Impulsive poker players are consistently impulsive

David Litvin, Mardi Gras’ director of poker operations, has seen card room action increase in the past 18 months.
David Litvin, Mardi Gras’ director of poker operations, has seen card room action increase in the past 18 months.

South Floridians are among the nation’s most impulsive, impatient people, with frustrations stemming from crowded highways and the cacophony of multiple languages in malls and restaurants.

That impatience rubs off in casino card rooms, too. The region is likely the high-hand poker capital of the world, with rooms often awarding $500 for the player who has the best hand during a 30-minute period — overall skills be damned. That $500 is a big jackpot for, say, a retiree who sat down with 60 bucks at a $2 limit game.

But like everywhere else in the casino business, card room managers also know that customers want regular promotions, and consistent expectations have propelled underdog Mardi Gras Casino past the $600,000 revenue mark for a month of poker. The March figures released by the state of Florida show the Hallandale Beach card room collected $629,185.

For the past 18 months, Mardi Gras has offered a minimum of $500 per half hour starting at noon seven days a week.

“I think over time, as people say ‘Where am I going to play?’ they say ‘I’ll go to Mardi Gras, I’ll know there’s something good,’” said David Litvin, director of poker operations at The Big Easy Poker Room. (Mardi Gras carries a New Orleans theme throughout.)

And while poker rooms in other parts of the country likely have purer games, where people would fold hands with a remote chance of winning, South Florida’s poker rooms are in a war for customers. Miami-Dade County has four casinos with poker and Broward County has six. To attract patrons, card rooms offer those high-hand promotions — a practice some card room managers derisively call “renting players.”

“That’s OK because everything evolves,” Litvin said. “Poker has evolved. Some people come in to play poker, others come in to chase the high hand. But most people are playing for both.”

The Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, near the border of casino-free Palm Beach County, led South Florida, as usual, with $1,181,831 in poker revenues for March. Next were Magic City Casino ($715,961), Hialeah Park ($710,468), Mardi Gras ($629,185), Gulfstream Park ($437,891), the Casino @ Dania ($106,194), and Casino Miami ($38,187). Poker rooms operated by the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes don’t have to reveal their revenues.

Kentucky Derby

Saturday is Kentucky Derby Day, and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach is hosting a watch party. It starts at 10:30 a.m., with races simulcast from Kentucky's Churchill Downs, and continues with Gulfstream’s live races starting at 12:55 p.m. Ten Palms Restaurant offers a derby day buffet from noon to 4 p.m. Cost is $59.99 and includes a mint julep in a collector’s glass.

Hialeah Park will throw a horse-racing and boxing party at its new Champions Simulcast Center and Sports Bar. The race airs at 6:34 p.m. At 9 p.m. is a broadcast of the WBC World Middleweight Championship with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez defending his title against Amir “King” Khan. Admission to both is free. Breidis Prescott, who knocked out Khan in 2008, will appear and visit with patrons.

Calder’s ‘makeover’

Calder Casino continues its “Drab to Fab Home Makeover,” giving away furniture, appliances and free play. Drawing entries can be earned daily with every 10 points accrued playing slots, plus Calder is offering quintuple bonus entries every Thursday. From 6-9 p.m. Saturdays, 28 patrons will qualify for the weekly grand prize — which could be a flat-screen TV, refrigerator, or even an entire bedroom or living-room furniture set. All other winners get a share of up to $10,000 in free play. On May 28, Calder will award two $5,000 shopping sprees valid at any Badcock Home Furniture store.

This weekend

▪ Hialeah Park’s poker room has a Mother’s Day special: Any woman who wins a high hand gets an extra $50. (Maybe have some photos of children on your phone just in case?)

▪ Casino Miami offers “Win Mom a Ford Fusion,” but actually anyone can claim the prize. Hourly free play drawings are from 2 to 10 p.m., with the grand prize at 11 p.m.

▪ Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has “Hard Rockin’ Sevens” from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

▪ One player will be selected every seven minutes from noon to 8 p.m. to win $777 free play.

▪ Magic City Casino continues to offer $1,500 high hands from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. A big slick (ace-king) heart royal flush pays $20,000, with everyone else in the hand getting $500.

▪ The Casino @ Dania has a free show as part of the ongoing Ultimate Miami competition. Local comedians compete in a qualifier at 8 p.m. at Dania’s Stage 954. At the same time, Larry Klass and Morgan Phillips present a dueling pianos show on the casino’s bandstand stage.

Get daily gambling news at SouthFloridaGambling.com. Follow Nick @NickSortal