Michael Laake is a card dealer from the Tampa area, but before that he lived here in South Florida for five years. He has career earnings of $499,490 and a large amount of those winnings have been claimed here at the Seminole Hard Rock. That includes his largest single cash of $114,975, which he booked after winning a $350 Deep Stack No Limit Hold’em event at the Seminole Hard Rock Showdown back in 2012. “I have had a lot of success here. I just feel really comfortable here and I just enjoy the property,” said Laake about his ever-increasing number of cashes at Seminole Hard Rock tournament series.
The SHRPO Live Updates team caught up with Laake during a break in the action at the final table of Event 6 ($1,650 8-Hand No Limit Hold’em – He finished in fourth place, good for $10,200) to pick Laake’s brian about playing here at the property, his experience at the final table, and his thoughts on the growing South Florida poker community.
On the Event 6 final table: “Since I got back today it’s been pretty smooth sailing. I started kind of short today because I took a couple of bad beats last night. Because the structure is so good it allows for a lot of flexibility. I have been able to play a lower variance style. They cater these Sunday 3 p.m. events to the bigger buy-ins, with really slow, solid structures. They tweaked this one from the ones they’ve had in the past. They made the first six levels only 40 minutes instead of 60 minutes, and I think that made a big difference in getting some players to play. For a while they were lasting all day on Day 1 and still not making the money, and it was just too much of a drag out for what it is. That was definitely a big improvement. A lot of events they ask me for input, and I offer what I can. There’s a lot that goes into it, and I think they do a very good job listening and trying to adapt to a constantly evolving market.”
On tournament variety and guarantees at the Seminole Hard Rock: “There is a tremendous variety, and they try to cater to whatever business they can accommodate, like any good poker room. Whatever they feel they need, they’re going to do their best to make sure it gets in the schedule. As far as the South Florida market goes, they were the first to put up ground-breaking guarantees. They were willing to go beyond a $100,000 prize pool. In 2012, when they ran their first $10k, they started off with the small buy-in events with $500,000 guarantees, and then that slowly evolved into other big events. They built these venues, like the ballroom, and they use Hard Rock Live, they just create the atmosphere you’re looking for that can accommodate these big tournaments.”
On the South Florida poker community: “I definitely go out of my way to get in Bill Mason’s ear and the other people that are important to the growth of this poker community. I am a poker dealer and I still do that to this day, and I pride myself in having all the viewpoints. I like to see it from all angles, I think that I have a better understanding of what works and what isn’t going to work in this market. I hear a lot more customer responses than they will, so that is something they value. I have a lot of friends in the poker community too, and whatever we say amongst friends, they value those opinions. I see it working, and I see it continuing to grow.”
His plans for the rest of the Lucky Hearts Poker Open tournament series: “My new plan since I moved away eight months ago, is that I’ll come in for most of the weekend events. I’m leaving town right after this tournament is completed. I’m coming back either Thursday night or Friday to play the WPTDeepStacks. I’ll be around Friday and Saturday playing whatever is available. I might try to promote some sit-and-go tournaments this weekend at the mid-to-high buy-in levels. In between $500 and $1,000. I think they’re hoping that those work out this weekend. It’ll give people who have already bagged or busted out something to do. This is a unique weekend with Super Bowl weekend. They made a really smart decision to move Day 2 of the tournament to Saturday, because nobody wants to be here during the Super Bowl really. It just kind of is what it is, and they definitely evolved the structure around that. My plan would be to leave Saturday night, and then I’m coming back for the Main Event the next Thursday. I will play Friday and Saturday if necessary and then hopefully I’m here for a while after that.”