteed)
Mixed games fans will also find some HORSE and Omaha events as well. Despite a slimmed-down approach, the schedule should offer plenty of options for tournament players.
“We tried to stick close to a standard Lucky Hearts schedule,” Heidenthal says. “It’s still a two-week series. Yes, it’s toned down a little bit. We’re setting up just 60 tables, where in the past we’ve had up to 90.”
Despite that, plenty of poker fun awaits players heading to South Florida.
“We’ve always offered a stellar WPT product here,” Heidenthal says, “and that’s going to continue.”
For a complete Lucky Hearts Poker Open schedule, click here. For more information on the WPT Lucky Hearts Main Event, click here.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.