In spite of several constitutional amendment petitions over the last ten years, Florida does not have casino gambling. It does, however, have a thriving day-cruise industry which offers Las Vegas-style gaming on board ships that cruise offshore where casino gambling is legal. From the east coast the boats sail three miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, and from the west coast the "floating casinos" travel nine miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Port of Miami has more cruise passenger traffic than any other port in the world, and in second place is Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades. In the fiscal year ending September 30, 1995, there were 2.2 million cruise passenger embarkations from Port Everglades, of which 1.4 million-almost 64 percent-were embarkations on daily gambling cruise ships.

There are a variety of vessels in operation, ranging from the 1,050 passenger SeaEscape cruise ship (Ft. Lauderdale) to the SunCruz casino boat in Key Largo, which carries 150 passengers. Generally you will find that the larger ships have more of a variety of things to do besides gambling (floor shows, buffets, fine dining, entertainment), but the cost of sailing is a little higher, and port charges are often added. Since late 1994 many smaller ships have begun operations, and because they are not required to dock at the major ports they don't have port service charges added to their cruise prices. You will also find that most of the ships run price specials, so don't be surprised if you call and are quoted a lower than advertised rate.

Two of the larger ships are the SeaEscape (800-327-2005), which sails from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), and the Viking Princess (800-841-7447), which sails from the Port of Palm Beach.

There are at least twenty other casino boats throughout the state that depart from smaller docking facilities, some of which are owned by companies that have multiple locations. SunCruz has boats in Hollywood, Key Largo, Key West, Daytona Beach, and Port Richey. Europe SeaKruz (800-688-PLAY) has boats in Miami Beach, Fort Meyers, and Maderia Beach. Empress Cruise Lines (800-486-8600) has boats in Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

All ships offer a full variety of table games and electronic machines, and several offer online poker games rooms or sports websites. Minimum gambling age is either eighteen or twenty-one, depending on the ship's discretion.

Florida also has several Indian casinos that offer bingo, low stakes online poker games, and pull-tab electronic machines.

For Florida visitor information call 904-488-5607. For information on the Florida Keys or Key West call 800-352-5397.

Dead Hands and Protected Cards
There are a couple ways that a player's live hand can be killed because of someone else's mistake:
- If another player folds his hand and tosses his cards into a live hand, both hands are dead.
- If the dealer or anyone else accidentally scoops a live hand into the discard pile, the hand is dead.
- However, the first rule doesn't apply if the player "protects" his hole cards by lining them up neatly and placing an object, usually a chip, on top of them. First of all, this prevents a dealer from accidentally scooping the hand into the muck. Secondly, it gives observers the chance to reliably sort out a player's actual hole cards from any others that contact them: The hole cards will remain intact under the chip, while the debris cards will be askew. If this distinction is possible, then the protected cards are not killed by contacting other cards.
- Any hand that contains an invalid card or an incorrect number of cards for the current stage of the hand, including the showdown, is dead.
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