A few years ago I had the distinct misfortune of playing at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Florida. The room was crowded, smoking, and the limits were ludicrous. Florida law required that the maximum bet be $2, so the biggest game in the room was $2/$2 fixed limit. At a 10-handed table, a hand that only had eight people see a flop was considered a “tight” hand. And there weren’t many tight hands. I swore I’d never go back.
Until I did.
On a recent trip to Orlando, I found out that the laws regarding Florida poker had relaxed somewhat, and they now featured No Limit Hold ‘Em, and various spread limit games. Nowadays, Florida law allows for a game with a maximum buy-in of $100, presumably to keep wayward Canadian snowbirds from losing their entire retirement bankroll on one hand. Not only that, but in another dramatic improvement, the Hard Rock in Tampa has changed their poker room into a non-smoking room.
So I settled in at a $2/5 No Limit table with a $100 maximum buy-in. They offered $1/2 No Limit as well, but I figured that since the buy-in was the same for both tables, I might as well play the “big” game. And it was a very different experience from the last time I played casino poker in Florida. Obviously, it was no limit, and in a stunning twist of fate, it was profitable.
$100 is a little light for $2/5, to say the least, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see a lot of all-in moves. This resulted in a loose table, where there were a few very big stacks (for a $100 buy-in game) of $500+, and a few very short stacks that would continually shove and rebuy. I lost my first buy-in on the second hand, then worked my second buy-in up to around $500 before I left for the night.
The Hard Rock Tampa isn’t the place to go to find free drinks, as my bottle of water even cost me cash at the tables, but now that it’s nonsmoking and features bigger games, the poker is at least acceptable. The room offers fixed limit up to $2/4, $1/2 and $2/5 no limit, $2/4 Omaha Hi/Lo and $1-5 Spread Limit Stud. They also offer daily tournaments and single-table tournaments with buy-ins ranging up to $535.
It’s not a bad way to kill a few hours if you’re in Florida on business like I was, but it’s not really worth a big gambling road trip. The casino currently features no table games, but games such as Blackjack and Pai Gow were just made legal by the state legislature, although the law did feature a specific carve out keeping craps out of Florida.