For the bulk of the past few months, we have been relegated to news about online poker in this column. Social distancing requirements and health protocols have kept both everyday players and hardcore professionals away from the felt, forcing them to settle for the online sphere.
This past week seems like a good indication that a return to live poker on a larger scale might not be too far off. Several poker rooms across the country either reopened or announced immediate plans to do so, including several within East Coast gambling hotspots like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Restrictions are in place, of course, but it is definitely a positive sign going forward.
Poker Reopening Review
The biggest news of all of these returns comes from Atlantic City, where poker rooms have been dark since March. But that will all change after the announcement that the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa will have its poker room up and running again this coming week.
Why is this such a big deal? Well, first of all, the Borgata’s poker room is essentially the largest one in AC, with 30 tables available. That’s a good way to start.
And that’s the other key here. The Borgata is the first of the five casinos in Atlantic City to reopen for live poker. Considering the city’s reputation as a gambling mecca, it is a kind of symbolic victory for all poker players to see one of the casinos getting back into the live game business.
Of course, precautions are being taken. Live cash games with seven-handed action will be taking place at the 30 tables. Dividers will be placed between each player, and no spectators will be allowed in the room. There will be no food allowed in the poker room, and masks must be worn.
But those little inconveniences seem like a small price to pay for the chance to bring live poker back to AC. And the good news doesn’t end there.
- In Pennsylvania, Mount Airy Casino and The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono became the first casinos in the state to reinstate live poker this past week. Pennsylvania was one of the first states outside Nevada and New Jersey to legalize casino gambling, which makes it a hot spot for action.
- In Las Vegas, eight-handed action will be returning to Planet Hollywood. Many other Vegas casinos got back to poker action in June, making Planet Hollywood one of the last holdouts.
- Casino Helsinki, in Finland, announced a return to live action with a weeklong event scheduled for November. It will be the first live poker event in Finland since the shutdown. That makes it a nice item for those who players overseas who have been hankering to get back to live action.
All of these are encouraging signs. But there is no doubt there is a still way to go before the poker scene is quite back to where it was.
Still, it’s a matter of baby steps. The Borgata’s announcement and these other news items seem to indicate that the rumors of the demise of love poker seem to have been greatly exaggerated.
Poker as Life Book Club
This year, we’ve seen a boom in books that claim that learning poker can teach you a lot more than how to win a lot of money. Earlier this year, Maria Konnikova had a hit with The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself and Win. It was a combination of self-help and memoir that spoke to how poker’s life lessons can be healing and revelatory.
On the heels of that, this past week saw the release of How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices. To the uninitiated, this might not seem, based on the somewhat generic title, like it has much connection to the world of poker. But when you find out that the author is Annie Duke and that name rings a bell, you’ll figure it out quickly.
For those who might not know, Duke was one of the most popular poker pros at the time when real money Texas Hold’em events began showing up with regularity on TV in the 2000s. She was often the lone woman at some seriously star-studded tables. And she did more than hold her own; she, for a long-time, was the highest-earning woman in the sport and has multiple titles on some of the biggest stages.
Duke essentially retired from poker around 2012 and has turned her attention to other pursuits, such as consulting for major companies and corporate speaking. Along the way, she started to write books about these dual worlds, including the 2018 Thinking in Bets.
How to Decide is aimed at business owners and investors and attempts to demystify the decision-making process, using the lessons Duke learned in poker as an example. In interviews promoting the book, she has spoken a bit about the process.
Books like Duke’s and Konnikova’s are beneficial to the poker world because of how they shine a different light on the pastime, especially for those who might not know much about it. They run against the stereotype of poker players as seedy and against the stereotype of the game itself as being one that doesn’t have a lot of redeeming value.
Let’s hope that Duke continues to churn out informative, interesting books like these that branch far beyond the world of poker. In this way, she’s making a contribution to the game as impactful as the one she made when she played it.