by Eric Barton | March 2, 2021
The New Face of Poker
At bestbet’s two facilities in Northeast Florida, they deal in Southern hospitality.
For those unfamiliar with card rooms, the idea of a poker night might conjure visions of leering cigar-smokers circled around a table in a dark room. Not too long ago, that image wasn’t far from the truth. But today, there’s a card room in Northeast Florida that’s giving a fresh face to poker.
With locations in Jacksonville and Orange Park, bestbet has reimagined the hazy card room of yesteryear and replaced it with one brimming with Southern hospitality and a lineup of games, tournaments, dining and drinks designed for pros and newbies alike.
It all started in 2004 when bestbet dealt its first hand at the St. John’s Greyhound Park, a bourgeoning card room boasting 44 tables playing games of Texas Hold ’em, five-card stud and Omaha. As its popularity grew, the venture expanded, opening a new poker room in Orange Park in 2008 and another in 2012 off of Monument Road in Jacksonville. In 2015, new games rolled out first at the Jacksonville location featuring popular and easy-to-play variations like Three Card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, Pai Gow and One Card Poker. Jacksonville’s bestbet now boasts the Sunshine State’s largest poker room with 87 tables, the third largest in the United States, while the Orange Park location offers a more intimate setting, with 37 tables.
While the card rooms started as a regional draw, they soon began attracting amateurs and professionals from around the world, especially for high-stakes tournaments like the World Poker Tour, the World Poker Tour DeepStacks and the Card Player Poker Tour. Poker pros from around the country will flock to bestbet Jacksonville come March 18 for the Spring Series, a 10-day event featuring 11 poker tournaments.
Intelligence, skill, instinct—and maybe a little bit of luck—these are the traits possessed by the most successful players, but sometimes the intensity around a tournament table can intimidate the average player looking for more of the fun factor. To that end, bestbest has created a welcoming atmosphere, billing itself as a world-class card room with Southern charm. That starts with treating players with respect and setting a new standard of cleanliness, with no smoking of course, bucking the trend of the sometimes-dingy establishments that popped up around the state in the early 2000s. These days, players can enjoy the game worry-free thanks to bestbet’s enhanced safety protocols, requiring temperature checks and hand sanitizer for each guest prior to entry and ensuring PPE is worn at all times.
In addition to maintaining a fresh facility, bestbet prides itself on bringing new faces into the fold. Folks inexperienced with cards or wagering on races may feel unsure about trying their hand because they don’t know how, but that’s not an issue at bestbet. Even though it’s known for poker, bestbet is a place where players at any level can learn from top notch dealers on a range of games from one- and three-card poker to DJ Wild and High Card Flush. Beyond the tables, there’s a simulcast area lined with TVs streaming live thoroughbred and out-of-state greyhound races and Jai Alai.
Foodies might be surprised to find sushi among the dining options, with menu items like the Poker Room roll packed with fresh tuna, salmon and shrimp all wrapped up in seaweed paper or the Full House roll with shrimp tempura, eel and cucumber topped off with roe and eel sauce. For those who prefer to keep the cuisine classic, a juicy Angus burger and cold craft beer by locally owned Intuition Ale Works will hit the spot.
If the appetite is for winning, bestbet pays out more than $500,000 monthly in high-hand promotions between both locations. It’s easy to find a cash game at all limits, and the buy-ins for weekly tournaments range from $60 to $160.
In addition to tournaments designed for amateurs and professionals, they also provide how-tos for those who haven’t played before, a rarity at many card rooms. Feeling welcome is the point of the place and that becomes apparent by the mix of people playing at the tables, from retired veterans who gather every morning with their friends, to young college students in search of friendly competition to bachelorettes looking for one last hurrah to married couples escaping for a date night. And while they all may secretly hope to score a Royal Flush, no matter the hand they’re dealt, it’s the warmth and hospitality found at bestbet that keeps them feeling like a winner.