Coming to Maryland Live Casino in March: The $1 Million Live! Poker Classic


Opening day at the Maryland Live poker room (file photo). (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The poker room at Maryland Live Casino has been doing booming business since its late-August opening, with a decent array of tournaments and an impressive range of cash games.

Now, the 52-table, split-level poker room is raising the stakes on its tournament menu.

On Monday, the Arundel Mills casino announced the $1 Million Live! Poker Classic, a series of nine tournaments spread out over 14 days in March, with a guaranteed total prize pool of at least $1 million. 

The main event: A no-limit hold’em tournament from March 21-24, with a $3,500 buy-in and a guaranteed $400,000 prize pool.

“So many of the players were asking us to do a series,” said Mike Smith, the casino’s director of poker operations. “They really want to come in and play one here. As if we aren’t already on the national front enough, it’s going to put us out there a little more.”

But, he added, the tournament fields will likely — hopefully — be filled by local players. With limited seats available for each of the nine events, “we’re hoping to keep it regional. If we marketed this nationally, the biggest nightmare would be that the tables would be filled and too many people would get shut out.”

The two-week Live! Poker Classic will use up to 30 of the poker room’s 52 tables each day. The first event — a multi-day $550 buy-in no limit hold’em tournament that begins March 10 — can only accommodate 300 players. The main event will have two starting days and a field of 540. 

With most of the tournaments beginning in the morning — and a chunk of the cardroom’s regulars playing in them, anyway – “it will hopefully have a minimal effect on the cash games,” Smith said.

On most days, Maryland Live’s cardroom is the second-busiest poker facility in the country behind the enormous Commerce Casino near Los Angeles. Waiting lists during peak hours — on weekend evenings and holidays — can be staggering for the lowest-stakes no-limit hold’em games.

“I never expected we would be this busy,” Smith said. “I expected us to be full every Friday and Saturday.  I just didn’t expect us to be full with 120 people waiting to play. And I didn’t expect us to be full at 2 o’clock on Saturday. It’s been a surprise, but a pleasant surprise. Nobody’s upset about it.”

In December, the Live poker room generated $2.356 million on its 52 tables compared to $1.365 million on 80 tables at Borgata in Atlantic City.

Registration for the Live! Poker Classic begins Feb. 15. “Every event could be sold out by Feb. 20,” Smith said. “If it is, at least we can tell everybody everything’s sold out. But I doubt that’ll happen. Poker players are notorious for not wanting to put their money in escrow.”

The complete tournament calendar:

March 10-13: $550 no limit hold’em; $225,000 guaranteed prize money

March 13: $150  no limit hold’em with a double green chip ($50) bounty; $20,000 guaranteed prize money

March 14-16: $1,100 no limit hold’em; $100,000 guaranteed prize money

March 17: $550 no limit hold’em “freezeout” (no re-entry); $75,000 guaranteed prize money

*  March 18-19: $1,600  no limit hold’em with a purple chip ($500) bounty; $100,000 guaranteed prize money

March 19: $350 pot limit Omaha with a black chip ($100) bounty; $10,000 guaranteed prize money

*  March 20: $1,100 no limit hold’em six max; $50,000 guaranteed prize money

*  March 20: $150  no limit hold’em with a double green chip ($50) bounty; $20,000 guaranteed prize money

March 21-24: $3,500 main event; $400,000 guaranteed prize money.

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.
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