Frances Vorolieff and her family often visit Seminole Casino Coconut Creek to play the slot machines. Just not at 5:45 a.m.
Once again proving that the magic word in South Florida is spelled F-R-E-E, 1,941 slot players lined up at the casino Monday morning to take their shot at winning $25,000 in what the casino billed “the state’s largest slot tournament.”
“We wanted to get here early, but there were about 150 people in front of us,” said Vorolieff, who brought her husband, brother and sister-in-law and a niece and nephew.
The advertised registration start time was 7 a.m. for the 9 a.m. tournament, but by 4 a.m., about 50 players had lined up, according to advertising manager Britta Schlager. The casino set aside about half of its 2,300 machines for the tournament, and when the larger-than-expected turnout occurred, the casino divided the tournament into two parts.
“There was so much energy on the casino floor at such an early hour,” said Schlager, noting the tournament culminated a “Wild Winner Weekend” series of giveaways. “We were thrilled with the turnout.”
Vorolieff, her family and everybody else needed not even an ounce of strategy to play. A slot tournament simply involves players pushing a “spin” button for three minutes — the more times they push the button the more points they earn. The highest score wins. A trained chimp could win a slot tournament.
Most slot tournaments at South Florida casinos use only a few dozen machines, but a $5 million upgrade allowed Seminole Coconut Creek to connect hundreds of machines to the same game.
The 1,941 players is short of the world record, set last year at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in California, which attracted 2,885 players.
The big winner was Robert Hughes, of Boca Raton, who scored 110,120 points. He said he had no particular strategy “other than to push the button as many times as I can.” But he did have a plan for his money.
“I’m giving it to my wife,” he said.
Even the last-place player left with at least $20 in free slot play and a T-shirt. Coconut Creek staff handed out pastries, water and coffee to the line, which snaked from the Pavilion concert hall past the high-limit room, through the blackjack pits and almost to the parking garage. The average wait time to register was about an hour, but most players seemed to be in a good mood as they waited for their three minutes of action.
“Hey, it’s free,” said Ed Hughes, of Fort Lauderdale, a regular player, who arrived at the casino at 6:30 a.m. “How can I complain?”