While driving down 75 (I had some business to take care of in North Carolina, so I was returning home. Alas, I'd spent the previous night in Jacksonville, but the St Johns Greyhound track -- which has a poker room -- was about 30 miles from my hotel, and I didn't feel like taking an extra 60 miles onto my trip, and the much-nearer Jacksonville Kennel Club has not yet opened their poker room.), at about noon, I was in Sarasota and decided to stop at the dog track there to have some lunch and play some cards. The track is relatively easy to find, about 6 miles west of of exit 213 (it's the big building with a mural of a greyhound, kind of hard to miss). It turns out that I picked a good day to go there, as it was "50¢ Friday," with admission, as well as hot dogs, soda, and draft beer all costing 50¢.
The poker room is upstairs, under the grandstands. There isn't a whole lot of signage, but if you spot the logo (a smiling greyhound with an eye patch and one ear up), you can find it easily enough. Up the escalator, and then up a ramp to go under the stands, and you're in what is likely the physically nicest poker room in Florida. The ceiling is high, there are chandeliers, marble counter tops on the brush/cashier station and the bar, everything is decorated professionally in shades of brown and beige, giving the whole area an air of relaxed luxury. The tables are covered in beige, with a betting circle, and pictures of One Eyed Jack on each table. There are two types of chairs, one high-back with firm padding and one low-back with a softer cushion.
I was early, as the room opens up at 1PM (hours of operation are 1PM to 1AM, Monday through Saturday. They are closed on Sundays; likely due to Florida's laws that mandate parimutual poker rooms can only operate on days when there is live racing), so there was no waiting on the list for $3-$5 (that's right, $3-$5. $3 for the first 2 rounds, $5 for the last two. Blinds are $2 and $3. I'll discuss adjustments to make for such a game later, in another entry), but I did have to wait for the game to start. Fortunately, one of my table-mates brought a newspaper, and I got caught up on the chess and bridge columns while waiting for our dealer. When he sat down and sold chips to the table, we still had about 10 minutes to go until start time, so we chatted for a while. It turns out that he and some of the other dealers at the club share a hobby with me -- chip collecting! He called over one of their main collectors, and we chatted for a while, comparing collections. It turns out that One Eyed Jacks' $1 chip won the CCGTCC (Casino Chip and Gaming Token Collectors Club -- the national collector's group for casino chips and slot tokens) "chip of the year" award. Next time I go up there, I'll be bringing any extras I have along with me, to see if anyone needs a trade. I also pocketed one of each of their chips (50¢ -- you'll see the reason for this chip shortly -- $1, and $5), so now I have a full set of One Eyed Jacks chips.
The game was a typical low-limit affair. It started off fairly tight, for low limit, with only 4 or 5 players seeing the flop when it was unraised, and no preflop raising (literally, for the first hour I was there, there was no
preflop raising). Post-flop, nobody seemed to respect bets or check raises (One hand I had was a 4-limper unraised BB with K
, flopped K
, bet out into 2 callers, turned a 2
, check raised the player to my left, rivered the 6
bet, got a call, and lost to his A
, which he'd limped with UTG. Well, that was $15 and a good checkraise into the equity bank.)
At the 1-hour mark, it was like a switch was pulled. All of a sudden, any pretense to "tight" went out the window. 8- and 9-way action was the norm on the flop (myself and one other player being the one or two who folded preflop consistently), and there were even some preflop raises. I took advantage of this in one hand: I was on the button with A
, and there are six
limpers to me. I raise, both blinds call, and all the limpers call (woohoo, a $54 -- well, really $49 with the rake -- pot preflop in a game with a $3 preflop limit!). Yes, Virginia, there is
a Santa Claus, as I flopped A
. Check to me, I bet, get 4 callers. Turn is a lovely A
, check to me, I bet, get 2 callers ($63 pot). River is a harmless 6
, check to me, I bet, get a caller, and win a $73 pot ($54 profit!) with the king kicker over A
Oddly enough, the very next hand, I was dealt A
, it was folded around to me (weird, at this table, to be in steal position and have it folded to you. I think this was the first time I saw it happen at this table, in fact.). At this point, the devil on my shoulder told me to pop it. Obligingly, I raised, the blinds called, and the flop came Q
. Check to me, the devil says "you can push them off it." I bet, they call. Turn is a 9
, check to me. "No, really, you can push them off it." I bet, they fold. Score 1 for Satan, I suppose.
I had to resist the urge to flash my cards to the player I'd beaten the previous hand (and who had called my preflop raise and flop bet this one), and say "That's how you play ace-nine."
At 2:30, I realized I had to get back on the road, so I racked up and left a winner, up about $40 (slightly less, if you count the fact that I've kept some of their chips for my collection). I'll be back there next time I'm anywhere near Sarasota, though. Or if one of my friends wants to learn to play (they offer a $2 straight limit game that seems to go all the time, as opposed to my local poker room, which rarely gets the $2 game going). Or if I feel like a bit of a drive.
A note on their games: they spread $2 straight limit holdem and $3-$5 limit holdem, Omaha, and Omaha/8, 50¢ ante $2-$5 stud and stud/8, $1-$2 no limit ($60 buyin), $2-$3 no limit ($100 buy-in), and single table tourneys. They run sit-n-go's as well -- $27+13 paying $180 and $90, $47+13 paying $250, $140, and $80, $95+$15 paying $500, $300, and $150, and $275+25 paying $1400, $900, and $450. While I was there, a $47+13 and $95+15 got together.
They also spread multi table tourneys the six days of the week that the room is open:
Monday: 1PM $50 with a $40 add on, 7PM $40
Tuesday: 1PM $30 with $20 re-buys, 7PM $30 with $20 re-buys
Wednesday: 1PM $65, 7PM $65
Thursday: 1PM $30 with $20 re-buys, 7PM $65
Friday: 1PM $50 with a $50 add on, 7PM $120 with a $100 add on
Saturday: 3:30 $330 (30-minute levels), 7PM $65
Also, every day at 10:30, there is a $40 "blitz" tourney, with 40 players maximum.
There are single-table satellites into the Saturday tourneys, $70+15 paying two places to the $330 game and $20 each. Satellite entries must be used for the next Saturday game.
The rake is moderately steep; 50¢ at $5$, $15, $25, and every $5 thereafter up to $60. There is also a 50¢ jackpot taken at $10 and $20. The overall effect is to make the rake 10% to $6, but nominally it's 10% to $5 with a $1 jackpot -- they just rake slowly as the jackpot is being pulled out. NL games charge time, which is (I believe) $5 per player every half hour.
There are a number of jackpots. Each form of high hand has it's own jackpot, ranging from quad deuces to the royal for both hold em and stud (both cards must play for hold em, and for all jackpots the pot must be $20 or more), and all straight flushes for Omaha. The jackpots vary, depending on when they've been hit last (and, I presume, the royals get more of a share of the jackpot drop), ranging from $39 for a steel wheel in Omaha up to $599 for a straight flush to the king in hold em, and $4396 for a royal in clubs (the royal jackpots vary by suit). Additionally, on Friday, any player getting a flush (not flush or higher, just a flush) is entered into a drawing for a "dueling rack attack." Blindfolded, 2 players rack up chips. The one who racks up more, gets to keep them. The loser gets 1/2 of what they rack. Also, on Mondays, starting at 6PM, flushes win you a square on their board for Monday Night football (either the first 100 flushes, or the end of the first quarter, close off the board) -- the first through third quarter scores win $100, and the game ending score is $200.
Cocktail service is available in the room, which has it's own bar. The waitress was rarely near my table (she was serving the tourney players, perhaps?), but it's not hard to get a drink. The room also has its own restrooms, which is a nice perk, and like all Florida poker rooms, is nonsmoking. The grandstand, right outside the door, is a smoking area for those who need to light up.