I just returned from a long weekend trip to S. Florida with a friend, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Rob.” We ventured to a different poker room each day. Here are some highlights:
We flew in and out of Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), about 50 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. PBI is much smaller, cleaner and easier to get in and out of than the airports in Fort Lauderdale or Miami, with ultra-cheap flights on Frontier Airlines. That was a good call.
Thursday – Isle Casino and Racing – Pompano Beach
With about 25 tables, this poker room has its own dedicated space upstairs that greatly reduces the noise from the rest of the casino, near the betting and viewing area for the racetrack. Staff is friendly and helpful, beverage servers come by frequently and restrooms are convenient. All tables had working USB ports. There is a very small snack bar next to the poker room and a decent deli downstairs. I’m not a fan of buffets, but they do have one. Other food options are fairly limited.
My session got off to a bad start when I made a large 3-bet with AQ over a small initial raise and multiple callers. The initial raiser folded, but the first caller came back over the top all-in with a short stack. Feeling pot-committed based on the stack sizes, I called, a queen came on the turn, but alas he held KK. Later I was poised to win a decent pot with AQ v. AJ when the board ran out AT4-K-Q giving the villain a backdoor broadway straight. FAQ strikes again and again!
With a High Hand jackpot of $300 every 30 minutes, Rob got on the board with quad 2’s (with yours truly as his main villain in the hand!). $300 from the previous half-hour had rolled over, and another player at the table offered to buy the rights to the $600 prize for $250. Rob didn’t seem interested, and less than two minutes later an even higher hand was posted. After 6:30 pm the jackpot increased to $500 every 30 minutes and Rob flopped quad 7’s to get on the board again. A different player at the table offered him $250 and held firm at that offer as Rob tried to negotiate up to $300, with about 20 minutes to go until payout. Fortunately this time for Rob, the negotiation failed, his hand held and he got paid the full $500.
Friday – Seminole Casino at Coconut Creek
The poker room is not really a room, but an area right in the middle of the casino. With 25 tables, it’s very noisy with nearby slot machines, very loud music and staff constantly calling player names for open seats and making other announcements from the poker desk. Restrooms are convenient and right beside the poker area is a full service deli, with latkes and matzo ball soup on the permanent menu.
We arrived around noon on Friday, when most of the players were regulars who knew each other well. It seemed like half of them would be named either Morty or Abe. Beverage servers were very friendly. I had another hand with AQ on an A-high board that lost when the villain made his flush draw on the river. I guess Doyle Brunson is right and AQ should simply never, ever, ever be played again.
At one point, a floorman had to be called to my table for a ruling. The player on my left was facing a $125 bet and counted out calling chips in small stacks of $25 each well in front of his cards. After he finished counting and verifying the amount, he consolidated the chips into a single stack and pulled it back behind his cards, as if to continue pondering his options. The dealer said no, that’s a call. After an argument, a floorman was called over and ruled in agreement with the dealer.
Multiple players at Coconut Creek made comments to the effect of “I don’t care about the money,” as a way of making it known that they weren’t going to let anyone bully them around. And they meant it! Thanks for telling me –> I’ll bluff less, size value bets larger.
Once I missed my big blind on a restroom break and bought the button. Everyone folded! I looked at my cards anyway… AA!
Saturday – Seminole Hard Rock Casino – Hollywood
The poker room has moved since the last time I was there, to a former ballroom near the conference and event center and about a mile from the deck where we parked. There was no slot machine or general casino noise in there and no music playing either. The staff and game variety are both excellent, and even with over 40 tables the room was packed full as there was also a fairly large tournament in progress.
This is by far the swankiest of the places we visited, with its pervasive Hard Rock themes and upscale shopping and dining options.
They are building a 450 foot high, guitar shaped hotel addition that can be seen from many miles away. It’s gaudy and garish and cool and creative all at once, and has already created enough buzz to assure this casino will be among the area’s leading attractions for a long time.
Hard Rock was paying out $1,000 High Hand jackpots every 30 minutes throughout the day, although neither Rob nor I came close to winning one. We both had good sessions, however, each booking our largest win of the trip. In a key hand, I raised to $35 (at a $2/5 table) from the cutoff seat with A8o, following several limps. I had been folding a ton, was getting bored, and thought my nitty image might allow me to attack the limpers with impunity. Instead, there were four callers.
The flop was A84 and my C-bet got one caller, a fellow older than me on the button. The turn was another 8, giving me a full house. When I bet again, he gave me one of those “you’re not going to push me off top pair” kind of look, called again, and called off his entire remaining stack on the river… with ATo.
Sunday – Palm Beach Kennel Club – W. Palm Beach
Right around the corner from the airport, PBKC has a greyhound dog racetrack and a poker room with 25-30 tables, but no slot machines or other casino games. Don’t go there for the food, although table beverage services was frequent and friendly.
This is an old, tired looking, no frills place with a degenerate racetrack vibe. There is no player card or comps system. No USB ports in the tables. No high def TV monitors all over the place. They take a minimum $2 rake on every hand, including those that don’t go to a flop. To compensate for that, the $1/2 game has a mandatory third blind of $2 on the button. Action still starts to the left of the big blind.
The tables are covered with a royal blue and light green felt with a bright lime green vinyl covering on the elbow rest pad. Most of the chips look several decades old, with the red $5 chips worn down to a faded pinkish color. Most of the players – more Morties and Abes – don’t seem to notice and many of them were wearing clothes as old as the tables and poker chips.
One feature we were inclined to make fun of but discovered we actually liked is their method of refilling the dealer’s bank. Instead of counting out the cash and/or large denomination chips, deciding what mix of chips the dealer wants to fill his or her bank and sending a runner back and forth, an entire new tray of chips for the dealer, complete with all-in, missed blind and seat change buttons and a standard default arrangement would be brought to the table. The dealer would lift the entire tray out of the table and replace it with the new one, and counting and verifying the cash and chips would be done at the cage without slowing down the action. It only took about two seconds to complete a refill using this system, which I’ve never seen used at any other card room.
In one hand at the $1/2 game, I straddled for $4 under-the-gun. Several players called, and I raised to $29 with AJo. One player called. The flop was QT4 rainbow. It looked like he didn’t have that much left, so I just slid out a stack of $100 intending to make him fold. Instead, he puts all his chips in and it’s actually slightly more, about $130. Being pot committed and having outs to improve, I call. The turn was a 6 and the river a J. I think I might be good here, but he tables… wait for it… K9o. I was good all along, until he hit a gutshot straight on the river.
“We’re just gambling!” he says to an incredulous table, explaining that he usually plays at $2/5 or $5/10 stakes. Fools like that are supposed to lose their chips, not win mine.
Never bluff a Floridian.
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