2020 was easily the worst period for livepoker. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down card rooms and casinos worldwide,and all major competitions were either canceled or moved online.
This was a huge blow for the poker industry,which, to its credit, has managed to pick up the pieces and find cleverworkarounds to keep the ball rolling. For the most part, that meant movingthings to the virtual realm.
Were now almost six months months into 2021,and things are slowly starting to get back on track. That said, althoughcasinos are bringing back live tournaments and cash games, its not really thesame as before.
In most places, youre still supposed to wear amask while playing. There are Plexiglas dividers between players, mandatorytemperature checks, and all sorts of other measures in place.
If this trend continues, the natural questionthat comes to mind is: will the pandemic kill our love for live poker?
Are people willing to jump through all theloops and hoops just to play some live hands, or will they give up on tryingand transfer to online games or move on altogether?
Never in poker history have we witnessed anything remotely similar to what came to pass in 2020. At one point, Las Vegas came to a complete halt, with casinos and poker rooms shutting down entirely, waiting for some better times.
It was shocking and unprecedented.
The futures of many people working in thegambling industry were hanging in the balance, not just in Vegas but all overthe world.
At the same time, many poker players took a bigblow as well. Whether semi-professionally or full-time, there are many peoplewho make a living playing live poker.
You might think that moving online was theeasiest option for them, but thats not necessarily the case.
First of all, live and online poker arent the same.
You could go as far as to say theyre two completely different games. They require different skill sets, and going from live to online without any proper transition period and expecting to be profitable is optimistic, to say the least.
Secondly, not everyone has access to online poker.
In the US, for example, there are only a fewregulated states, and you can only play online if youre inside one of thesestates. Moving across the US in the middle of the pandemic to play poker wasalso not a real option for most.
So, there was a big outcry from all sides ofthe industry for the first few months. People wanted live games back, but thisjust wasnt possible at the time.
So, they waited patiently to see what transpired,hoping for the best.
After some months of complete shutdown, thelive poker scene slowly started to get back on track.
Everybody was excited, from dealers and casinostaff to players. The worst was now behind them, and things would slowly startto fall into place.
But many players werent ready for what theyfound in their favorite poker room.
Government-mandated rules havent made it easy for the operators. Theyve had to put all sorts of preventive measures in place, from temperature checks at the doors and face masks for the players and the staff, to plastic barriers between seats and limiting the number of players at the table.
Im not going to go into the validity of anysuch measures or try to argue for or against them. Its far beyond the scope ofthis article and, frankly, a rather moot discussion at this point in time.
The bottom line is, the live poker experience haschanged quite drastically.
For those who have been in the game for awhile, this was quite a shock. As much as they were looking forward to gettingback to the felt, this new environment just didnt sit right with many.
Unsurprisingly, social media was flooded by thecomments coming from both sides of the fence.
Some were over the moon that they were able toplay live again, regardless of the restrictions. Others, though, felt like allof it was killing the experience and took the life out of it.
No matter what side you take, its quite clearthat the pandemic and all it brought with it had a big impact on live poker andhas put a big strain on it.
Eventually, these measures will (hopefully)become a thing of the past, but will some people lose the passion for livegames in the process?
It seems that the world is finally on its wayto leave the pandemic behind. Vaccinations are happening as we speak, andcountries worldwide are lifting restrictions.
Slowly, things are coming back to where theyused to be prior to 2020.
But it could still be a while before peoplefeel comfortable sitting in a room with hundreds of strangers breathing behindtheir necks.
There is still a lot of uncertainty in the air,and so many questions are left unanswered.
While things are certainly looking up, it seemswere still a far cry away from going back to the old normal.
After more than a year of fear, threats, andwarnings, many people wont be in a rush to go back to the old,carefree lifestyle.
Some will, for sure, but not everyone has thesame view of how to handle the situation.
Some in the poker community believe that thingsshouldnt be rushed. Even if there are vaccines and a much better understandingof the coronavirus, they prefer a slow and cautious approach.
You can be certain that people who share thisopinion will be in no rush to come back to crowded live tables.
These feelings will likely have a significantimpact on the general love for live poker. Will it kill it completely?
Absolutely not, but Im sure that there will bea lot of hesitation in the coming months, especially with regards to bigevents.
Its quite clear that even with all thepositive changes as of late, the live poker industry will have some challengesto overcome to get back where it used to be.
On one side, some players may avoid live eventsand games for one reason or another. On the other, there is also the issue ofprofitability.
Casinos and poker rooms have to meet certainexpectations to keep their business profitable.
In most places, poker isnt exactly the primary activity. Its often used more as a way to attract people to the venue, in hopes theyll also spend some time playing slots or pay a visit to the pit.
With the new challenges and restrictions, manyplaces may be put off the idea of hosting live poker altogether. Its a lot ofhassle for very little gain, and if their capacity is reduced as it is, theremay be very little reason to organize live poker.
Luckily, this doesnt apply to some of thebiggest casinos, especially those in Las Vegas, where poker has been a part oftheir overall offering for decades.
So, on their part, casinos will try to getthings back on track.
For example, the WSOP has already announcedthere will be a live event this year (albeit a few months later than usual),and the response from the community has been largely positive.
How big of a crowd will they be able toattract?
This remains to be seen, but many people areitching to play live poker and jump at the opportunity after such a long forcedbreak.
Several other Las Vegas casinos have alsoannounced major live events, and these things will certainly help restore thelove for live poker and get people back in the right mindset.
Moving forward, the poker industry will play ahuge role in what happens next with live poker.
Theyve been fighting an uphill battle for along time now, but thats the only way forward.
If major venues and organizations decide theyvehad enough and throw in the towel, people will have no other option than toaccept it and move on.
When you read and watch the media, there isoften the feeling that the whole world has come to a stop in so many of itssegments.
Well, its no secret the media love drama, sothey show things in a certain light to achieve a more dramatic effect.
But people havent stopped living just becausethings have changed, and they most certainly havent stopped playing poker.
While casinos and poker rooms may have shutdown, it was virtually impossible to stop people from gathering in privategames.
And gathered they did.
Again, I wont go into a discussion about themerits of such decisions. Everyone has their own opinion, and lets leave it atthat.
But what this has clearly shown is that thereis no lack of love for live poker, even in the most difficult and uncertain oftimes.
In many places, private games were the onlyoption for anyone wanting to play a live session, and this side of the industrystarted to boom.
Just looking at the example of my city, we wentfrom having one semi-private, fairly high-stakes game to like four or five gamesthat are much more approachable to regular players. And poker isnt even thatbig here at all.
So, its safe to assume that these kinds ofgames have flourished in environments where people are much more into poker. Ifnothing else, they helped keep the fire burning while waiting for the realthing to come back.
Some will disagree, but thats fine.
This article is only about whether the pandemicwill kill the love for live poker, and, luckily, this doesnt seem to be thecase.
The past period wasnt easy on anyone, and theworld has seen many changes. We had to adapt to new circumstances, and everyonehandled it the best they could.
As for live poker, things were quite rough fora while, but there is finally a brighter future on the horizon.
For the time being, live venues still have todeal with some restrictions and limitations, which might put some people offthe idea of playing. But, hopefully, these will go away as well, and live pokerwill go back to its old self.
There might be a short-term fall in numbers aspeople bounce back and readjust to the old style of life without worrying aboutthe pandemic. But I dont think thats anything the poker industry canthandle.
Its not the first crisis it had to deal with,and it probably wont be the last.
So, has the pandemic killed our love for livepoker?
I really dont think so, and Im convinced thatthere is absolutely nothing to worry about if you prefer the actual felt overthe virtual one!
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