The current lockdown of society due to the COVID-19 outbreak has brought everything to a screeching halt. This has been particularly hard on the casino industry and, by extension, the poker world. At no other point in history has the gaming industry faced such travails, but it may be even more problematic looking towards the future.

There are going to be changes in our world once lockdowns are ended and people are allowed to attempt to resume their lives. For example, grocery and department stores (which have already been battered by the advent of online shopping) will probably have to have even less stock on hand as they have to expand aisles to allow for people to walk with distance between each other. With this in mind, what will be the future of casinos and, in particular, poker once the coronavirus alerts have lifted.

Eight to a Table

One of the biggest things that will be seen in the future in a poker room are table maxes. From the timeframe of the “poker boom” in 2003, many poker room managers wanted to jam as many people onto a table as was possible, especially for tournaments. Nine and ten handed tables became the norm as poker room managers looked to maximize the numbers and take advantage of the popularity of the game.

After COVID-19, however, this is going to change, whether the poker rooms like it or not. There is going to be more room put between tables – don’t expect to see tables on top of each other, like at the World Series of Poker (whenever that may be this year) in the past. See the photo that accompanies this essay? That is going to be something that disappears. These tables will have probably between 15-20 feet at the minimum between each other in the future, to make sure that people aren’t in close contact with other competitors and, as far as those at their table, that they can maintain a bit more distance than previously.

The number of people at the table will also change. Instead of nine- or ten-handed tables (be it cash games or tournaments), poker rooms will most likely make eight-handed tables the norm. Eight handed tables still allow for strategic play but it will also move the action. It is the perfect balance between the (too many) ten-handed tables and the (too few) six-handed tables, both from the playing aspects of poker and from the health concerns of the players.

One of the side effects of this is that tournament participation may either be reduced or the multiple Day Ones will become a staple of tournament poker (not like they weren’t already prevalent). But that’s a discussion for another time…and let’s not even get into EATING at the table!

More Attention to Cleanliness?

The poker rooms haven’t necessarily been a bastion of cleanliness in the past. Everyone talks about the Rio “crud” that will often be circulated amongst the players, staff and other personnel at the WSOP, and it is a real thing. But poker players themselves aren’t exactly persnickety regarding how clean something is, so it was often overlooked as one of the hazards of going to the poker room.

In the future, poker rooms are going to be much more mindful of cleanliness. Chips, handled by all of the players, will be cleaned more frequently (in fact, it may become a selling point of poker rooms – “chips cleaned weekly using (insert industrial strength disinfectant cleaner) for your protection!”), and the poker rooms themselves may be shut down for short periods of time during a work day to allow for custodial personnel to perform their magic on the rails and other common areas. If you want to go to the extremes, we may also see poker room personnel – table runners, managers, cashiers at the cage – wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as rubber gloves, maybe even facial masks, to provide another level of protection to not only the employees but also to the customers.

Yes, Some Poker Rooms May Be Closed

The stark reality is that some poker rooms may be closed once this epidemic ends. Especially if the rooms are made to put more distance between their tables and have fewer players on the felt, this means that smaller rooms – let’s say those with 15 tables or less – aren’t going to be able to put through the traffic that they might have had previously. With fewer tables also could come fewer personnel, pushing some very talented people who work in poker rooms out through no fault of their own.

Then there’s always the scourge of that abomination called “slot machines.” It has always been a delicate dance in a casino between the slot machines – the automatons that don’t take days off, constantly crank out profit and don’t need to have “breaks” or “vacations” – and the poker rooms, and this will become even more apparent in the very near future. In the past, this dance hasn’t ended well for poker rooms.

Especially after almost two months of closure, many casino operations are going to be looking to maximize their revenues after having the spigot shut off for so long. If it comes down between putting in a few banks of slot machines that takes a skeletal staff to man and maintain versus a poker rooms relatively wide open spaces and personnel that require a pesky paycheck, which one do you think that casinos are going to go for? It has happened before, as anyone who has been around the game for any length of time will tell you.

A Whole New World

There are definitely going to be changes to what is “normal” in everyday life once the coronavirus pandemic has run its course (and just how long that will be is anyone’s guess). This will be even more evident when it comes to casinos and poker rooms in the future. Hopefully all will come out on the other side unaffected, but there is little in the face of reality that would show that everyone will emerge unscathed.

17 Comments

  1. Jools says:

    Thanks for raising this issue. The sooner an appropriate and healthy solution can be found, the sooner we can be back at the tables!

  2. Trisha7025 says:

    I’m glad they are closed. dealers lie and cheat. The poker rooms dont deserve my rake when they don’t want to guarentee the prize pool,and their dealers steal your money,and or they dont count your chips and give you accurate count of money back. online poker is better. i wish they would open online throughout the US.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Geeze Trish, how do you really feel? I am a dealer and work hard my minimum wage page. I do not “steal” from players and I would venture to say that most do not. Cash trays have be counted during change of dealers and if they are short the dealers have to pay the shortage. Of course in tournament, chips have no cash value so there is no “stealing chips”. If a dealer discounts (since they are human) you as the player should be aware at ALL times how many chips you have and how much change you should be receiving. Ask the dealer to double check and provide correct change. Sometimes in an attempt to move the game along quickly, math mistakes will be made. You are not the kind of player I would want to deal to.

  4. Ian elgar says:

    Poker players are degenerates anyway. They plant their butts in the seat for hours or days at a time, they’re rude,inconsiderate, they whine about a rake they can easily afford but complain over the smallest and stupidest things. The biggest stacks usually mean they have zero life,

  5. Mudevaar says:

    Poker is only one of the games that close contact to others is unavoidable! But yes we handle the cards and of course chips.. every other casino game I.e craps, roulette, black jack close contact is part of the norm..As is eating out, airline travel and attending sporting events..this will pass eventually, people will be very cautious and wary for a long time and yes things will be different but life must and will go on.

  6. Cindylou Hunter says:

    Heck yes, life goes on. I feel so sorry for the gambling addicts! Lol, what are those poor people going to do? I hope gambling rooms shut down for GOOD, too many lives have been destroyed. I hope those people that sit for hours on end will get a Life!

  7. Jackie Graybill says:

    Trish, you must be awfully young to not remember the reputation of online poker sites. Rampant cheating by players and site owners not to mention how many off shore sites simply went dark and walked with all the player’s money.
    Give me a live poker game where I can see a true random shuffle, (something online poker can never give), and a dealer overseeing a game to ensure protection against cheater, not to mention the eye in the sky and the gaming commission. I was involved in poker in Las Vegas for many years and saw it evolve into the safe and Honorable game it is today. There was a day when some dealer’s and casinos were not so honorably but, today the protection are overwhelming. The large majority of poker room personal are hard working people just barely making a living especially now with major corporations taking advantage of loopholes in the law. Most dealers now can only work part time as the, only 5 major corporations don’t have to offer health insurance. A job that use to be a career is simply another hand to mouth job and now you want go make totally unfounded accusations? Could you be a child of privilege perhaps to say such nasty things about something you obviously know nothing about? Next time stick to trust fund chats!!

  8. NYNY says:

    Trisha7025 sounds like a millennial…

  9. James T Dodge says:

    I am a dealer and it is ALWAYS my fault….Every player is Daniel Negranu and never make mistakes… ALWAYS the dealers fault… LMFAO!

  10. Chris S says:

    Even before the pandemic, I’ve half-joked that poker tables should have chip washers, like ball washers you see in golf. Chips get so disgusting.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you go down to two-handed. We’re all touching the same chips and cards so the coronavirus would still spread. I don’t see how poker rooms can open for at least another month of declining cases.

  11. Anonymous says:

    They will bring back the electronic tables.

  12. Michael Ellis says:

    Three-four times a year I travel and play at Beau Rivage. They always jam 10 players at cash and tournament. Its always been shoulder to shoulder and it can be annoying. I hope they will at least make it 9 handed after this plaque passes.
    Poker or anything in life will ever be the same until a vaccine is produced.

  13. Trisha7025 says:

    this is from Cherylsays:
    April 10, 2020 at 11:39 am
    Geeze Trish, how do you really feel? I am a dealer and work hard my minimum wage page. I do not “steal” from players and I would venture to say that most do not. Cash trays have be counted during change of dealers and if they are short the dealers have to pay the shortage. Of course in tournament, chips have no cash value so there is no “stealing chips”. If a dealer discounts (since they are human) you as the player should be aware at ALL times how many chips you have and how much change you should be receiving. Ask the dealer to double check and provide correct change. Sometimes in an attempt to move the game along quickly, math mistakes will be made. You are not the kind of player I would want to deal to.
    Me: do you now how f*cking dumb you sound. Tournament chips have no cash value. it takes chips in a tournament to win the prize MONEY. so yes they do have Value. I’ve had dealers steal my tournament chips,and I saw a dealer from stratospher 6 years ago get fired because of it. So, go to hell!!!!

  14. Mary says:

    Electronic tables. I played on one on a cruise boat once, it was pretty cool. No dealer, no cards, all that was on screen. All they need to do is put the chip counts and betting on screen, less players at the tables, tables farther apart, hand sanitizer station at every table, players could wear masks. It can be done. However with such little profit margin for the house I doubt it will be.

  15. John Myers says:

    Live poker in casinos is basically dead. Nevada gaming commission has said
    4 players per table. Obviously that won’t fly.

  16. Anonymous says:

    No money. To gamble. No job.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The ONLY thing you got right was that SOME rooms will close and it wont be that many when it comes to Vegas.

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