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Florida Poker : New Laws, New Limits, New Energy

The age of modern poker gaming has finally been approved in Florida poker rooms across the state. Many locals are very excited and happy about the changes, but we all still have some reservations about the compromises in the new laws.

Two months ago, the state of Florida changed the laws and allowed Florida poker rooms to raise their draconian $2 limit poker games to higher stakes. Now there is $1-2 limit, $2-4 limit, $1-2 no limit, $2-5 no limit, and $5-10 no limit texas hold 'em games, and $1-2, $2-4 Stud and Omaha games.

There are also variations of $5 straight, and double flop games at different locations. The law states a $5 limit bet with a $100 buy in maximum. Ask yourself why would the state legislature make a law that has a $5 limit bet, and then allow a no limit game in which you can push in all your chips ? We can play a $5-10 no limit game, but we cannot play a $5-10 limit game.

There is an interesting power struggle occurring between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Pari-Mutuels in the state. The Pari-Mutuels are only allowed to operate their poker rooms 12 hours a day. The Seminoles stay open 24 hours. This means that while the Isle Casino property at Pompano Park can only stay open half a day, the nearby Seminole properties of Coconut Creek and the Hard Rock resort can stay open all day, everyday. There are also outstanding Poker rooms at Dania Jai Lai in Dania, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, The Mardi Gras Casino Hollywood, and the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

The two powerhouses that are butting heads right now are The Isle Casino and The Hard Rock. Both properties boast 30+ and 50+ table rooms. Class three slot machines and horse betting are allowed at the Pari- Mutuels, but with a newlysigned compact between Florida and the Seminoles, the playing field will shift in favor of the Indian Casino.

Blackjack, Baccarat, and Class three slots, along with higher stakes poker, and high stakes multi-table tournaments will give the Seminole Hard Rock rules that allow them to offer a higher level of gaming in exchange for paying a small tax to the state. Should the Seminoles ever make less than their most profitable year, or if the pari-mutuels are authorized to have Blackjack, there are escape clauses for them not to pay the state.

Tournament play is refreshingly strong in South Florida. The Isle and The Hard Rock both offer daily multi table tournaments. These range from $100 to $1,100 depending on the day of the week. It appears that the Isle and The Hard Rock keep trying to oneup each other and their schedules reflect this. Most notably are the $350 bounty tournaments on Thursday evening at 6:30.

While every other day of the week offers different level buy-ins and start times, Thursday night is a battle between the two juggernauts of Florida poker.

We have a $350 buy in with a $50 bounty for every player knocked out at The Isle. At the Hard Rock, there is a $350 buyin with a $100 bounty. The Hard Rock is closer to the large metropolitan areas of Miami, and Hollywood, Florida. The Isle Casino is located in Pompano Park, and draws a large attendance from the more northern Palm Beach cities and the highly populated Boca- Deerfield-Pompano Beach region. This is not to say that people don't travel from Miami to Pompano or from Palm Beach to Hollywood.

Certainly, the professional players can pick each other out when they visit each others casino for a big tournament. The sit and go, single table tournaments, which were so popular prior to the higher limit cash games, have suffered in the wake of no-limit cash games.

While there are many positive and negative reasons to play a single table tournament, you're only going to find them at The Isle or The Hard Rock. The Isle can run single table tournaments as high as $800, and they have also been offering $425 and $850 two-player shoot outs.

The Hard Rock has always had $140, $250, $520, and $1,050 single table offerings. The Isle Casino has an outstanding staff and promotional offerings, in addition to being the only harnessracing track in Florida with full horseracing simulcasts daily. The Hard Rock has an equally talented staff, and is a major resort destination with a large hotel and many restaurants and shopping. The recent change in the law and the brand new casino building at The Isle has resulted in a major shift of staff and employees. The migration has been towards The Isle. Most notably was the move of Hard Rock poker's top man, Mike Smith, to come and work for The Isle. Joined by many other supervisors and dealers, it's clear that the migration went from The Hard Rock to The Isle. In addition to the new people, The Isle already had a very strong staff. Combine that with tournament Guru, "Vinny" who left the Coconut Creek Casino to work at The Isle, and this augmentation makes The Isle a force to be reckoned with.

The Coconut Creek Casino is a 14 table poker room located in an aging casino that is rumored to be developed into a property that will rival The Hard Rock. Both are owned and operated by the Seminoles. They are within close proximity to The Isle, and can stay open for 24 hours.

All poker rooms in South Florida offer a bad-beat jackpot created from $1 taken out of every pot. If you have not played Poker in Florida, you're in for a real treat. There is a very large base of players and we're very social able, affable, and friendly. The vast majority of professionals travel each month to play in WPT and WSOP events. Notable professional players who are from Florida include, Michael 'the grinder' Mizrachi, Fred Goldberg, and Humberto Brenes.

Also, recent notable sightings have included Antonio Esfandiari, and Jennifer Harmon at The Hard Rock and The Isle.

You can e-mail Marc A. Cohen at The_Stick_Horse_ Racing_dot_Com@yahoo. com

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