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Seminole Hard Rock announces $10M guarantee tournament

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is going all-in with poker, announcing Monday it will launch a $10 million guaranteed tournament. That's the largest guaranteed tournament anywhere.

The tournament, called the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, will run Aug. 22-29 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood and cost $5,300 to enter.

“This destination deserves a tournament like this,” said Larry Mullin, Seminole Gaming COO.

It signals a new emphasis on poker at the casino, which the Seminoles have built into an empire since purchasing Hard Rock International in 2007 for $965 million. It is the only South Florida casino with a hotel, a 5,000-seat concert venue, multiple restaurants and a nightlife center.

Slots and blackjack are the casino’s big money makers, and Hard Rock poker players have in the past grumbled that their game hasn’t received much love from the Seminoles.

Until now.

While the Seminoles can promote it as the largest guarantee in the world -- and it's by far the biggest thing we've ever seen here in South Florida -- let's clarify everything just a little bit.

The World Series of Poker main event. Although the World Series carries no official guarantee, 6,598 players built a $62 million prize pool last year in the $10,000 buy-in event; and The Big One for One Drop charity tournament, which cost $1 million to enter with its charity angle, created a prize pool of about $42 million. But even if you quibble over those details, this is a big deal.

“The Hard Rock and the Seminoles serve as a global brand that will always be striving to bring the best in games, hospitality and entertainment to South Florida,” Mullin said. “As that leader, you can utilize events such as this one to remind people about what great products we have.”

To poker players, a guaranteed prize pools means the money will be no matter how many players enter. The Seminole Hard Rock will want to attract about 2,000 players in order to generate $10 million in entry fees.

Getting that number will be a challenge. For example, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Showdown, which wraps up Tuesday, carries a $2 million guarantee, previously the largest in state history. It drew 542 entries.

William Mason, Seminole Hard Rock director of poker, said a $10 million guarantee would mean about $1.7 million to the winner.

“I feel like that has to be a typo,” Tweeted Fort Lauderdale player Matthew Smith. “Even 1,000 players at a $10,000 buy-in would be extremely optimistic.” 

The $10 million tournament had Hard Rock poker players talking on Monday.

“Unbelievable, just unbelievable, it’s gonna be sick,” said Dan Suied of Hallandale Beach, one of 21 players remaining in the Poker Showdown.

Andrew Mackenzie of San Francisco, a full-time player, said he’ll return to South Florida in August for the tournament.

“$10 million definitely catches my eye,” he noted.

Mason added that the tournament will be part of a series in August, and the five other Seminole poker rooms in Florida will have “satellite” tournaments with lower entry fees and the winners advancing to the $10 million event. There are no plans to televise the tournament.

The largest guarantee at a non-Seminole poker room has been $1 million, offered by the Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach and the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

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