Looking Ahead: WPT Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts Poker Open

Jan 14, 2022

The WPT Seminole Hard Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship Event is a welcome sight for poker players looking to escape the winter. (Joe Giron photo)
The WPT Seminole Hard Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship Event is a welcome sight for poker players looking to escape the winter. (Joe Giron photo)

By Sean Chaffin

At a time when much of the country is seeing cold weather, some tropical vibes in South Florida mixed with some World Poker Tour action could be the perfect escape. The WPT returns to South Florida January 21-26 with the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts Poker Open.

The property has a history of tournament success and has become one of the most popular casino resorts on the tour. The $3,500 buy-in championship event features a $2 million guarantee and players can check out a host of side events beginning January 13. The first of those is a $600 Deep Stack with a $1 million guarantee and six starting slights running January 13-15.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino boasts one of the best poker scenes in the nation and the LHPO is a major part of that. The event continually attracts large fields and interesting storylines. Last January, the tournament helped bring live poker back to the WPT and showed how much players were ready to return to action, attracting 1,573 entries for a $5 million prize pool.

Ilyas Muradi added his name to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup and scored $809,515 as well. Originally from Afghanistan, the win was a long way from spending two years in an immigration detention facility. He detailed the struggle his family went through and how much he overcame to achieve his WPT dream.

“There was so much struggle – coming from Afghanistan to learning the language to growing up as a young man in the United States and what happened to me,” Muradi said. “Never give up and if you have a dream, you have to do it instead of dreaming about it. Don’t sit around and wait for it to come to you. You’ve got to go get it.”

In 2020, the event attracted 843 entries for a $2.7 million prize pool with another interesting story developing. Three-time WPT champion Brian Altman became the first player in tour history to win the same event twice. In Season XIII, he grabbed his first Lucky Hearts Poker Open title for $723,008 in an event that brought in 1,027 entries and a $3.3 million prize pool. In Season XVIII Altman struck again. This time the title brought him a $482,636 payday and his second tour championship.

“This is incredibly special,” Altman said. “It’s amazing to be the first person to win the same WPT event twice, and kind of cement myself in history with this event. Obviously it’s fantastic to get big wins, but playing these events I’m happy to put myself in a position to go deep, be chip leader, and make final tables.”

Seminole properties seem to be a comfortable environment for Altman. In June, he won the inaugural WPT Seminole Hard Rock Tampa as well for $613,225. It’s a good bet he’ll be back at the Hard Rock looking for another big Seminole score.

The Lucky Hearts Poker Open has been a major part of the WPT since debuting on the tour in 2012. In the inaugural event in Season X, Matt Juttelstad won the top spot in Season X for $268,444 (295 entries, $958,750 prize pool). He’d been away from poker for a year, but decided to play in the event while in the Miami area for a graduate school interview with Florida Atlantic University. Adding a stop at the Seminole Hard Rock proved to be a nice decision. He still planned on attending grad school, but would no longer need a student loan.

Season XI (2013) saw Matt Giannetti take the title for $323,804 in an event featuring 369 entries and a $1.2 million prize pool. WPT regular and Florida’s own James Calderaro took the title in Season XIII, topping a field of 415 that created a $1.3 million prize pool. “Big Caldo” bested Shannon Shorrr in heads-up play to add his name to the Sexton Cup and win $271,103.

Darryl Fish captured the title in Season XVI for $511,604. That year’s field reached 911 entries for a prize pool of $2.9 million. Fish also proved to be quite a Seminole success, finishing third in the same event in 2013 for $125,921. He also took runner-up in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in 2017 for $453,185.

The Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL has become a key part of the WPT and the Lucky Hearts Poker Open has seen big players, big fields, big prize pools, and big payouts. Players heading to South Florida can once again expect more of the same – and a great time at the tables.

For more information on the WPT Seminole Lucky Hearts Poker Open including tournament structure, click here. For a look at the complete schedule of events, click here

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer based in New Mexico and Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.

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