The poker room at this huge gambling complex is located in the "Sport of Kings Poker and Racing Lounge." It's on the second floor in a converted theater, under an enormous chandelier, with terraced seating that promises and delivers "every seat in the house is the best seat in the house." It is, architecturally at least, a remarkable place to play poker. It would make a great set for a prestigious poker tournament.
And tournaments they have, in abundance. They feature single table sit-and-gos. These are an excellent value, with $100 tournaments raking only 8% and $500 tournaments raking a minuscule 3%. Gulfstream seems to provide a lot of play for the money – with 3,000 in starting chips for the $100 event and $5,000 for the $500 one. But it's not quite as good as it might seem, since they start the blinds at $100/200 – making it the equivalent of a tournament that starts with $750 and $1,250 in chips with the nearly standard starting blinds of $25/50. Even so, the players I spoke to loved these turbo tournaments.
They also have a neat twist on the payout. They can be winner-take-all (that's $4,700 to the winner of the big one). Or, at the players' discretion, they can settle on a chopping of the prize pool at any time. I did not see a practical example of this, but it occurred to me that with the tiny 3% rake, players could make money by chopping as soon as one player was eliminated. What an interesting strategy that would make, no?
There are also daily multi-table tournaments – with bounty tournaments alternating with non-bounty ones. As I always suggest, check directly with the poker room for the latest schedule. They tend to change regularly.
The room also has many of the standard cash hold' em and Omaha-8 games to interest players who may not have the time or inclination to play in tournaments. The value isn't as high, with a 10%, $4 maximum rake and a $1 bad beat jackpot. Taking $5 out of the relatively low stakes games of $2/4 limit and $1/2 and $2/5 no-limit (with a maximum $100 buy-in) is a lot of juice for a small squeeze. Even so, players seem to be having a great time. And my limited experience in the cash games tell me that there are a sufficient quantity of deep-pocketed, loose, passive and unskilled players to make them profitable for the excellent player – even with the large house drop.
Gulfstream has other qualities to recommend it. The poker room is surrounded by large television screens of horseracing action. So if you like to punt on the ponies, you have a perfect spot. Even if you don't bet horses or dogs, you have the advantage of playing against gamblers who are constantly distracted by the non-poker action that's visibly available.
There is a high-class Asian/American restaurant, Christine Lee, just one floor away. Though I didn't have a chance to sample their extensive menu, I was told by a few poker players that the place is amazing – with great steaks and Asian food. There's also the highly recommended 10 Palms buffet. For $14 during the week and $30 on weekends, the room provides a truly superlative meal, say many in the poker room. I'm eager to try it out the next time I'm in the area. I was told that their prime rib alone was worth the price of admission.
The 27-table room operates 12 hours a day, from 1:00 PM until 1:00 AM, seven days a week. The players were, by my estimation, about 80% retirees. I played for about two hours in a $2/4 hold'em game. Half of the players were literally playing for the first time – spouses of regular players who were getting their feet wet in this low-stakes game. They had to ask the dealer, regularly, if it was their turn to bet, not understanding the blinds. Though this slowed the game considerably, I didn't mind, since I got to take advantage of their inexperience on two hands when I hit a set, profiting from their willingness to call "because I should at least see all my cards before I fold."
The bad beat jackpot was the incentive to play for at least one player at my table, and I suspect many others elsewhere, having reached $50,000 while I was there. They have a steep qualifier of aces full of jacks being beaten by quads with all hole cards having to play. No one but I seemed to mind the rake or the bad-beat drop – which isn't entirely a bad thing – since it's always good to play against players who are not really thinking about making money at the table.
901 S. Federal Highway
Hallandale, FL 33009
Phone: (954) 454-7000
Toll Free: (800) 771-TURF