Crime

High Stakes Poker Comes to South Florida

Six years ago, if you wanted to play poker in a casino in Florida, you were playing small-stakes limit poker. Each bet was $2 to $4, and unless you only had a few bucks left, you never said the words "all in." Then the state adopted no-limit Texas Hold 'Em, the kind they play in big tournaments you can see on television. But the maximum buy-in --  the most cash you could lose on any given hand -- was still $100, whether you sat down at a $1/$2 game, or at the bigger, $5/$10 table.

Now that's going to change.

It will start at midnight tonight in poker rooms all over the state. A new law, which goes into effect July 1, will lift the cap on high-stakes buy ins. It will also allow all 23 state-sanctioned poker rooms in Florida to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

That means the poker rooms in South Florida will soon look a lot more like the poker rooms in Las Vegas, L.A., and Atlantic City. There will still be plenty of low-stakes and limit games, but there will also be at least one "big game" in every room. A table where you can sit down and bluff away a year's salary on one hand.

The Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood is advertising a new game with a $10,000 minimum buy-in.

Another part of the new law removed the cap on poker tournament entry fees, which was set at $1,000. That means South Florida will likely see more high-stakes tournaments that resemble the World Series of Poker Main Event. The idea, according to industry insiders, is to make South Florida a gambling destination that draws big-name pros, big corporate sponsorship, television cameras, and the glamor of champagne-toast victories to the Sunshine State.


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Michael J. Mooney