Racing News


by Mike Henry


“The Mayor” is getting a promotion.

Danny Lobato, who runs the Bay Area Poker Club which plays each Tuesday night from August through May – and currently one of the hottest players in the state – has been named Ambassador of The Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs.

Known as “The Mayor” for his skills as an organizer and competitor and his willingness to approach management with player concerns, Lobato will serve as a liaison between players and Director of Poker Operations Patrick Murphy and his staff, with an emphasis on bringing in new business and creating additional opportunities for players.

“Danny has always been courteous and friendly with the staff and patrons and is very knowledgeable about the current state of poker trends,” said Murphy. “We are very happy to have him on board and look forward to some positive changes in the very near future.”

Lobato is eager to begin his new duties. “Silks is one of the more upscale rooms in the area and I feel like I’m playing with my friends whenever I come here, so it’s a good feeling to be in a position where I can help them and hopefully bring more revenue to the room,” said Lobato, who has earned more than $130,000 in tournament play over the last several months.

“I’m a very social guy, anyway. I like to joke and talk at the table and have fun and make everybody laugh,” the Massachusetts native added. “I can come here at any time, any day, and jump into a cash game and know most of the players. Most of the management knows me, too, which makes for a warm, fuzzy feeling, like the TV show Cheers.”

Lobato, who retired last year from his business selling mailboxes and signs to builders and developers, had high hopes for success when he entered a series of $45 Texas Hold’em Tournaments at The Silks Poker Room in 2007 after moving to Tampa from Boca Raton.

But although he was usually the big winner in games against his friends, Lobato discovered the action in Silks was at a level he was unaccustomed to facing.

“I got a hard lesson of what the real world of poker was about. I wasn’t as good as I thought,” said Lobato. “But I had a passion for the game and knew I could be good if I put the work in.”

When his wife Gina realized how serious he was about exploring the world of high-stakes poker, she enrolled him in a three-day poker camp taught by professional players. It opened his eyes to what he knew and didn’t know about the game, and within a few years he had improved to the level of being able to compete off his winnings.

Lobato started the Bay Area Poker Club, which currently consists of about 65 players competing in Texas Hold’em tournaments, in 2011. “We’ve been able to help fill the room and generate a lot of money on what is normally a slow night, and our guys in turn play some cash games or the new table games when they bust out of a tournament. The club has generated five years of consistent performance and brought in a nice group of people,” he said.

Last year, 20 players from the club participated in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, and Lobato anticipates a similar number going this spring. The club is structured to return a portion of each player’s WSOP winnings to all the members.

Lobato finished 14th among more than 2,700 players in the 2011 WSOP in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament, earning $29,300. Other club members having success include Michael Beattie, who collected more than $50,000 by finishing 25th in a $1,500 Monster Stack event at the 2014 WSOP, and Ian Feller, who cashed for more than $21,000 in the 2012 WSOP Main Event.

From those winnings, 25 percent went back to Bay Area Poker Club members who had competed in the minimum requirement of 32 of the 42 weekly tournaments.

Lobato’s accomplishments on the Players Poker Championship (PPC) Poker Tour have been just as impressive. Last November, he finished second in the No-Limit Hold’em Main Event at the PPC Aruba World Championship in Palm Beach, earning $62,480. In July of 2014, he hauled in more than $32,000 in a PPC No-Limit Hold’em Main Event in Tampa, again finishing second.

On the organizational side, Lobato has also run charity events at The Silks Poker Room, one for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and another to benefit breast cancer survivors.

Up to now, Lobato has resisted the temptation to turn professional. “That’s a grind. It takes a lot of fun out of the game,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of success lately, but I just want to play when I feel like playing and take a little road trip with the guys when I want, and not feel obligated to pay the mortgage with poker.”

Lobato thinks his role as Ambassador of The Silks Poker Room will prove to be a win-win for the facility, his fellow players and himself.

“I’m going to represent the room, try to develop strategies to bring in better events and bigger tournaments and generate more revenue,” he said. “It’s exciting, because I am someone who likes to promote events and organize people.

“I’m also going to be a voice for the players who support the smaller buy-in tournaments that are the bread-and-butter of the room, but we definitely want to bring in bigger buy-in players who have more discretionary income,” Lobato added.