Magic City takes lead for cash poker revenues at racinos

Ileana Zamora remembers opening the poker room at Flagler Dog Track back in 1997. Players bet quarters, the pot was capped at $10 and the game was 7-card stud.

To celebrate 20 years of poker at the dog track, now called Magic City Casino, management has raised those stakes exponentially. Poker room promotions for July will total about $400,000.

“Well, you don’t turn 20 every day,” said Zamora, the cardroom manager.

It starts Saturday, with $1,000 high hands every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. through 5 a.m. There’s also a “Quad Squad” promotion: The card room keeps track of the number of times a player hits four of a kind or better in July. The person with the most big hands gets $10,000, the second-most prolific player gets $8,000 on down to $2,000 to the No. 5 person.

There’s also a tournament on July 31 with a $25,000 prize pool and a $10,000 first prize, but you must be lucky to earn an entry. Only players who hit a royal flush using both hole cards qualify. Zamora estimates 12 to 15 royals will be hit in July.

The card room also reached a landmark in May, passing the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach as the most lucrative racetrack card room for “cash” games in Broward or Miami-Dade county. Magic City collected about $820,000 in May.

Magic City president Alex Havenick said the casino takes pride in that achievement, considering the poker room has space for only 19 tables and doesn’t use automatic shufflers, which speed up the game. (More hands = more revenue.) The Isle has 44 tables.

“It’s 100 percent customer service and it’s 100 percent catering to the players,” Havenick says. “I’ll tell you, the last three months have been like we’ve been rocket-fueled. The players are great and the action is fantastic.”

A couple of caveats to that stat, though: Isle still had greater overall poker room revenue because it took in $92,5000 via tournaments to Magic City’s $4,965. And Magic City does well with “designated player games,” such as Ultimate Texas Hold ’em and Three-Card poker, which account for about 20 percent of the card room’s revenue, Havenick said.

Magic City also got a break about 18 months ago when many Hialeah poker room players defected following the revelation of an improperly run tournament and other ethical concerns. Hialeah officials never issued a public apology.