2020 was by far the worst time for live poker. The coronavirus pandemic has closed card rooms and casinos around the world, and all major competitions have been canceled or moved online.
It was a blow to the poker industry, which, to its credit, has managed to pick up the pieces and come up with clever workarounds to keep the momentum going. For the most part, that meant moving things to the virtual realm.
We’re now almost six months into 2021, and things are slowly starting to get back on track. Having said that, even though casinos are bringing back live tournaments and cash games, it’s not quite the way it used to be.
In most places, you are still supposed to wear a mask when playing. There are plexiglass dividers between players, mandatory temperature controls, and all kinds of other measures in place.
If this trend continues, the natural question that comes to mind is: will the pandemic kill our love for live poker?
Are people willing to jump through all the loops and hoops just to play live hands, or will they give up trying and move on to online games – or will they move on altogether?
Live poker and the pandemic: call it a bad year
Never in the history of poker have we seen anything like what happened in 2020. At one point, Las Vegas came to a complete halt, with casinos and rooms shutting down completely. of poker, waiting for better times.
It was shocking and unprecedented.
The future of many working in the gaming industry was at stake, not just in Vegas but all over the world.
At the same time, many poker players have also taken a big hit. Whether semi-professional or full-time, there are many people who make a living playing live poker.
You might think that getting around online was the easiest option for them, but it doesn’t have to be.
First of all, live poker and online poker are not the same.
You could go so far as to say that these are two completely different games. They require different skills, and moving from live to online without any proper transition period and expecting to be profitable is optimistic to say the least.
Second, not everyone has access to online poker.
In the United States, for example, there are only a few regulated states, and you can only play online if you are in one of those states. Traveling to the United States in the midst of the pandemic to play poker was also not a real option for most.
So, there was a big uproar from all sides of the industry during the first few months. People wanted to grab the games live, but it just wasn’t possible back then.
So, they waited patiently to see what happened, hoping for the best.
The new “normal”: the return of live poker
After a few months of complete closure, the live poker scene has slowly started to get back on track.
Everyone was excited, from the dealers and casino staff to the players. The worst was now behind them, and things would slowly start to fall into place.
But many players weren’t ready for what they found at their favorite poker room.
The rules imposed by the government have not made it easier for operators. They had to put in place all kinds of preventative measures, from temperature controls at the doors and face masks for players and staff, to plastic barriers between the seats and limiting the number of players at the table.
I will not go into the validity of such measures or try to argue for or against them. That’s way beyond the scope of this article and, frankly, a rather questionable discussion at this time.
The bottom line is that the experience of live poker has changed dramatically.
For those who have been in the game for a while, it was a shock. Even though they couldn’t wait to get back to the felt, this new environment just didn’t suit many.
Unsurprisingly, social media was inundated with comments from both sides of the fence.
Some were delighted to be able to replay live, regardless of the restrictions. Others, however, felt it all killed the experience and took his life.
No matter which side you take, it’s pretty clear that the pandemic and all that it has brought with it has had a big impact on live poker and put a strain on it.
Eventually, these steps will (hopefully) become a thing of the past, but will some people lose their passion for live games in the process?
The fear factor: can live poker bounce back?
It looks like the world is finally on the verge of leaving the pandemic behind. Vaccinations are taking place as we speak and countries around the world are lifting restrictions.
Slowly, things are returning to what they were before 2020.
But it might still take a while before people feel comfortable sitting in a room with hundreds of strangers breathing behind their necks.
There is still a lot of uncertainty in the air, and so many questions are left unanswered.
While things are certainly improving, it looks like we are still a long way from returning to the “old normal”.
After more than a year of fear, threats and warnings, many people will not be in a hurry to return to the old “carefree” way of life.
Some will, for sure, but not everyone has the same vision of how to handle the situation.
Some in the poker community believe that it is not necessary to rush things. Even though there are vaccines and a much better understanding of the coronavirus, they prefer a slow and cautious approach.
You can be sure that those who share this opinion will not be in a hurry to return to the crowded live tables.
These feelings will likely have a significant impact on the general love for live poker. Will he kill him completely?
Absolutely not, but I’m sure there will be a lot of hesitation in the coming months, especially when it comes to major events.
Can industry help keep passion alive?
It’s pretty clear that even with all the positive changes of recent times, the live poker industry will have challenges getting back to where it was.
On the one hand, some players may avoid live events and matches for one reason or another. On the other hand, there is also the question of profitability.
Casinos and poker rooms must meet certain expectations in order for their business to remain profitable.
In most places, poker is not exactly the main business. It is often used more as a way to attract people to the site, in the hope that they will also spend time playing the slots or visiting the pit.
With the new challenges and restrictions, many places can be put off by the idea of hosting live poker. It’s a lot of hassle for very little gain, and if their capacity is reduced as it is, there may be very little reason to hold live poker.
Fortunately, this does not apply to some of the bigger casinos, especially those in Las Vegas, where poker has been a part of their overall offering for decades.
So, for their part, the casinos will try to get things back on track.
For example, the WSOP has already announced that there will be a live event this year (albeit a few months later than usual), and the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.
What crowd will they be able to attract?
It remains to be seen, but many people are eager to play live poker and jump at the chance after such a long forced break.
Several other Las Vegas casinos have announced major live events as well, and these things will definitely help restore the love for live poker and put people back in the right frame of mind.
Going forward, the poker industry will play a huge role in what happens next with live poker.
They have been fighting an uphill battle for a long time now, but this is the only way forward.
If the major sites and organizations decide they have had enough and throw in the towel, people will have no choice but to embrace it and move on.
Even the pandemic couldn’t stop the game’s biggest fans
When you read and watch the media, you often get the feeling that the whole world has stopped in so many of its segments.
It’s no secret the media love drama, so they put it in a certain light to make it more dramatic.
But people haven’t stopped living just because things have changed, and they certainly haven’t stopped playing poker.
While casinos and poker rooms may have closed, it was virtually impossible to prevent people from congregating in private games.
And they did.
Once again, I will not enter into a discussion of the merits of such decisions. Everyone has their opinion, and let’s leave it at that.
But what this clearly showed is that there is no shortage of love for live poker, even in the most difficult and uncertain times.
In many places, private games were the only option for anyone who wanted to play live, and this side of the industry started to explode.
Just looking at the example of my city, we’ve gone from a fairly high-stakes semi-private game to four or five games that are much more accessible to regular players. And poker isn’t even that important here at all.
So, it can be assumed that these kinds of games have flourished in environments where people enjoy poker a lot more. At the very least, they helped keep the fire burning while waiting for the “real thing” to return.
Some will disagree, but that’s good.
This article is only about whether the pandemic will kill the love of live poker and luckily it doesn’t appear to be.
Summary: Live poker will be fine
The past has not been easy for anyone, and the world has seen many changes. We had to adapt to new circumstances, and everyone did the best they could.
When it comes to live poker, things have been pretty tough for a while, but a brighter future is finally on the horizon.
At the moment, concert halls still face some restrictions and limitations, which could deter some people from playing. But hopefully those will go away as well, and live poker will become itself again.
There could be a drop in numbers in the short term as people bounce back and readjust to the old lifestyle without worrying about the pandemic. But I don’t think that’s something the poker industry can’t handle.
This isn’t the first crisis she’s had to face, and it probably won’t be the last.
So, has the pandemic killed our love for live poker?
I really do not think so, and I am convinced that there is absolutely nothing to fear if one prefers the real feeling to the virtual one!