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Poker in the time of Coronavirus

Playing Poker in the Time of Coronavirus

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The past few days have brought staggering announcements regarding attempts to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Some travel between the US and Europe has been suspended. Many colleges are closing campuses and moving to online coursework for the remainder of the semester. With the discovery of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s contraction of the virus, the NBA has suspended the season indefinitely. March Madness has been cancelled for the first time in history.

Those of us who love to play at our local cardrooms are left with the question: what do we do in this time of coronavirus? Despite many closures of places where large crowds gather, as of this writing, most casinos and cardrooms have resisted ceasing operations. Many casinos, such as Foxwoods in Connecticut, have outlined increased safety protocols. Others have limited such activities as buffets and large shows. However, poker rooms generally remain open for business. Right now you are left to decide for yourself how to proceed.

What elements and options should you consider?

Social Distancing

First of all, you can just stop playing live poker until this virus has been contained. If you love poker and want to fill the gap, you can play online (if your state allows), spend time watching videos, reading, or training. In addition to APT’s wonderful training exercises, we host tournaments daily where you can interact with other players online even if your state does not allow online gambling. Experts generally agree that the only way to contain the spread of this or any virus is preventing unnecessary interactions with other people. Playing poker in a casino is definitely NOT a good way to stop the spread of Coronavirus. It would not be surprising if by the time you are reading this, live poker is all but stopped. But below, we discuss some of the considerations to make if you do decide to play live poker.

Environmental Assessment

If you do decide to play, you need to inform yourself about the hazards, particularly those in your region. Read and listen to local news outlets. If your area is particularly hard hit, your decisions about poker, and all other social activities, need even greater scrutiny. This is not to say that low impact areas are immune: one of the fatalities in the US has occurred in sparsely populated South Dakota. But high incidence areas certainly increase your risk.

Assess any venues you walk into as to how they are addressing the situation. Particularly for poker rooms, have they posted increased safety procedures? Do they appear to be practicing good hygiene practices such as cleaning chips, tables, restrooms, and all surfaces regularly? Are they offering access to hand sanitizer? Is the general air quality good in the room.

Personal Assessment

Anyone can be a carrier. Even if you are young and/or not significantly symptomatic yourself, you can transmit the disease to people at higher risk. So your concern should not be solely your own vulnerability. However, if you are among those with greater susceptibility, which right now looks to be older individuals and those with existing health issues, you really should plan to stay at home.

Protecting Yourself

If you do decide to play live, follow guidelines to reduce risk – frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, cover your mouth if coughing or sneezing, and do not stay at tables with people who appear unwell.

Most of all, behave in a manner safe to yourself and others. This highly unusual time calls for thoughtful and respectful decisions. Poker is a great game that will still be there when health concerns subside. Poker players and card room owners will need to be adaptable and flexible in the coming weeks and months.

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Paul Gearan

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