Contrary to what its name suggests, Tampa Bay Downs is actually located just outside of Tampa in Westchase. This venue was founded by Martin J. Winn with help from an investor. Winn was also the president of the hugely popular Churchill Downs race course where the world famous Kentucky Derby is run.
Tampa Bay Downs opened its doors back in 1926 and quickly became one of the most popular racing venues in the south. During the second world war Tampa Bay Downs was used by the US army as a training facility and after the war it was renamed Sunshine Park and underwent a rather large modernization. In the 1960s this iconic track was renamed Florida Downs before returning to its current name over two decades later.
The cherry on the top of Tampa Bay Downs’long and exciting history came in 2004 when the Silks Poker Room opened, offering the burgeoning Florida poker community a great place to play limit and no-limit poker.
Ready to Race
Tampa Bay Downs is a thoroughbred horse racing venue with a season that runs from December through to May. There are a number of tracks here but the most popular is a turf track just under a mile long that opened in 1998 and attracts some of the most exciting runners from all over the North American continent. There are over 20 stakes races run every season here, the biggest of which is the Tampa Bay Derby which comes with a purse of $350.000 and has been won by Ring Weekend, Varrazano, Watch Me Go and many other sporting legends over the years. The Hillsborough Stakes, the Tampa Bay Stakes, the Endeavor Breeders’Cup Stakes —all of which are grade III races —are also held here every year.
Out of season, Tampa Bay Downs is still great place to watch and gamble on some exciting racing action. There are simulcasting rooms equipped with LCD screens that showcase races from all over the country. The rooms open at 11am and the first races begin at 12:35, giving you time to peruse the forms, place your bets and get comfortable before a day of racing.
Wear Your Silks
Poker has been a mainstay in casinos for many years, but for many years the games were held in moody back-rooms and with very few players. These days, thanks to the popularity of Texas Hold’em, poker has exploded across the United States and the world. These days it is one of the most popular casino games around, attracting have-a-go gamblers and full-time professionals alike. For many years Tampa Bay Downs was just a race course, but in 2004 it jumped on the poker bandwagon by opening the Silks Poker Room.
At the Silks Poker Room players can enjoy complimentary soft drinks, cocktails and table-side massages as they play fast and loose in one of the many cash games. If they get bored between hands of Hold’em, Omaha or Stud, then they can turn their attentions to one of the many TV screens, airing live sporting events from around the country. The kitchen is open for much of the day, so players need not venture outside of the poker room if they require a light bite or something more substantial as they play.
The Silks Poker Room is popular for its choice of limit and no-limit cash games, of which there are many, but there are also a small number of guaranteed tournaments here, including the $300.000 guaranteed PPC Poker Tour which runs for ten days in the summer. If you’re hoping to get out of the scorching Florida sunshine and test your mettle in a game of high-stakes poker, then this tournament could be just what you are looking for.
Relax and Unwind
Golf and gambling go hand in hand. Nothing relieves tension quite like whacking a few golf balls after a long day spent hunched over a blackjack table or a slot machine. The Downs Golf Practice Facility is the perfect stress reliever and is open for most of the day —lit by powerful floodlights during the evening. Here you can buy balls by the bucket, find your spot on the range and hit until your heart’s content. This 22 acre facility can cater for anyone looking to practice their swing and anyone hoping to relax and unwind. Along with a top of the range driving green and chipping green, there is also an 8.000 square-foot putting green.
The Downs Golf Practice Facility is staffed by PGA and Class A professionals, people who understand the game of golf better than anyone. They can assist you as needed and can also provide you with some tips on how to improve your game. There is also a clubhouse shop where players can purchase the latest equipment from all of the major players in the world of golf.
Tampa Bay Downs is a proud part of Florida’s history, merging the old local favorites of horse racing and golf with poker —the emerging star of the gambling world. Located in idyllic surroundings, a stone’s throw from some fine restaurants, malls, beaches and attractions, this is a perfect retreat for tourists looking to try something different, without venturing too far from the beaten track.