Tampa Bay Downs is in the northeast section of Tampa, about a half an hour from downtown. It is about the same distance from the beautiful Clearwater Beach. After winding through the busy Florida intersections, you drift down the long, sparse road on which TB Downs resides. The venue’s surrounding area is very attractive, as is its main attraction: the active horse racing track. The grounds are very well-maintained, serving as a respectable opposite coast bookend to the also beautiful north-of-Miami Gulfstream Park.
Parking is free at Silks. On race days, as we discovered, it’s a bit of a challenge to find a space anywhere near the front door.
In addition to the fully functioning horse track and poker room, Tampa Bay Downs offers simulcast betting. The poker room is on the third floor, accessed via an elevator. At one end of the poker room sits a small grill area. While we did not eat there, players claimed the food is very good, and the menu revealed a good array of appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads, and a few entrees. When races are on, there are several other dining options on-site as well. As with all of the poker rooms in Florida that are not on Native American land, Silks does not have table games or slot machines. Rather it’s restricted to faux poker table games like Ultimate Texas Hold’em, 3 Card Poker, DJ Wild Card Stud and Crazy 4 Poker. Tampa Bay Downs does not have a hotel.
All in all, a small comfortable venue that is worth visiting for cash or tournament play, particularly on an active race day.Click To Tweet
Silks Poker Room Comfort
The 23 table Silks poker room inhabits a long rectangular room with most of the poker tables aligned in two rows along a glass window looking out over the grandstand to the race track. There are also two tables behind a half wall, which seemed like they might be for high stakes cash games. Four of the 23 tables were being used for poker-based table games.
Despite the open wall, the room seems a bit dim. Players at the ends of my table were also complaining about the glare from the lighting making it difficult to see. However, the tables themselves are new and clean, as are the chips. The new felts proved a challenge for dealers, as the cards would stick as they laid out the flop. The tables are reasonably sized, although the 10-handed tournament felt a bit tight. There is plenty of space between tables.
The cards had odd faces that made them a bit difficult to read. The tables do not have USB ports, shufflers, or drink holders. The chairs are adjustable, well-padded, and on wheels. The air quality was decent, although there were of course smokers immediately outside in the grandstands (as we visited on a race day). Small TVs circle the perimeter of the room with most showing, unsurprisingly, racing. Tournament progress was displayed prominently on a few screens. However, updates tended to lag significantly during the early and middle stages of the tournament.
Poker Room Staff
The Silks dealers were very friendly and familiar with many of the regular players. They were also very confident and capable. When we registered for the tournament, we were immediately greeted by the floor asking us if we knew where we were going. Floors were friendly and present throughout the tournament. Wait staff circulated frequently and seem to be responsive to players’ needs.
Players at the Silks Poker Room
The players at the Silks poker room represented a wide age range and both genders. Playing styles also varied, from those who limped every hand they opened, to those who were very aggressive from the start. There were also a couple of players who seemed very new to the game. Players were generally very friendly and talkative. Most were regulars and engaged in lots of good-natured banter. The dealers joined in on the banter but didn’t lose concentration on what they were doing. The players were also friendly to new players like Heather and me.
Silks poker room has at least two tournaments every day. Buy-ins range from $20 to $90 with blind levels of 15 minutes. All tournaments are structured with a $5 or $10 add on that increases your chip stack substantially, usually double. So of course, that is what everyone does and is assumed when you register. These tournaments tend to draw between 30 and 60 players with higher turnouts on Friday through Monday nights. They’ll sprinkle in $150 buy-in/20 minute blind tournaments a few times every month, often with a $10,000 guarantee. Those, of course, tend to draw larger crowds.
You do not need to get a player’s card to enter tournaments. The Sunday 1pm tournament we played hosted 48 entries with rebuys through the 4th level. There was a high hand during one level and if someone hit a flush during another level they got a buy-in to a satellite for a larger tournament. It appears that such bonuses are often woven into tournaments at Silks.
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Cash Game Activity
PokerAtlas reporting indicates that the Silks poker room runs two to three $1/$2 cash tables on weekday evenings. On Friday night and most of the afternoon and evening on Saturday there are about five tables running. Sundays slow down to a couple of $1/$2 tables, although cash activity looked much busier than that on the Sunday we were there. There will occasionally be a one-off PLO table or a limit game, but mostly $1/$2 NLH is played at Silks. Silks trails the cash game scene in Tampa considerably to Seminole Hard Rock Tampa and Derby Lane, but does appear competitive with TGT Poker.
Overall Assessment of the Silks Poker Room
Silks poker room is perched on the third floor of Tampa Bay Downs with a beautiful view of the horse track. It’s a great setting for the horse race loving poker player. While not the busiest poker room in Tampa, Silks makes up for volume with friendly and welcoming staff and players. The room has an informal open air. Players are there for fun and are not as serious as those generally found at the city’s poker kingpin Seminole Hard Rock Tampa. Clearly, the race track is the main event here. The downside for the poker room is the lack of state of the art equipment – no USB ports or shufflers, and dim lighting in spots. But, all in all, a small comfortable venue that is worth visiting for cash or tournament play, particularly on an active race day.
- Tournament Structures
Silks poker room is perched on the third floor of Tampa Bay Downs with a beautiful view of the horse track. It’s a great setting for the horse race loving poker player. The downside for the poker room is the lack of state of the art equipment – no USB ports or shufflers, and dim lighting in spots. But, all in all, a small comfortable venue that is worth visiting for cash or tournament play, particularly on an active race day.