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Florida Legislature Passes New Poker Bill

Florida Legislature Passes New Poker Bill 0001

Mike Sexton is fond of saying "The price of poker is going up." Well in Florida that may soon be true. A bill recently passed through Florida House and Senate, raising the maximum betting limits in Florida. Unless Governor Crist vetoes it, which is not anticipated, the new law will go into effect on July 1, 2007.

While poker has been legal in Florida, the maximum betting limit had been set at $2, with a maximum of three raises in any betting round. The pending law has raised the betting limit to $5. The new law also allows no limit Texas Hold'em, providing the required buy-in is no more than $100. A provision for tournament poker is expressly defined, allowing buy-ins (including rebuys) not to exceed ten times what a participant could potentially wager in one hand on non-tournament poker.

Legislators considered expanding cardroom hours to 24 a day, but the operational hours were ultimately left at 12 hours per day. However, the new law no longer specifies the hours of operation, originally set at noon to midnight. It also allows pari-mutuel cardrooms to operate on any day; previously pari-mutuel cardrooms could only operate when wagering was opened for pari-mutuel events. Predictably, licensing fees for cardrooms were also increased.

Whether intentional or not, the new law seems to have some wiggle room for higher buy-in no limit games and tournaments. On the first reading of the bill, one might assume that they'll be an explosion of $1/$2 no limit Hold'em games being spread with a maximum buy-in of $100. But on subsequent reads, the new law only specifies the limit of the "required" buy-in, or the implied minimum buy-in amount, for a no limit game, not the maximum limit. Since the tournament buy-in limit is expressly tied to the maximum amount a player can wager on one hand in a no limit game, this too has some wiggle room for substantially higher tournament buy-ins.

Florida cardrooms are currently assessing the new games they will spread under the new legislation. On the limit side, it is expected there will be a plethora of $2/$4 games, but $1-$5 spread games and $5/$5 limit games are also likely. One cardroom is currently evaluating the introduction of a $2.50 chip for a $2.50/$5 game, consistent with a limit offered at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. On the no limit side, $1/$2 is expected to be an immediate cardroom staple. How long will it be before cardrooms test the wiggle room on no limit buy-ins? Time will tell.

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