Director of Poker Operations Wil Herrera and Mardi Gras Casino parted ways earlier this week.


By Nick Sortal January 13, 2011 12:46 PM

Director of Poker Operations Wil Herrera and Mardi Gras Casino parted ways earlier this week.

Herrera e-mailed acquaintances that he’s no longer with the Hallandale Beach casino, which he joined about two years ago. (With poker’s boom, card room managers are now stories.)

Mardi Gras president Daniel Adkins said he can’t comment on employee-employment situation, but confirmed he’s disappointed with Mardi Gras’ numbers. The poker room took in only $300,412 last November (most recent figures), compared to $402,576 in November 2009. That’s a 25 percent drop, while the state overall had a 19 percent growth, thanks to the uncapped poker hitting the state on July 1.

And Mardi Gras’ biggest rival, Gulfstream, is up 33 percent year-over-year, taking in $414,207 in November. (An update: Gulfstream’s lead grew in December, $444,601 to $294,411.)

Gulfstream has always said Mardi Gras had a huge advantage before July 1 because they had 24 hours of permits, while Gulfstream had only 12. (The state now allows 18 hours of poker on weekdays, 24 hours on weekends for everyone.)

“We really dropped when we lost the ability to operate 24 hours, but that is no excuse for our overall performance,” Adkins wrote in an e-mail to me. “In the past week we have seen an increase and are going to be pushing lots of promos and specials in our room.”

Herrera, who has worked for several South Florida poker rooms and opened up the Hard Rock, said the poker biz is kind of like the NFL and he expects to surface somewhere around here. He didn’t say it, but for example, Peter Arsenis left as head of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino late last year and now is a supervisor at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

This from Herrera: “It was a pleasure working with the team at Mardi Gras and with the great staff in the Poker Room. I wish them all the best and I am looking forward to new challenges in the future. As a pioneer in Florida Poker, I know that the best is yet to come for Florida and for me.”

Herrera started out at Miccosukkee in 1992-93 as a dealer and shift supervisor, then dealt for Discovery Cruise lines, and helped open up Seminole Hollywood in 1994. He became poker casino manager in 1997, then opened up the Hard Rock as director of poker operations in 2004. He then worked for Casino Dealer Academy and left the industry before returning as a dealer in Naples before being hired at Mardi Gras in February 2009.

Adkins said no permanent replacement has been named. In the interim, poker room contacts are Courtney Kirchheiner or Phil DiMateo, Adkins said.

I don’t know the ins and outs enough to take sides (I would argue that few people do), but I think it’s fair to say the new manager will have some challenges: once Gulfstream got its better hours, and opened its mall, their action was bound to pick up. And with the clientele Mardi Gras has (a lot of cheaper players), the number is only going to be so much, just the nature of the place. But that’s my take.

Agree or disagree?

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