Ante Up had the privilege of touring the new poker room at Derby Lane before it was unveiled to the public. During that tour we had a chance to interview Jeff Gamber, 28, who has been with Derby Lane in some capacity since 1997. Gamber, originally from Maryland but now a Florida resident for about 16 years, worked tirelessly for most of 2008 trying to get his new room ready for the new year, so we took advantage of getting a few moments alone with him.
What was the path that led you to your current position?
During my schooling at USF I came here for an interview back in the 25-50-cent limit days and it’s a path I’ve stayed on since. I was a dealer in 1997-98 and then went to part-time dealer, part-time floor. This was back when Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound used to transfer the card room every six months. So I worked at both facilities for quite a while. I actually was running Tampa Greyhound when the $2 (betting limit) was first implemented.
Do you play poker?
I do. If I play anywhere I usually play at Hard Rock. I like their business model there and I like the way they run their room.
Do you have a favorite game?
Since the limit change I enjoy the $2-$5 and $5-$10 no-limit hold’em game. I’m an action player (laughs). … Any loose, juicy game is where you’ll find me.
What can players expect from a room run by you?
For the longest time I’ve made decisions to help protect the integrity of the room and help grow the players as well as the industry. We catered toward the old business model of greyhound tracks with poker rooms. With this new room you’re actually going to see a new Jeff Gamber and new card-room management team. We’re going to treat it strictly as a poker room. We’re going to follow all of the TDA rules, and strictly Robert’s Rules of Poker. With those implemented we’ll have to make some tweaks to conform to Florida laws and statutes. But when you come in you’ll see a very fair room, a very corporate-driven room, friendly to the players, but also now invoking a very strict level of play as far as our rule-making and things of that nature.
How big is your staff?
With the new facility I think we’ll fluctuate anywhere between 150-200 for this room.
How daunting was it for you to be in charge of putting together a room like this basically from scratch?
Sometimes I even forgot we had poker operations going on upstairs. This has been a huge time crunch … especially around the holidays. Our players didn’t really see too much of a difference; I think they were more excited about what was being built down here as they were able to walk through and see the room. They kinda gave us the golden pass on that. The reward of seeing this room full and hearing the excitement will be worth it.
What are you hoping for when it comes to Florida poker and the upcoming session? Maybe a higher limit stake, maybe up to $10 max. Obviously it would be great to not have that $100 cap, not that even it would benefit some of the rooms to take it off, but to have the flexibility, that’s important. The limits we have now are very manageable and our players are very comfortable, but to have that flexibility is important. … Image is everything. Tournament buy-ins are a great limitation we have. Our tournament structure is great for our everyday players, but we have no flexibility. It would be great to have that additional dimension.
Speaking of bigger buy-ins, your 500 @ $500 tournament last year was a great success. Tell me about 600 @ $600, which is on the horizon and will have a $660 buy-in.
Well, without letting the cat out of the bag, we’re going to spread out the usual top-heavy payout. There’s going to be a six-figure payout for first place and it will be a three-day tournament. I can make this guarantee … I guarantee it will be the best value tournament and best structured tournament that you’ll find in Florida.