Designated player games return to Florida poker rooms

Look for games such as Ultimate Texas Hold ’em to return to poker rooms across the state.
Look for games such as Ultimate Texas Hold ’em to return to poker rooms across the state.

Some Florida poker rooms are restoring legally challenged designated player games, thanks to a change of heart by the state.

The Casino @ Dania Beach re-introduced the games on Friday, and other card rooms across the state are doing the same.

Games such as Three-Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em began popping up in Florida racetrack poker rooms back in 2011. The state formally gave approval in 2014 after card room operators persuaded them that the games were classified as poker, under the reasoning that patrons vied against a designated player, rather than the house.

The Seminole Tribe, which like most casinos has Three-Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em in their table games pits — not in the poker room — argued that the racetrack casinos were infringing on the tribe’s exclusive rights to table games, and in December 2015 Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to withdraw its approval. The tribe also filed suit, and in November 2016, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared the racetrack’s version of the games “egregious example of the cardrooms’ attempt to evade the prohibition on banked card games,” and ruled that their existence carved into the tribe’s exclusivity.

But after the Legislature failed to agree on terms for a comprehensive gambling bill this spring, or even new terms to the Seminoles’ compact, the card rooms are revving up their games, with state approval. (My take is that Scott figures the horse has left the barn after losing the lawsuit, so the state might as well collect what tax revenues it can. I agree.)

South Florida is not that greatly affected, because Magic City Casino in Miami never stopped its games, and has an exclusive contract with the game creators that shuts out Casino Miami and Hialeah Park. (Calder does not have a poker room.) In Broward, Gulfstream Park officials are considering the games, while Mardi Gras Casino is not. The Isle Casino in Pompano Beach cleared a version of the games with the state back in December.

The games, which can pay 30 times a person’s bet, are more popular outside of South Florida, which already has slots for those looking to hit a big score. Also, players interested in such games here likely have already flocked to a Seminole casino.

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Columnist Nick Sortal AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Conine event moves

The Jeff Conine Celebrity Poker Classic has a new home: The event is at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 this year at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.

The tournament started at Calder Casino in 2012, then moved to the Isle Casino and Racing for two years when Calder closed its poker room. First prize has usually been an entry into the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas (or the $10,000 cash equivalent), but because the Seminole Hard Rock has a big event in August, it can cross-promote. So this year instead the winner gets $5,000 and the Hard Rock has donated the prize of a seat into the Aug. 11 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. Entry normally costs $5,250. A silent auction runs from 7-9 p.m.

But the point of the tournament is less about poker and more about raising money for Conine’s Clubhouse, a home-away-from-home for parents whose children are staying at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. More than 9,000 families have used the clubhouse. A golf tournament and other events also help fund the facilities. For example, Gulfstream Park is contributing $5,000 after the third race on July 2, using funds raised from the Pegasus race earlier this year.

Conine, now a Miami Marlins broadcaster, played 17 seasons in the majors, including on both Marlins’ world championship teams. For more information, go to ConinePokerClassic.org.

Coming up

▪ Miccosukee Resort & Casino gives away a new GMC SUV at midnight on Friday and on June 30. Those who don’t want the ride can take $12,000 plus a stay at the resort.

▪ The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has “$50,000 Free Play Frenzy” from 4-8:30 p.m. Friday. Ten Seminole Wild Card players will win $500 free play every 30 minutes.

▪ Hialeah Park gives away $10,000 in cash and free play from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays. The prize is $1,000 free play from 6-8 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight. It’s $2,000 cash at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Players club members receive free entries every Saturday plus can earn more entries with every 25 points earned.

▪ Gulfstream Park has a poker tournament it is calling the Deepstacker at 2 p.m. Sunday. Entry is $80 and players receive 16,000 chips. There is a $5,000 prize money guarantee. The poker room also has $500 high hands every 30 minutes from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It’s $300 from 1-10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesday.