I recently had a chance to chat with local player Ray Del Cueto, a.k.a. Tampa Bay Ray, who discussed life, cancer and poker. For most of us, we’ve gravitated to the game when we were in our 20s or 30s. Then there is Tampa Bay Ray. He didn’t start playing until much later in life. In fact, it wasn’t until surviving his second bout with cancer did he even contemplate playing for any real stakes.
“First, I have to give all the credit for playing poker to my girlfriend, Denise. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have ever started this journey.”
The journey started at a weekly home game, then he branched out to other venues.
“I live in Sarasota, and coming home via Cortez Road I would see a sign for free poker leagues and after a while I went in to see what it was all about. … I felt welcomed by the crowd, which made things easy,” he said. “It was a good way to socialize, but also to understand the game better. I would do well enough to make it to the monthly events and the chance to win a trip to the World Series in Las Vegas. I came close and did well, but never reached the top.”
However, that didn’t stop him from making the trip to, as he phrased it, “Poker Nirvana,” the World Series of Poker, where he played in the senior event.
“It was phenomenal just to be there,” he said.
In 2011, at Palm Beach Kennel Club’s inaugural WSOP Circuit, Ray reached a level many players can only dream of, by winning a ring in a $345 event that drew 436 players. Over the past six months, he has cashed in five series, including wins in Punta Cana at the AUPT World Championship, Isle Casino at Pompano Park, Sarasota Kennel Club and at the Hard Rock’s $10 million guarantee in Hollywood. “Cancer made me change my outlook,” he said. “I have to enjoy life.”
TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The $50K guarantee Halloween Tournament will be presented by Ante Up Poker Cruises. The $350 buy-in event has two starting flights (6 p.m. Oct. 25, and 1 p.m. Oct. 26) and will end Oct. 27. See the ad on Pages 2-3 in our Oct. 2013 issue for details. Satellites for $30 with optional add-ons will be at 7 p.m. for five consecutive Thursday nights (Sept. 26, Oct. 3, Oct. 10, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24). Top two chipleaders in each when play halts will win an Ante Up Poker Cruise package for two for the Dec. 2 sailing, plus a seat in the Halloween Tournament.
Ante Up staff will be on hand for all satellites for T-shirt giveaways and a $4-$8 mixed cash game at 9 p.m.
— Email Andrew Malowitz at email@example.com.