The 2022 World Poker Tour (WPT) Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown kicks off today and will play down to a final table of six April 12. Once the final table has been achieved, the remaining players will take a break and then fly out to Las Vegas to play it down to a winner at the Esports Arena on May 25.
One man who will be there every step of the way is 39-year-old Jason Heidenthal, Poker Tournament Manager at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.
Falling in Love with Poker
Originally from Coral Springs, Florida, Heidenthal attended Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland followed by Daytona State College. Despite being from Florida, Heidenthal is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan, though he does pull for the Miami Marlins when it comes to baseball.
“When I’m not at work, I enjoy working on cars – currently working on a rebuild with my stepbrother,” Heidenthal told PokerNews. “Avid foodie who really enjoys trying out new restaurants and cooking. Like a true South Floridian, I enjoy going to the beach.”
Like so many, Heidenthal is a product of the “Poker Boom” thanks to Chris Moneymaker’s improbable victory, which was aired to the masses on ESPN.
“Just watching it made me fall in love with poker, along with a lot of people,” Heidenthal explained. “A group of friends and I got together to learn the game.”
Two years later, Heidenthal nabbed his first job in the casino industry dealing poker at Pompano Harness Track. He did that part-time for two years until the Isle of Capri was built in 2007, at which point poker dealing turned into a full-time job.
“I was mentored under poker room director Mike Smith at the Isle and became a supervisor in 2009. I had the opportunity to work alongside Tony Burns and ran all the tournaments at the Isle until 2013 when Mike left to Hanover, Maryland to open Maryland Live. I joined Mike at Maryland Live as poker room shift manager for the 52-table poker room.”
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Coming Back to Florida
Heidenthal worked there until 2019 when he had the chance to return to South Florida after being offered the position of poker tournament manager at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood. It was a role left vacant after Tony Burns was promoted.
“Now I have to work alongside an industry icon in Bill Mason,” Heidenthal said with a smile.
“What Bill has done for South Florida poker tournament play is phenomenal, growing the SHRPO brand tournament after tournament and making our stop a must for any traveling poker player.”
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood has developed a well-earned reputation as a hot spot for poker. That’s due in no small part to the staff, from Mason all the way down the chain.
“My poker philosophy as a tournament manager would be to always uphold the integrity of the game at all times, running good clean events,” Heidenthal said. “With Bill and Tony, we’re constantly changing and evolving our tournaments to keep players coming back, staying leaders in the poker industry. We listen to our players for feedback and making adjustments when we need to, or continuing to bring back the elements that work well – making sure we are consistently offering the best product in the country.”
He continued: “Working at the Hard Rock these last few years has been absolutely wonderful in many different ways. The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Hard Rock is committed to providing the best product, whether it’s the best poker room, the best hotel, restaurants, entertainment, you name it. We all play a part of a larger role, and the team camaraderie throughout Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood is truly unparalleled.”
Jason Heidenthal, Poker Tournament Manager at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
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When the WPT Comes to Town
There’s no denying that whenever the WPT comes to South Florida, the players and big action follow. In fact, it’s such an event that ranks as Heidenthal proudest poker accomplishment to date.
My proudest poker accomplishment would have to be Poker Showdown just one year ago when the WPT Poker Showdown Main Event drew 2,482 players to smash the previous record of 1,795 and become the largest WPT Main Event anywhere,” said Heidenthal. “Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood presents four tournaments a year and three of them are with WPT. The energy and buzz that comes with a WPT event is really amazing. It’s been such a great partnership with WPT and we look forward to continuing growing alongside them.”
It was actually another WPT event at the Seminole Hard Rock that ranks as Heidenthal’s favorite memory.
“The 2020 Lucky Hearts Poker Open was my first tournament here as tournament manager is one that stands out to me,” he said when asked about special moments. “Brian Altman came out on top at the main event for his second WPT Lucky Hearts victory, and since then, he’s won more at our tournaments and at others. I had started in December of 2019 so just a month later, we’re doing Lucky Hearts and the whole experience and memory is so surreal.”
Heidenthal will have the chance to make another memory this weekend as the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Main Event is shaping up to be another big one. PokerNews will be on-site to offer stories and content straight from the tournament floor, so be sure to check back throughout the weekend.
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The 2022 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown kicks off April 8 and will play down to a final table of six April 12. Once the final table has been achieved, the remaining players will take a break and then fly out to Las Vegas to play it down to a winner at the Esports Arena on May 25.
Executive Editor U.S.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.