Hard Rock in Tampa, FL

Reports & Blogs by jjmaximum Posted

I know this is supposed to be 'All Vegas' poker, but thought some might be interested in a Florida trip...

Wife & kids were out of town this past Friday so I decided to make the 2 hour drive down to the Hard Rock in Tampa to see how the poker room was since the state raised the max buy-in to $100 and allowed NL poker (yes, I said raised...before only $1/2 limit was spread).

For those who have never been to the Hard Rock in Tampa, it is easy to get to, parking is easy and it is fairly nice overall. The best part is the scenery is great (if you like scantily clad women).

I walked up to the desk and the waiting list for $1/2 NL was over 30 people so I asked what they had for immediate seating and he said $2/5 NL. Considering the max buy-in is $100, was surprised that $2/5 was even offered, but I came to play, so I took the seat.

Ten-handed tables. $5 max rake plus a $1 jackpot rake. Dealers are poor to average. The jackpot is for a spade royal and was at about $14,000. I've been playing for about 7 years and never hit a royal in any suit, so I wasn't too interested in it.

So I bought in for the max and watched as $20 pre-flop raises were called in 3-5 spots. All-ins after the flop were pretty standard and callers would have anything from overcards, gutshots or bottom pair. There was no way or reason to bluff in this game as you would get called down by somebody.

Ran my stack up to $260 after flopping a set. Got ran down a few times and was down to $60. I got pocket QQs and went all in with 3 callers. Flop was Q-J-J so I was right back to $250. The 3 callers preflop had an amazing assortment of crap such as K-9, 7-8 and 4-4...all a could say was Wow.

Apparently, when the buy-in is $100, most of the players try to keep going all in with ATC and try to triple up to get a stack. Seemed like somebody was rebuying every 3rd or 4th hand.

Some sort of tournament was starting so our table broke. I get moved to another 2/5 table with about $300 in front. Stacks are all over the place, with some near $1,000 but most around $100.

This table was playing a little tighter (but still very loose). I couldn't catch any cards for the first few orbits and finally decided to try and steal a $70 pot from the button with a live straddle and some limpers with Q-8 suited and a raise to $60. I figured I would have created a tight image having folded every hand since sitting down a half hour ago. Apparently, nobody paid any attention and get two callers. Flop comes with an Ace and two clubs. Checked to me and I fire out $75 to represent the Ace, first player folds but second re-raises all in for $100 more. This is not what I wanted, but was getting the right price to call with about $450 in the pot. I catch the flush on the river and and am up to $600. (The other player went all-in with A-rag BTW...Wow again).

Before I know it, I go on a heater and flop several sets which turn into full houses. Twice I had a pocket pair turn into a straight. Each time I get nice action and go from $600 to $1,200 in about 20 minutes.

Now everybody seems mad at me for taking their money and cheer whenever I lose a pot. I get callers whenever I bet. The cycle is I bet, they go all in for $100, I call and win and they re-buy. Over and over. I now have so many nickels that the floor comes up and tells me I need color up. They take TWO racks and bring me back two stacks of green.

I eventually get all the way up to around $1,800 and start playing pretty loose. After losing a few pots I figure its time to go and cash out for $1,655. For those of you in Vegas, they may seem average, but when the buy-ins are $100 at a time, its actually a pretty impressive feat.

Overall, I hate the structure of this $2/5 game, but if you can patiently build a stack there is a huge advantage that can really start to snowball. With $6 in rake plus dealer tips, I don't think you could beat this game in the long run, but if you want to play against some really soft competition from time to time, this is definitely the place to go.

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  1. The room was great this past Saturday. The cocktail staff had their Halloween outfits on- As one dealer put it- "There will be A LOT of misdeals tonight". The best in the poker room was a taxi cab outfit.
    The center bar actually has the "hot staff" and their outfits were actually better.

    Anyway- back to the poker- your report hits the room dead on. A couple of the dealers are better than you give them credit for.
    It is like playing cap no limit- you really can't push anyone off hands in the 1/2 NL game. You can every so often in the 2/5 NL game which will have better players in it. Played with the "Gas Man" this past weekend- you know the indian guy who had the pocket Q's when Daniel hit the A high flush- gave Daniel the monster stack in the 2006 Main Event. Dude was funny- he was more interested in the baseball game- more money on that. At one point the casino takes the game off the TV's (Yes- all of the TV's will basically show the same game- welcome to Florida) and put's on the college football show on ESPN. I thought he was going to loss it. I turned to him and told him this was Florida and college football was king. Anyway we needled him and he ended up getting it changed- good thing- we didn't want to pay $5 a gallon.

    The 2/5 game will have less inexperience players. Generally over the half of the table knows one another. No shortage of action. I saw a guy build his stack from $300 to $900 and then lose it all, and he was actually playing very well. Ran into set over set and then he just went into the tank and lost it.

    I have had some monster nights like you have talked about- winning over $1,200 a few times playing 1/2 NL with the $100 max buy-in. (Basically when you hit your sets you can trap all day long). I have also had some sessions where I loss $500 when it seems as the other guy can't miss.

    Give me Vegas any day of the week over Tampa, but it is the best room in central florida.