Poker, a skill-based mind sport, has always been popular in its brick-and-motor format. Gradually, there was a slight shift as online poker portals sprouted a fresh version to experience the game in a new light. However, the thrill and fun a live poker game brings remained unmatched. 

While online poker games hosted by poker portals sky-rocketed during the pandemic, we take a look at the downswing faced by the live games at the same time and what the future of the global poker community looks like.

World Series of Poker (WSOP)

The much-awaited goliath of all poker spectacles is the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Players all around the world muster up a magnificent bankroll to be a part of this live prestigious tournament. However, this time around, the COVID-19 outbreak brought those poker dreams to a screeching halt laying forth an unforeseeable future for live poker tournaments.  

The season-ending WSOP Circuit’s Global Casino Championship was the latest to take a hit. The event was scheduled to run in North Caroline from August 11th-13th with a whopping $1 million prize pool and a lustrous gold bracelet. Taking no risks, the WSOP recently announced that the event will be held online on the 13th of September. 

LIVE ROOMS

United States of America

A majority of global poker players are from the US or have shifted base there considering the prospects of the game. The onset of the pandemic witnessed all the live poker rooms being shut, so what steps are they taking to bring the beloved mind-sport back to the live felts?

  • Florida recently announced reopening poker rooms with stringent measures in place for player safety. While in Connecticut, two tribal casinos are scheduled to reopen after the long haul. Despite the decision being against the States’ orders, the tribes have faced immense public pressure to resume normal operations and the start of June has long been a target for the bottom line of businesses. 
  • Players must go through a routine temperature check to enter the room. Everyone sitting at that table will be sanitized and the chips and cards are being rotated regularly with clean ones. Live rooms have reported specialized cleaning crews scrubbing down everything. The running joke is that your new protective gear is only going to make it easier to conceal your bluff! 
  • Further safety measures include: 

    – Operating at reduced capacity.
    – Masks for guests and staff.
    – Non-contact temperature testing.
    – Serving food and beverages in takeout containers.

Poker Game

ITALY

The epicentre of the global pandemic had it tough in the beginning. Poker tournaments are a common sighting in Italy and according to tournament director Christian Scalze the poker community will see big delays in their tournament schedules. With EPT Barcelona also coaxed to reconsider dates, it will take a while for full ring live tournaments to see the light of day! 

Live poker tables are considering hosting only 4 players at a time impeding the tournament structures, the action and the guarantees since their rakes will suffer a setback.  The restriction comes at the peril of taking away the fun in a game of poker. While poker players require a fun relaxed atmosphere, they will be boxed in sections with Perpex screen and masks, a compromise worth making for their safety and their love for the sport!

Although real money poker portals continue to host online poker games, poker players still want to know when the live rooms will be back in action. The community unites in hope that when live poker returns resume, they will reunite and spread smiles as they meet in person, while they claim pots and exchange friendly banters! (Some things will never change)

INDIA

It is well known that the Union Territory of Goa is the only state allowed to host live poker games legally. The water based casinos that host poker rooms have remained closed since India went into its first lockdown. With tourism also taking a hit, the poker rooms will remain shut until further State orders.

However, online poker games continue to capture the attention of Indian Millennials during this isolation period. The poker portals have witnessed a sharp rise in its number of users during the lockdown. While the subcontinent continues to welcome new poker players during the lockdown, major live poker tournaments have taken a backseat for an unforeseeable future. Poker advocates hope this period will open the lawmakers’ eyes in their pursuit to legalize the game. 

THE FUTURE

Could Electronic Tables lead the way?

With chips and cards only enabling the spread of the pandemic, another idea floating around is the use of tested electronic tables. While The Excalibur in Vegas tested the tables ten years ago, they pulled back with the idea since players complained that it took away from the real experience of the game. Although it’s true, times like these don’t allow the luxury of choice! 

Electronic tables will reduce the risk of transmission via physical chips and cards that even frequent cleaning could never eliminate entirely in live poker rooms. The question is, will these electronic tables, perspex screens and increased distance between players be able to pull the live players out of their quarantine havens?

Will online poker finally thaw the ice with lawmakers?

The COVID-19 outbreak has only proven how skill based games of online poker will grow in popularity even more so. In the United States, players are hopeful of law makers legalizing poker in many more States as they realize that it is safer for people to play in the safety of their homes adhering to the social distancing norms that’s here to stay for quite some time. 

In emerging markets like India, the moral protests continue with the lack of awareness between ‘games of skill’ and ‘games of chance’ as we speak. However, the Government hasn’t shied away from its decision to reopen consumption of other vices, talk about moral grounds! 

While the economy crumbles and so does the tax collection, this serves as no better time to review and legally recognize a revenue stream that could easily contribute to the Nation’s revenue growth. 

Player Demographics

A live poker game will certainly get tougher once it resumes in full-swing. To begin with, social players aren’t going to be motivated to play under restrictions and will take a break allowing the professionals to battle it out. 

These recreational players are bound to be distracted with other recreations and may not return to the table as soon as we predict. While this has left the professional players only upping their game since the isolation has made them hit the poker books. 

With live poker being questionable in the foreseeable future, home games could become more popular by the day. The recreational-regs may not want to continue playing short-handed and as such, will lean towards organizing home games until live poker is safe.

However, if there’s one thing we know about a game of poker, it’s the adaptability! This great virtue coupled with technological evolution has insured that the interest in poker never wanes, making its audience a sustainable one.

To responsible gaming and an unimpeded 2020 for poker!