The state of Florida is certainly no stranger to the game of poker, nor to the controversies that have become associated with it over the last few years. The effects of the poker boom have at times been loudest in Florida, and with the return of the school year in Gator Nation, college poker life has returned in full force.
The University of Florida is a popular local for poker. Last year, student players were deeply affected by The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and many watched their online poker opportunities dwindle as the act made it more difficult to play poker online. But giving up has not been an option for students, and many have fought back by finding places around Gainesville, on campus and off, to support their love of the game.
Several poker events were held on campus last year at the J. Wayne Reitz Union for students, including the Student Global AIDS Campaign Poker Tournament, as well as the second annual AMA poker fundraiser. Both fundraisers required a small donation in order to play. Off to a good start this year, the Pi Delta Psi already organized the 'Poker with a Purpose' tournament on August 26th of this year, with all donations going to the construction of an Asian-American Institute in Gainesville. If the organizations are anything like they were last year, this will be another successful year for poker on the UF campus.
If you'd like to travel off campus to play, and like the idea of charity events, the Poker For Pets foundation may be just right for you. Poker For Pets is a not-for-profit organization which organizes poker tournaments to help raise money for local animal rescue groups. The organization has found great success in Gainesville over the last year and a half, and with monthly tournaments, it's another way students can help raise money while playing the game they love.
If charity events don't exactly suit your style, then you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of tournament leagues to be found around the city, thanks to Headsup Poker, a local organization which establishes Texas Hold 'Em events. The Round Bar, Munegin's on 13, Panama Joe's, and Market Street Pub all hold regular tournaments and while registration is free and can be accomplished online, the downside is that you must be at least 21 years old to play; sorry, underclassmen. The tournaments are run on a point system where only third-, second- and first-place finishers receive points, but players are competing for sponsorship entry into regional and major poker events.
But if tournaments also aren't your thing, and you prefer the fun, social atmosphere of a ring game, have no fear, Gainesville is home to plenty of them. While the stakes might be higher than most college students prefer, groups like the Gainesville Poker Tour and the Gainesville Poker Club are great ways for students to enjoy, and improve, their poker games. The Gainesville Poker Tour made a small splash at the World Series of Poker this year, where a few members from the group made the long trip to Las Vegas, Nevada to compete in some of the WSOP events.
And if that's not enough action for you, be sure to be on the lookout for Johnathan Westra, the 21-year-old college internet pro, who made a decent showing on the WSOP Circuit last year. Johnathan, a student at UF, took 26th, 25th, ninth, and fourth at four different Circuit events, and also managed a strong second place in the $1,500 No Limit Hold 'Em event in the Bellagio Cup III this year.
If you are the type of player who must play in a casino, then Florida may be the right state for you. Out of all the states in the U.S. with casinos, Florida ranks number four for total casinos, with 137 of them in the state. While it may be a long drive from Gainesville (four hours to be precise), it would be impossible not to mention the Seminole Hard Rock Café in Tampa. The poker room there holds 48 poker tables and boasts that their range of games varies "from Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold 'Em to Omaha". If you are looking for cash-game action, and you must simply play in a casino, accept no substitute.
With the school year already underway, Gainesville is poised for yet another great year of poker.