Although not quite as glitzy or as rich as its Nevada counterpart, Florida is one of the biggest and best places to gamble in the American south. From midnight cruises on luxurious gambling yachts, to the thrill and passion of a dog race, Florida is rich in high-stakes gambling action. One thing that both the land-based casinos and the cruising casinos have in common in Florida, along with an array of slot machines and other games, are poker rooms.
Poker, in particular Texas Hold’em — a derivative that became popular during the early 1900s — has been experiencing a boom for a few years now. It began with the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003. In the past this event was fairly exclusive, with just a few hundred poker professionals signing up, but then Chris Moneymaker, who won his ticket to the tournament following success in a cheap satellite, took home the bracelet and a prize of millions. His victory received worldwide acclaim and the next year there were 300% more entrants into the World Series of Poker Main Event. These days this single event, which costs $10.000 for a direct buy-in, attracts around 6.500 entrants, many of whom cite Chris Moneymaker’s success as their main influence for taking up the game.
After the success of live poker and the dawn of the high-speed internet age, online poker soon followed suit and become one of the most popular online gambling games around, with numbers that drastically increased year on year. Those numbers stalled somewhat following Black Friday, when the main poker websites banned US players from their software, but the game still has a large following — both online and offline — all over the world.
In the US many professional poker players live in and around Nevada, but Florida, with its year round sunshine and abundance of casinos, is quickly becoming a second home for the game. Florida is home to Michael D Mizrachi and Jason Mercier, two young players that are revered all over the poker world for their constancy, their fearlessness and their manipulation of the game. For these men poker is more than a game, it is a job and a lifestyle. They make millions of dollars every year by traveling all over the world, playing in SNGS, tournaments and cash games.
It’s not all about the big games in Vegas, Barcelona or Melbourne though, many poker players spend their evenings tossing the chips at their local casino. If you find yourself in Ft Lauderdale or Hollywood — Jason Mercier’s hometown — and want to test yourself against the best of the best, then check out the Palm Beach Kennel Club or the Calder Casino, just two great places to play poker in this part of the state. In Tampa, home of John Racener, number 34 on the all-time USA money list, the Seminole Immokalee and the Derby Lane provide regular cash games and large scale tournaments. If you’re looking for a big game in Miami, home of Vanessa Russo, one of the best female poker stars in the world, then Hialeah Park offers a wide choice of poker tournaments and cash games that attract hundreds of thousands of players on a yearly basis.
Florida is also home to Jonathan Little, who was born in Pensacola and still calls Florida his home. Jonathan won two World Poker Tour Mirage Poker Shows and was also crowned the champion of the Foxwoods World Poker Finals. Jonathan is a regular on the World Series of Poker and also plays in the European Poker Tour and in local tournaments. Also from Florida, out of North Miami Beach, is Amir Lehavot, whose biggest live cash was close to $4 million; and Dewey Tomko, who hails from Winterhaven and once topped the all-time money list. Robert Mizrachi (Michael’s brother) also calls Florida his home, as does Noah Schwartz, John Dolan, Matt Waxmann, Harrison Gimbel and a horde of other star players whose careers revolve around playing this great game.
The game of poker dominates this sunny state and you can also find large tournaments and cash games at Dania Jai-Alai and Poker, Flagler Greyhound Racing and Poker, Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino, Hamilton Jai-Alai and Poker, The JCKC Poker Room, Lucky’s Card Room, The Isle Casino and Racing, Miami Jai-Alai, Palm Beach Kennel Club Poker Room, Miccosukee Resort and Gaming and so much more. The Seminole Indian casinos, which are spread around the state, also all have poker rooms.
If walking around outside, sunbathing on the golden beaches or generally sweltering in the Florida heat is too much for you, then poker can provide the perfect way for you to relax inside a comfortable and air conditioned environment whilst you have some fun and take a break from the scorching sun.