Coconut Creek Poker Room

The Pros and Crazy Cons of South Florida Poker Rooms

Our trip through South Florida was a whirlwind. It included a three night stay in Miami, followed by two nights in Key West, and finished with four nights in Hollywood Beach. The Miami and Hollywood Beach days included a lot of poker. In fact, we played at seven different poker rooms in seven days. We cover our experience of the Miami area lifestyle (as well as our Key West diversion) elsewhere. Here we want to share our experience with South Florida poker rooms. You can also find individual reviews of each of the seven rooms we played – Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, Seminole Coconut  Creek, The Big Easy, Pompano Park, Magic City, Gulfstream Park, and Dania Beach – in our Room Review category.

We recently ranked the Top 5 poker rooms in New England (our home turf). However, with such limited experience of the South Florida rooms (a single visit for all but Seminole Coconut Creek), we do not feel qualified to create such a ranking.  Rather, we thought we would share key elements of the South Florida poker scene overall, including a  few standout aspects of various rooms.

Dealers in South Florida Poker Rooms are Very Strong

Most dealers were fast, professional, and friendly. Perhaps the healthy and consistent activity (see Cash Game section below) makes dealing in South Florida a desirable job. Whatever the reason, the dealer quality was strong. Not quite Turning Stone strong, but always solid to excellent.

Coconut Creek South Florida Poker Room

Players are Generally Friendly

The player mix varied from room to room, with Seminole Coconut Creek skewing older and The Big Easy offering great diversity in age, gender, and ethnicity. Players at most rooms were generally friendly. Seminole Coconut Creek stood out most in this regard, and this was one of the reasons we played there twice. Coconut Creek’s Crazy Pineapple tournament was fun partly due to the openness and patience of the players. Understandably, dealers occasionally forgot to collect discards before starting to deal the turn. These moments were met with laughter and good cheer rather than irritation. Gulfstream had the most serious players among all the venues we played, and therefore felt the least welcoming.

The number of women playing poker varied from a low at Magic City (Heather was one of 3 women in the entire room, tournament or cash) to a high at The Big Easy where there were a healthy number of women. Gulfstream Park also had only a handful of women playing either the tournament or at the cash tables.

Tournament Structures are Insane

If you love rebuys and innumerable, complicated add-ons, you’ll love playing poker in South Florida. Some rooms, like Magic City, feature tournaments with very short stacks and quick blind levels, encouraging fast action and repeated rebuys. Gulfstream Park offers unlimited rebuys to the end of registration and 3 different add-on options. The Big Easy’s “free” tournament offered 500 chips followed by a variety of add-on options from the get-go.  Blind levels were 15 to 20 minutes in most tournaments, so the combination of rebuys/add-ons and short levels made for a lot of crazy play. The gambling end of the poker playing spectrum will love this; others, like ourselves, not so much.

Dania Beach offered the craziest structure we have ever seen. The original buy-in was $60 for 10,000 chips, and whenever you fell below 5,000 chips you could add on $20 for 5,000 more. Many players availed themselves of this option repeatedly during the early stages. At break, there was an add-on of 50,000 chips for $80. Yes, an add-on 5x the starting stack! The tournament had nine players alive at break. Then eleven new players bought in for $140 and 60,000 chips apiece. Suffice it to say, the tenor of play completely changed. This was Dania Beach’s Monday tournament, and the exact structure of other tournaments vary. However, the 50K add-on is generally a part of most of their structures.



Tournament Rakes are More Insane than the Structures

If you navigate the gauntlet of South Florida tournament structures and manage to cash, you might be disappointed by the pot at the end of the rainbow. You’ll often hear poker professionals harp on the importance of knowing the rake. “Anything over 15% is impossible to profit!” some will shout. However, those of us playing local tournaments with entries below $200 know that the rakes will be higher, and we live with that. Poker is more pastime than profit opportunity when small tournaments are your base.

However, a pastime should not bankrupt you. Many of the South Florida poker rooms had rakes far beyond what we have seen before. Gulfstream’s tournament rake was 37%! Coconut Creek punched in in the low 30% range. Pompano Park seemed to offer a rake around 25% which we would usually balk at, but it felt like a welcome respite in the South Florida poker landscape. We breathed a sigh of relief when we returned to New England with typical rakes in the low 20s.

Due to the complicated rebuy and add-on structures, some South Florida tournament rakes were hard to calculate. Also, frankly, we stopped wanting to know exactly what was being pulled from the prize pool. Our fiscally conservative sides would have called an end to poker tournaments on this poker vacation had we looked too closely. How so many South Florida poker regulars can afford to play tournaments with such brutal rakes is beyond us. It seems like you would need to be a top 1% player to break even. To be fair, some rooms featured monthly point system awards and included tournament players in room-wide high hands. So that must help.

The South Florida poker scene is characterized by excellent staff, friendly players, and insane tournament structures.Click To Tweet

Poker Is Valued Differently Across South Florida Venues

Unsurprisingly, South Florida poker rooms are valued very differently by their venues. At the two Seminole casinos, Hard Rock Hollywood and Coconut Creek, the poker room is considered an important part of a larger, profitable gambling complex. At the other extreme, Gulfstream Park’s bell cow is their beautiful racetrack. The casino clearly falls behind both live and simulcast racing in importance. And the poker room – dark, dingy, and tucked in the back – falls at the bottom of the heap of Gulfstream’s offerings.

At The Big Easy, the poker room seems a key element of the entire casino. It was even more active and vibrant than the slot areas. Magic City gives the poker room its own space altogether. The Magic City poker room feels like its own freestanding entity in a larger complex housing various activities. Dania Beach offers an attractive midsize casino with a nicely designed poker room, but not a lot of action beyond tournament regulars. Pompano Park is another midsize casino featuring more healthy cash and tournament volume.

Magic City South Florida poker room

Cash Games are Very Active in Most South Florida Poker Rooms

We spent a few weeks tracking both the cash and tournament activity across South Florida poker rooms. Most South Florida rooms have vibrant cash games, with the exception of Dania Beach. On a typical Saturday night, there may be 10 to 30 tables (with Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood at the high end) of cash going in a given room.  About half of those tables will be $1/$2 NLH.  While most rooms, especially the larger ones, fall off during weeknights, cash activity remains high. At some place like The Big Easy the drop off is negligible; they may average 15-16 tables on a Saturday night, and only be down to 12-13 tables on a Tuesday evening. The nightly “free” 7pm tournament may help to keep the volume steady. We have detailed activity for each individual room in that room’s Poker Room Review.

 

So there you have it: the pros and cons of the South Florida poker scene. We were surprised to find our poker experience in South Florida so different from what we see in New England. It was a great place to visit, but not quite our style for tournament play long-term.

 

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Poker Bucket List - Casino Monte Carlo

My Poker Bucket List

Every poker player worth his or her salt has a poker bucket list. Whether it’s to play in Paris or win the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, everyone has their own must-do poker experiences before they fold their last hand. My poker bucket list has evolved over time. Five years ago, one of my items was cashing for $1,000 in a tournament. I have since exceeded that amount both at the Venetian Casino in Vegas and at my favorite local card room, Hampton Falls. So now I’ve kicked that goal up to $5,000. For many years I yearned for Vegas, and now, happily, Paul and I make an annual visit to Sin City. So my eye is now on the Monaco prize.

In no particular order, below are the items on my poker bucket list.

 

Poker Bucket List

Win Over $5,000 in a Single Tournament

As mentioned above, I broke the $1,000 cash barrier a couple years ago. Sure, I could aim for a $2,000 cash next, but why not aim high? Paul and I usually play sub-$200 buy-in tournaments, so it is rare that first prize surpasses $5,000. However, we occasionally play in larger fields with larger buy-ins, such as when we take our yearly sojourn to the WSOP. While we are not entering the Main Event any time soon, there are plenty of smaller stakes tournaments in town during the World Series that offer reasonable buy-ins and have top prizes over $5,000.

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Big Easy Poker Room

Big Easy Poker Room Review

The Big Easy poker room was a last minute lark for us. This was our seventh poker room on our ten day South Florida poker vacation. We visited the Big Easy to enter a “free” tournament and briefly check out the poker room. We came away pleasantly surprised with the casino, after only a short visit.

Casino Setting 

The Big Easy Casino, formerly known as the Mardi Gras Casino, in Hallandale Florida is located on Route 1, only a short drive from the Hollywood Beach shoreline. As with everywhere in South Florida, leave yourself plenty of time to get there, as it is in a congested, highly trafficked area. The casino exterior is fairly bland. It looks more like a freestanding department store than a casino. On the positive side, there is plenty of parking and a fun New Orleans theme.

There is a fabulous Peruvian restaurant a short walk across the parking lot on the east side of the casino called Dr. Limon Ceviche Bar. Dr. Limon has multiple locations in South Florida, and I expect all are equally great. We are not even ceviche fans, but everything we tasted off the tapas style menu was amazing.

 

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Favorite Poker Websites

Our Favorite Poker Websites

Thousands of poker websites vie for your attention every day. There are news sites, strategy sites, training sites, forums, and more. Given our love of poker, Paul and I check out new poker websites all the time. I probably access at least five different poker websites every day. Here are our favorite poker websites along with the reasons why each makes the list.

Favorite Poker Websites

PokerNews

PokerNews is probably the closest thing that poker has to a newspaper. Whenever there is something going on in the poker world, PokerNews is the first place we turn to learn more. Whether you’re looking for the latest information on your favorite player, World Series of Poker (WSOP) tips, strategy articles, or poker videos, PokerNews is on it. They also offer live reporting for some of the biggest poker tournaments out there.  PokerNews even gives minute by minute updates of the WSOP Main Event. If you prefer to get your poker updates through headphones, PokerNews offers podcasts as well.

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Coconut Creek Poker Room

Seminole Coconut Creek Poker Room Review

The Seminole Coconut Creek poker room, along with its larger sister casino Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, are major players in the South Florida poker scene.  The Isle at Pompano Park is the other leg of the South Florida poker room tripod.  The Seminole Coconut Creek is more remote than the other two casinos and has some unique tournament offerings. We enjoyed the unique tournament offerings so much we partook twice during our extended South Florida poker vacation.

Casino Setting 

After battling the urban and beach traffic of Miami and its northern beaches, the Seminole Coconut Creek casino was a breath of fresh air. Located on route 441 near the juncture with 834, there is little in the immediate area. Standing in front of the casino, you only trees and lush greenery. The casino’s location feels a bit like the Florida version of Foxwoods.  In reality, it’s not far from the South Florida bustle.  The exterior is attractively landscaped with palm trees and flowers. Parking is plentiful with both a six level parking garage and exterior parking.

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