Casino winner’s no stranger
Well, this is my first casino column for the Sun Sentinel, and I swear I had nothing to do with my cousin’s boyfriend winning more than half a million dollars last week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
In the craziest of coincidences, Jake Bazeley, who lives in Cincinnati with my cousin Josie Ploehs, won the main event at the 2015 Seminole Hard Rock Rock ’n’ Roll Poker Open. On Dec. 2, Jake, 32, beat the nine other finalists, out of 766 entrants, to earn $568,687. That’s the biggest win in his young career. So far, he’s earned $3.15 million.
“I’ve probably played eight to 10 times at the Seminole Hard Rock,” Jake says. “They have a few tournaments a year. I got fourth place there in April 2014 for about $370,000, so I love that casino.”
I’d met Jake only once, a year ago after another poker tournament at the Hard Rock. I have 62 first cousins — that’s not a typo— with most being up in Cincinnati, so it’s hard to keep up with all of them and their significant others and kids. I hadn’t seen Josie in a couple of years, so I definitely hadn’t met Jake. But she came down with him for that trip and was bored while he played, so I took her to Fort Lauderdale beach. Jake joined us a couple of hours later at the Elbo Room. He lost money in the tournament, but was still in a happy mood.
Jake is an optimist. And a numbers guy. After earning his undergraduate degree in business management while playing basketball at a small college in Tennessee, he worked on his MBA while coaching the team. He had plenty of free time, so he started playing poker online. And he became good. To this day, he says he’s never had a “real” job.
“This was the craziest tournament ever,” Jake says of the Rock ’n’ Roll Poker Open. “Day 1, I’m one of the shortest stacks [of chips]. After Day 2, I’m doing good. After Day 3, 18 people are left, and I was in last place. On Day 4, I ran up and was chip leader with 10 people left. And on Day 5, I went from bottom to top. It was a roller coaster.”
Because playing poker is his main form of income, Jake says he is calculated and strategic. “I don’t play cash games for money, the instant-win types,” he says. “The odds aren’t as good for my way of playing poker. But professional tournaments level the playing fields. You know who you’re playing against. You can study them.” And take their money. The players Jake beat at the final table were David Prociak, Joshua Gibson, Martin Carnero, Marvin Rettenmaier and Jessica Dawley, all from outside South Florida except Carnero, who lives in Davie. Jake and Prociak played heads-up for 68 hands until Jake finally won out.
Jake says he may return to the casino for its next tournament, the Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts Poker Open, which will take place Jan. 7-20 with a $1 million guarantee. He says he’ll definitely return for the March 31-April 23 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, which will have a $3 million guarantee.
Jake Bazeley won $568,687 on Dec. 2 at the main event of the Seminole Hard Rock Rock ’n’ Roll Poker Open.