Fun, sun, poker: Hitting the Florida poker scene

Beachside Palm Trees

Approximately a year ago, I ventured into one of the poker rooms in Florida, the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, and found that the game was alive and well. It also was very fishy as, at that time, the only game in town was a $1-$2 Limit game that pretty much had everyone playing every hand.

I ventured back to the Florida scene in December and found out this time around the game has changed, and it's definitely for the better.

In July, the Florida legislature changed the laws in the state to allow for No-Limit ring games to be played. Players could only buy-in for $100 at the tables but poker rooms throughout the state saw a huge leap in action for all their games when the action of No-Limit Hold'em was thus made accessible.

I found this to be true in the poker room at the greyhound track.

Cash games now run a huge gamut, something that didn't exist a year ago. At the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, they offer Limit Hold'em ($2-$4 and $3-$5), No-Limit ($1-$2, $2-$5 and $5-$10), Omaha Eight-or-Better ($2-$5) and a spread Seven-Card Stud game ($1-$5 with a $1 ante).

This is a huge difference from a year ago when $1-$2 Limit was it. The one problem that I could see is that, for the rules that have been put into effect, you can't bring enough to the table to be effective.

For most of the games, the minimum buy-in to get to the tables is $50. For all the No-Limit games, however, you can only buy-in for $100, no more and no less (although you can, if you drop below $100, refill up to the $100 level). This makes it interesting when you play a game such as $5-$10 No-Limit and only have $100 to back your play up.

There has been a change in the rake structure as well. In the past, as much as 15% was sometimes taken in rake per hand. That has changed now; the rake is capped at 10% and cannot exceed $5.

There is also $1 taken out for jackpots that, in the case of the situation at the greyhound track, were for royal flushes and could pay in excess of $10,000.

For those who aren't fans of the cash games, the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track offered a wealth of daily tournaments to sink your teeth into. They range from a $50+$15 tournament on Mondays and Thursdays to a newly introduced $200+$30 that takes place on Saturdays.

All of these tournaments require that you purchase a tournament ticket approximately an hour before the tournaments begin. Tuesdays and Fridays are reserved for single-table tournaments, which are also quite popular.

On the particular night I visited, the track was celebrating its 50th anniversary and there was action not only on the dogs but in the poker room. The 30-table room was packed with a special tournament where 100% of the entry fee was in the prize pool (that's right, no juice!).

Unfortunately I was a little late to make it into that event, but as tournament tables broke up and cash games started, I soon found myself in one of the $1-$2 No-Limit games.

I noticed an immediate difference in the No-Limit game compared to the strictly Limit games that were played last year. Because of the limited bankroll you could bring to the tables, there was a sizable change in the play at the tables.

Whereas a year ago it was not uncommon to see six, seven or even the full ring seeing a hand at Limit, with the No-Limit game, players laid down hands pre-flop and were very skilled at looking at all options before making their bets. It was more the norm of three, perhaps four, players seeing a flop in the No-Limit games this year.

This isn't to say that there weren't some mistakes being made by the players. Over-bets were a common occurrence, sometimes as large as 10 times the blinds pre-flop or over-betting the pot on subsequent streets. But this may be more the style of the players than anything that was running rampant.

Depending upon your table, you could find yourself among softies who were looking for a pleasant game or in shark-infested waters where the action was quite aggressive. I was fortunate to have a pretty good mix at my table and, in general, the table and the room were quite pleasant to play.

(For the record, in four hours of play, I was up for much of it before having pocket aces cracked by flopped trip eights. I ended the night only $28 down and never re-bought.)

The poker world in Florida is much better than in years past and it is a worthwhile stop to play poker, whether it is the larger Seminole casinos such as the Hard Rock or the smaller rooms that both the dog and horse tracks offer. The Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track's Poker Room (open noon to midnight daily) was a nice stop to get in some live poker action, and I would encourage people to make a stop there.

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