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florida residents evacuate in preparation for hurricane irma

As the catastrophic Cat 5 Hurricane Irma makes its way across the Florida Keys and towards the southern counties of Florida, 5.6 million visitors and residents are ordered to leave the state in the biggest ever evacuation in US history, resulting in closure of all non-essential facilities including poker rooms all the way up until the north and into Georgia.

The superstorm briefly dropped to a Category 4 storm after it had passed the Dominican Republic and Haiti on sept 7, but then escalated back to a Category 5 on Friday night after it made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Latest updates from the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center predicts the 400-mile wide storm to split right up Florida’s central corridor, straddling the 160-mile wide state as it moves from south to north, bringing intense winds and storm surge from both sides.

The threat has become so real now that even the initially optimistic college football games between Florida State vs Louisiana-Monroe and UFC vs Memphis have finally woke up to the sheer danger of the impending storm.

Along with virtually everything else, casinos and poker rooms are closing its doors in preparation for the incoming Irma. Only the largest properties like the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood and Magic City Casino managed to keep their cash games going for as long as possible, until early Friday evening.

Poker Tournaments Cancelled

Due to the potential impact of Hurricane Irma, the World Poker Tour (WPT) announced on its website that its Deepstacks Immokalee festival that was scheduled to run through to Sept 10 at the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee was to be cancelled immediately out of interest of public safety. WPT and Seminole Casino will work together to reschedule the event at a later date.

The last of the major card rooms in South Florida, Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach, has also announced closures beginning Friday, along with North Florida’s biggest cardroom, Bestbet Jacksonville, as it too prepares for the imminent danger.

The WSOP International Circuit stop that was scheduled to take place at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino in St. Maarten, Caribbean from November 1st to 15th has also been cancelled due to the devastating destruction caused by Irma as it teared through the Caribbean that saw one of the world’s most famous airport sustain severe damage.

The St. Maarten resort released a statement saying, “The damages to Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Royal Casino are severe, as is widespread damage and destruction on our beloved island of Sint Maarten. Severe damage has also occurred at Princess Juliana International Airport, and we do not have news as to when the airport will resume operations.”

For now, the property has cancelled all reservations until the end of the year.

Poker Community Prepares for Hurricane Irma

The poker community as a whole has been very vigilant since early in the week, advising each other to take precaution and that safety should be the number 1 priority at this time, and those who are in the path of Irma should head north. One poker pro, however, has decided to stay at his residence in South Florida and ride out the storm. 5 times WSOP Bracelet winner, Jason Mercier, took to twitter on Thursday night to announce his plans.

“I know everyone thinks I’m crazy. But my wife and I are going to be staying in south Florida during hurricane Irma. Half my family left…and half stayed. While I know this isn’t the smartest decision, it’s one that I was lead to by a number of factors. Appreciate every1s…… concern and texts. And most of all. Your prayers.”

Many fellow poker players voiced their concerns for Mercier’s decision, especially considering the fact that his wife, Natasha, was 37 weeks pregnant. Thankfully, the communities’ concern did not fall on deaf ears, as Mercier changed his mind late Friday night and decided to head north to stay in Orlando.