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Tony Burns Gets A New Gig As Seminole Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Hollywood Unveils $1.5 Billion Renovation

WPT Seminole Rock & Roll Poker Open Runs Nov. 20 Through Dec. 4

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Seminole Gaming's Tony BurnsThe Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida kicks off their Rock & Roll Poker Open this week, the first major tournament series at the property since the tribe unveiled a $1.5 billion renovation in October. The series will also mark the end of an era for poker industry standout Tony Burns, who is transitioning from his role as Tournament Director to Director of Poker Marketing for all of Seminole Gaming.

It’s a deserved promotion for Burns, who has spent the majority of his adult life working in the South Florida poker scene. Prior to taking over operations in 2015, Burns grinded his way up the ranks from running bar poker leagues, to dealing on a poker cruise. When the laws opened up big bet games in Florida’s brick-and-mortar rooms, Burns landed a job at the Isle of Capri Casino, and ran tournaments at night before making the move to the Hard Rock.

“I had admired their tournaments, and wanted to be a part of that someday,” Burns said. “I guess when you put things out into the universe, they sometimes come to be.”

It may appear that Burns was always destined to work in poker, but it was baseball that was on his mind for most of his time as a student. It was a chance encounter at the ballpark that got him going before even became a teenager.

“We used to go and watch spring training games for the Royals and Twins, and minor league games during the season,” Burns recalled. “One day there was a rain delay, and I was standing outside of the clubhouse. The players would pop their head out to check on the weather, and I would ask for an autograph. I was with a couple buddies of mine, and they asked us who was older. I was the oldest at 11, and they said, ‘For tonight, you’re 12.’ So I ended up being the bat boy for the night. The regular bat boy didn’t show up the next night, and they asked me to fill in again. Before I knew it, they were inviting me back for every game.”

As it turns out, Burns had a knack for the job. He was a bat boy for the AA Orlando Cubs from ’93 to ’96, and even got to experience Michael Jordan’s run through the minor leagues. When it was time for high school, he began working with the MLB’s Florida Marlins. As a result, he was the enviable kid who got to leave school early on game days, with his father signing him out with the excuse that he had “baseball fever.”

“Before every spring training, my dad would sit down with the principal of the school, talking about what I was going to do, and the Marlins would write a letter explaining the experience. I would go to school in the morning and check out at 10 a.m. to go to ‘work.’”

Burns continued with the Marlins until 2002, and then took a position with the Montreal Expos for two years, even working the games the team played in Puerto Rico. He was offered another spot in Washington when the team became the Nationals, but by the time, poker had come calling.

Burns With Phil HellmuthSo how did Burns get bit by the poker bug? While a lot of us can credit Chris Moneymaker’s win in the 2003 World Series of Poker for drawing us to the game, Burns was actually there to see the man do it in person.

“My dad took me to Las Vegas for my 21st birthday in 2003,” Burns explained. “We stayed downtown, and I actually happened to be in Binion’s during the main event. I remember walking in to see a wall of people surrounding the final table. I asked somebody what was going on, and then decided to go find a blackjack table instead. I just wasn’t into poker at the time. I get home, and the Moneymaker win is getting attention. My friends were very into it, and I just happened to be there when it was going down. The next thing you know, we got together to play, and then it turned into a weekly sit-n-go, and eventually a three-table tournament.”

The Hard Rock brought the WPT in during 2011, and has been a staple of the tournament circuit calendar ever since. In addition to regular deepstack series, the Hollywood Hard Rock now plays hosts to events like the Fun In The Sun Poker Open, Hard Rock Poker Open, Hard Rock Poker Showdown, Lucky Hearts Poker Open, Escalator Series, and the aforementioned and upcoming Rock & Roll Poker Open, providing year-round options for players of all bankroll sizes.

“People wait for the Hard Rock to announce their dates, and then build their schedules around us. You’ll notice there’s a few stops and venues, both domestically and internationally, that people build around, and I’m proud that we’re one of them. The players traveling the circuit have really responded positively to the property and the tournaments we run, which keeps them coming back.”

Now, armed with a glowing, guitar-shaped beacon that juts 450 feet into the air, Burns has even more ammo to attract poker players from all over.

“It’s absolutely amazing, and everything is gorgeous,” he said. “This wasn’t just a guitar-shaped tower, this was a $1.5 billion property renovation and expansion. The pool is more than 13 acres. People are even jet skiing in it. The Hard Rock Live venue was opened up by Maroon 5. There are new nightclubs, retail shops, and food options, but obviously we’re excited about the brand new 45-table poker room. Every person that I’ve spoken to is in awe of it, and can’t get over how much attention was paid to all the little details.”

While the casino itself has seen it’s gaming area grow to 30,000 square feet, the card room is undoubtedly the star attraction for poker players, with incredibly comfortable seating, an eight-table high-limit area, a private cashier, more than 50 flat-screen TVs, and a large screen projector to show all the live sports action.

Burns Kicks Off Event With WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage“It’s one of those things that you actually have to come and experience for yourself,” Burns explained. “People say it’s like Vegas came to South Florida, or that they now don’t have to leave town for that experience. I’ll always believe Vegas will be Vegas, just for nostalgia purposes, but they are right. This poker room is the nicest room I’ve ever seen, and I’m not saying that just because I work here.”

Don’t miss the Rock & Roll Poker Open, which runs Nov. 20 – Dec. 4 and starts with a $1 million guaranteed opening $360+$40 event. The series is highlighted by the $2 million guaranteed $3,200+$300 WPT main event, which has starting flights on both Friday, Nov. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 30. Check out the full schedule here, or follow the Hard Rock poker room on Twitter for more information.

_*Photos courtesy of SHRPO.com and Twitter.