Lots of people love the adrenaline rush in sports, but for some, it comes from gambling instead of playing. I'll wager it's a caveman thing, from when we had to run from saber-toothed tigers and would stand on cliffs and bet shells on who down below would get eaten.
"People love the thrill of anticipation," says Matt Harper, a spokesman for Calder Casino (21001 NW 27th Ave., Miami Gardens, 305-625-1311, CalderCasino.com). "Whether it's the reels spinning on a slot machine, the balls rolling out for the lottery, or a basketball game that comes down to the wire, it's all about the thrill."
On Sunday, Calder tipped off its Hoops Challenge promotion, which enables casinogoers to guess NBA winners. The 20 people with the most winners each week will receive a share of $1,000 in free play. Scores carry forward from week to week until the promotion ends April 11, coinciding with the end of the NBA's regular season. At that time, the 100 highest scoring players will win a share of $7,500 in free play.
Visitors can stop at any promo kiosk from 9 a.m. Sundays to 5 p.m. Wednesdays for a free set of NBA picks. They can earn an extra set of picks daily with 25 points on the slot machines.
"It all started with our Pigskin Picks promotion for the NFL season," Harper says. "We then grew the concept to include options for basketball and baseball, too."
A couple of other local casinos have sports promos, as well.
Through Feb. 9, gamers at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, 800-937-0010, SeminoleHardRockHollywood.com) can play the $100,000 Guarantee Pro Pick 'Em Football Challenge Playoff Edition. During the regular season, the casino hosted a $550,000 promotion.
Every week, from Monday to Friday, visitors to the tribe's marquee gaming facility can enter their picks for playoff games at designated kiosks. Winners get paid in free play.
On weekends in January, Casino Miami (3500 NW 37th Ave., Miami, 305-633-6400, CasinoMiamiJaiAlai.com) is giving away $100,000. At 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, the facility is handing out $2,500, totaling $50,000 for the month. The other $50,000 is divided into hourly free-play prizes from 2 to 11 p.m. Also, at 11 p.m. Sundays, a player will win a Trax SUV from AutoNation Chevrolet Doral. Entries will be picked out of a drum.
Coco Poker Showdown at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (5550 N.W. 40th St., 954-977-6700, CasinoCoco.com) will take place Jan. 21-30, with more than $500,000 in guaranteed prize pools. Three events will be offered: a $100,000 guaranteed No Limit Hold 'Em, which has a $130 buy-in and 10,000 in starting chips; a $250,000 guaranteed No Limit Hold 'Em with a $350 buy-in and 12,000 in starting chips; and a $100,000 No Limit Hold 'Em Deep Stack with an $1,100 buy-in and 20,000 in starting chips. Six other events have guarantees ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino's Lucky Hearts Poker Open started Jan. 7 and finishes Jan. 20, with a $1,100 buy-in WPT DeepStacks Main Event and a $1 million guarantee. Jake Bazeley, who won the casino's Rock 'n' Roll Poker Open on Dec. 2, taking home $568,687, is playing. (As I disclosed in a previous column, Bazeley is my cousin's fiance.)
The third annual Homebrew Beer Competition will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at Mardi Gras Casino (831 N. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, 954-924-3200, MardiGrasCasinoFL.com). More than 30 varieties of suds will be available from local and craft homebrewers competing for the "best local homebrewer" crown. With a $15 entrance fee, visitors receive a sampling cup and pretzel necklace. Kiss Country's Darlene Evans will be giving away prizes.
Guests at Calder Casino's Double Up Slot Tournament on Wednesdays in January can win a share of $2,000 in free play, plus the top 50 scorers win free entry into the night's bingo session.