The Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida is a poker player's dream. I drove to this East Coast poker destination while staying in the middle of the state in Lake Placid, while visiting my Dad and his wife. It's about a two-hour drive from there. Fortunately, however, there are over a million people living on the east coast of Florida in the West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami area who can visit here in 30 minutes or less. It's well worth the trip.
The Hard Rock casinos are the latest jewels in the gambling crown of the Seminole tribe of Florida. They have three of these huge and beautiful facilities – two on the east coast and one on the west coast in Tampa. This is in addition to three smaller rooms, including Immokalee and Brighton, that I've already reviewed, which have been around for about ten years.
The best adjective I can think of to describe the Hard Rock's poker room is "snazzy". There are 50 new tables, tastefully laid out in a beautiful, softly lit, nicely carpeted room. The ceilings are enormously high, giving the room almost an open-air feel. The chairs are well padded and very comfortable (but no wheels or height adjustments). The chips are new, as are the cards. This is poker at its best.
The games are great, too. Florida law does not permit limits higher than $5, nor no-limit games with higher than a $100 cap on the buy-in. Nevertheless, within those confines, the games are dynamic.
They have no-limit with blinds of $1 and $2, $2 and $5, and even $5 and $10 (yes, with only a $100 buy-in). For a short time, they tried to spread a $10/25 no-limit game with no cap on the buy-in. It went smoothly for three days or so, with pots into the five digits, until the state came in, with great fanfare, and shut it down permanently. Apparently, some Florida rooms have attempted to skirt the lawful limits by having players go all in on multiple hands in a row, until all players have $1,000 or so. But that's just a rumor.
In addition to the no-limit games, the room spreads $1/2 and $2/4 limit hold'em and Omaha-8. They "offer" stud but never get enough players for a stud game (though the old Seminole casino literally across the street gets stud going, I later found out). They rake 10% up to a maximum of $5.
Unlike the other Seminole casinos I had visited prior to coming here, the crowd is young, vibrant, and full of gamble. Games run 24/7, so I had the pleasure, early on a Sunday morning, of playing with a few young folks who had been up all night playing poker and drinking. These were not the timid affairs of the no-limit games at Brighton or Immokalee. In my first hand, the player to my right raised blind to $25, "because," as he said, "I have two green chips – hahahahahahahah." I looked down and saw two queens and went all in after him. He called me blind with his remaining green chip as did a very attractive woman, dressed like a hooker.
"Why not – any two cards can win," she said. She only had $50 or so. She turned over K-6. He turned over 6-3. My queens held up and I won a nice little pot.
The game proceeded much like that for the hour or so that I was there, with unbelievably loose and wild play punctuated with laughing. Unfortunately I didn't have any other quality hands during my time at the table – and I lost a little of it back trying to push a couple of guys off a hand when I was under-gunned. But I managed a $100+ win for my brief stay.
I also found out that the room runs terrific and fairly big tournaments. There's a daily bounty tournament with a $100 - $350 buy-in, depending on the day of the week. On Saturday there's a $500 tournament with one $500 rebuy. The house charge for that is $75. If you take the rebuy that's only a 7.5% vig, pretty small by most standards.
The poker room is non-smoking but there is no wall separating it from the rest of the casino, which is smoking. There's just a rail. Smokers lean on it while watching the action. My table was next to the rail. A player literally would stand up when he was out of the hand, smoke a cigarette at the rail, and then come back in when he was done. The smoke often carried into the room and over the tables.
The place is filled with young guys and gals – in couples and alone – vacationing and having a grand old time. There was an equal mix of what looked like older tourists, maybe grandparents with their kids and grandkids. The average age on this Sunday morning seemed to be about 40 or so. As is befitting a mixed-age crowd like this there are a lot of eating options. I walked into the most elaborate buffet I had ever seen – custom-made omelets, sushi, exquisite pastries, beef tenderloin, eggs benedict, baked Alaska, smoked salmon, stir-fried prawns in pepper sauce, and just about anything else you can imagine. There are also other restaurants on the premises, and a multi-restaurant food court with a full array of Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and standard American fare – none of it terribly pricey.
I'd love to come back. And unlike the other Seminole properties, this is a place that I could bring the wife and kids, who could find many ways other than poker to amuse themselves.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Hollywood
1 Seminole Way
Hollywood, FL 33314
General phone: 954-327-7625