Central Florida poker isn’t just about Tampa Bay



Living in Tampa, if you stood at Raymond James Stadium you could drive 20 minutes in any direction and hit a poker room. Down Interstate 4 you have the Hard Rock. North on I-275 you have Lucky’s and southbound you have Derby Lane. Head West toward the Gulf and you have Tampa Bay Downs. North, South East or West, Tampa is the epicenter of Central Florida poker. That is if you live on the west coast.
Once you get into the Orlando area, we start to lose sight of any live poker. So while my wife and I were on our anniversary in Orlando, we decided to head to the east coast to check out the Melbourne Greyhound Park’s Club 52 poker room, which paid more than $60K in its Full House Frenzy promotion in October.

The games were fun. The $2-$5 no-limit table we chose was sedate. Perhaps it was because I was card dead that it didn’t seem too wild and wooly, but I ended up stuck only a small amount after sitting there for about three hours. The table broke when the mystery bounty tournament began at 1 p.m. A unique tournament where those people who receive a necklace reminiscent of those found at Mardi Gras, are a secret bounty. Knock that person out and you get the prize that corresponds to that necklace. It could be $20 or even $100. For $120 and 10K chips, this is a tournament I would have played had we not had dinner reservations at 8.

TAMPA HARD ROCK: Florida’s final World Poker Tour Regional event for 2012 ends in Tampa at the Hard Rock (Nov. 30-Dec. 9). Filled with nightly turbos, a seniors event and two tournaments boasting $100K guarantees or more, the Tampa Hard Rock will look to end the year with a bang.

FREE-POKER RAID: On Oct. 20, the Nutz Poker League ran its free monthly tournament like it had for years, as 140 players visited Louie’s in Largo for the event.

An hour into the tournament, the Florida Division of Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco stormed in and ordered all players to place their hands on the table and remain seated. Five individuals, including Nutz owner, Rick Danford, Louie’s owner and Danford’s father were arrested and charged with a third-degree felony of operating an illegal gambling house.

On Nov. 6, about a dozen Tampa-area free-league representatives met with Luke Charles Lirot, Danford’s attorney, for three hours to see what recourse they had. Lirot may be retained by these leagues to file a complaint with the state that leagues are not in violation of what the gambling statue is attempting to prevent.

While attending this meeting, I met with these league owners and got a sense of frustration. As the online poker world was torn away from millions of players last year, the same scenario is facing thousands of recreational players who just want to enjoy the company of others, some good food and drink and a few hours of cards.

As this story unfolds, Ante Up will work hard to bring the details of the case. Check back with anteupmagazine.com for updates and post comments to the forums at anteupmagazine.com/forums.

— Andrew Malowtiz is Ante Up’s Central Florida Ambassador. Email him at anteupanndrew@gmail.com.

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