This was my first time to the Melbourne game although a number of my friends swear by it. I arrived around 4pm on a Thursday and it was after 5 before I could get onto the lone $2-5 NL table. When I sat down at the table it was obvious that I was in the company of serious poker players. I played about an hour and finished ahead, but it took some concentration.
While waiting for the $2-5 game, I spent the hour on a $1-2 NL game which was about as soft as those games get. I saw a lot of behavior that I use to go through when I moved from limit to no-limit in a casino. By that I mean the players were mostly calling stations and once their stack whittled down to $40 they searched for a double up opportunity by pushing pre-flop. If you wanted to preflop raise with small stacks behind, you had to ask yourself before the raise if you were ready to call a shove.
Preflop raises were common as were multiple callers. I saw a guy get himself into trouble calling a raise with J9o mid position and then call a $25 bet on the flop out of position with a gutshot draw although there was a flush draw also on the board. He hit his straight on the turn and got his money in only to lose to the flush. He took it as exceptionally bad luck. Considering he was one of the better players at the table you get an idea of the competition.
The dealers were pretty good. There was a young German lady who had a good sense of humor and handled herself well laughing at all the dumb jokes and taking nothing personally.
The downside of Melbourne is that although they have obviously tried to improve the atmosphere by providing plenty of TVs and even a bar nearby, it still looks unfinished. The chips are old and faded and it gives you the perception that they do not pay attention to enough details.
I ordered plain club soda and they charged me $2.25. These guys are raking $5 +$2 a pot and they can't give me complimentary soda water? Daytona does the same exact thing. No Casino I have been to in the Miami area or St. Pete charges for it. The Aria in Las Vegas only rakes $4 a pot and they serve single malt scotch on the house. Compare the overheads. A lot of people travel to Florida and it could become one of the poker capitals of the country if the owners of these card rooms took better care of the players. I have 8 poker rooms within 2 hours of my house and I still choose to go to Las Vegas once a year to play nothing but poker. That would easily change if poker room management in Florida got out of their short-term approach to making money and built a player-friendly casino that drew more tourists. The competition in the Miami area has helped improvements there, but I feel that Daytona and Melbourne are resting on their exclusivity. That is a sketchy business model for the short-term even if you can lobby the state to keep your competition away.
As it stands I can get to Melbourne 30 minutes faster than St. Pete, but I will drive the extra 30 minutes until I see some improvements here.