After months of waiting, like abandoned fun houses in fairs closed down for winter, casinos are to reopen in Las Vegas. What this means for the future of poker during the age of Coronavirus is, as yet, unclear, but one thing is for sure – the doors have been thrown open and one way or another, seats at poker tables will be filled.
The announcement that Las Vegas would be able to welcome players back to live poker is something that has been greeted with a mixture of feelings right across the poker industry. The reactions range from some recreational players being overjoyed that they can return to playing the game they love, through nervous anticipation of a changed game, up to plaintive misgivings on behalf of many of the top pros, who state simply that they won’t be returning no matter what until the threat of the virus is over.
Sorry dude, precisely zero chance that happens unfortunately! I don’t leave the house. At all.— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) June 18, 2020
For many, however, news such as that which was shared by Mike Williams, Director of Poker Operations at the Bellagio in downtown Las Vegas was manna from poker heaven.
It’s finally official! @BellagioPoker will be opening at 10am tomorrow morning! 6handed live action play on 23 tables. Open 24-7!— Mike Williams (@MikeWPokr) June 18, 2020
The Bellagio wasn’t the only poker room to announce its re-opening, nor was it first to do so, But it is a huge name in the game and many will see it as a leading casino paving the way for others to follow suit.
The ARIA poker room is also re-opening, although the home of Poker Central events such as the Super High Roller Bowl and Poker Masters events is not opening its doors until the start of July.
We are thrilled to share that ARIA Las Vegas will reopen its doors on July 1, 2020. We can't wait to welcome you #BacktoVegas, safely. For room reservations: https://t.co/SGRKDGT9aX pic.twitter.com/HKivDmmGWb— ARIA Las Vegas (@AriaLV) June 9, 2020
That news was responded to with overwhelmingly positive comments, apart from the odd negative response such as, “Welcome to ARIA. What happens here stays here… except COVID19. That sh*t goes home with you and kills your loved ones.”
With any casinos that remain closed now under financial pressure to re-open, let alone the fact that not only will they be affected by short-term losses but potential long-term losses of custom as players go elsewhere, live poker is at a pivotal point in time.
If Las Vegas were to host a $100,000-entry tournament at ARIA next week with a $10 million guarantee, how many players would attend? Would they overlay, or would they fill every seat of the 100 needed to break even?
The pressure on Las Vegas casinos to follow suit after the Bellagio and ARIA have re-opened will be immense. With 119,000 deaths in the United States from COIVD-19, including 462 in the state of Nevada alone, players are on the fence about a return to the tables. With plexiglass separators and generally 6-Max poker only, adapting to the new way of playing poker may take some time. For some casinos, they don’t have that time.