Breaking the seal

Though the coronavirus pandemic has been a boon to online poker (silver lining of the crisis, I suppose), it has devasted live poker. For two months, there was no live poker anywhere in the United States, as some poker rooms have final begun reopening in recent weeks. But the few poker rooms that have opened are mostly just spreading cash games, not tournaments. On Friday, The Venetian will be the first Las Vegas casino to host a multi-table poker tournament.

At 11:10am PT Friday, June 19 and again on Saturday, June 20, The Venetian will hold a $250 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout. Of that $250, $25 is the tournament fee for the casino and $15 is earmarked for staff.

Tournament structure

Tables will be at most five-handed, per the state’s casino reopening regulations. The maximum capacity of the tournament is 80 players. Thus, if it hits the limit, and by the sounds of what player traffic and waiting lists have been, I would bet that it will, the total prize pool will be $16,800. Sadly, that is the largest prize pool for a live tournament in the U.S. since mid-March.

A shootout is a series of single-table tournaments. For these two, the Venetian has structured it so that the first round will start with 16 tables of no more than five players each. Each table will play down to lone survivor, just like in a Sit-and-Go.

Once all tables have their one victor, those remaining players will combine into four tables of four players each (or fewer players per table if the tournament does not reach capacity). The winners of those four tables will advance to the final table.

The prize structure will not be revealed until the final player numbers are calculated; late registration is allowed through the first two levels, but re-entries are not. If there are more than 48 entrants, the top two finishers at each of the four second round tables will make the money. If not, only the members of the final table will enjoy a payday.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

Just four poker rooms have opened in Las Vegas since casinos were permitted to welcome back guests on June 4: The Venetian, The Orleans, South Point, and Golden Nugget. The Nevada Gaming Control Board originally stipulated that poker tables could only be four-max, but after struggling to attract players the first couple days after reopening, the casinos requested that they be allowed to go at least five-handed. The NGCB gave them the ok and cash game traffic has been solid ever since.

Though casino staff are required to wear protective masks, customers are not.

With Clark County recording its largest single-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, poker rooms getting bolder with the games they are willing to run is a bit of a dubious proposition. Though casino staff are required to wear protective masks, customers are not. If photos and video from the first couple weeks since reopening are any indication, most casino patrons couldn’t care less about protecting each other because, after all, Vegas is OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

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