5 Best Things Happening in Poker During the Global Health Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic caused the global live poker scene to take an extended vacation. But the game isn’t dead, and there are actually some exciting happenings going on right now in poker.

Coronavirus pandemic pokerstars poker

The coronavirus pandemic won’t destroy the poker community. (Image: pokerstars.com)

Over the past two months, the poker world has gone through some wholesale changes, but it wasn’t by design. Due to COVID-19, casinos in many countries, including the US and UK, are closed. With no place to play live poker, many have turned to the internet to get their poker fix.

It’s hard to project when cardrooms will begin reopening. That all depends on the continued progression of the coronavirus pandemic. Some casinos are expected to reopen in Las Vegas, a poker hub, in late May. Until then, we’ll focus on the positive aspects of the non-live poker scene going on right now.

1. Galfond Challenge

If you haven’t been following the Galfond Challenge, you’re missing out. Read up on our coverage to get caught up. The Cliff’s Notes version is that Phil Galfond is in the midst of multiple, high-stakes PLO challenges at his Run it Once poker site against some of the top players in the world.

In the first challenge, against online pro “VeniVidi1993,” Galfond rallied from a €900,000 deficit to pull out the victory in the final few hands of the 25,000-hand challenge. Many fans referred to the improbable comeback as the best in poker history. And that might not be hyperbole.

Galfond is now in the middle of two additional challenges, one against Bill Perkins and the other against “ActionFreak,” another online poker pro. The Galfond Challenge has served as an entertaining replacement for televised live poker tournaments during the coronavirus pandemic. You can watch every hand of the Galfond Challenge live on the Run it Once Twitch channel.

1b. Jungleman vs OMGClayAiken

Galfond, known as “OMGClayAiken” during the Full Tilt Poker days, will one day face Dan “Jungleman” Cates in what will likely be the most anticipated Galfond Challenge. But this coming Wednesday, the two poker superstars will square off on Twitch in a one-day, mini-challenge. The legendary pros will play 750 hands of PLO, and the loser must record a video praising the winner.

2. GGPoker Hosting Largest Online Poker Series Ever

GGPoker is taking big strides toward becoming a serious player in the online poker industry. Not only has the poker site snagged away former PokerStars pros Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, they’re currently hosting a $100 million guaranteed WSOP Super Circuit Series from May 3-31.

The series features hundreds of tournaments, including 18 WSOP Circuit events. When all is said and done, GGPoker will have hosted the largest online poker series in history. Not bad for a poker site that didn’t receive much publicity less than a year ago.

3. No Live Poker Equals Less Poker Twitter Drama

There are a couple of positives to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the live poker scene to take a break. First off, the online poker sites are booming like its 2011. But an even bigger positive is that the lack of live poker seems to have slowed the poker drama on Twitter.

Sure, a little drama from time to time can be entertaining. But when everyone’s playing live and interacting in-person with each other, the fights get a bit out of hand and it tends to translate to Twitter flame wars. Online poker doesn’t seem to attract as much drama, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

4. Private Home Games

Who says you can’t host a home game while in quarantine? During the coronavirus pandemic, many live players have continued their own home games or have started playing home games through play money poker platforms — on sites and apps from PokerStars to Poker Bros.

How it works is the host creates a private group, and then invites others to the league. The online poker games are played using play money chips. But that’s not to stop a private group of friends from adding a real-money component. While sending money to a poker site to fund your account isn’t legal in most US jurisdictions, there’s little anyone can do about friends who agree to attach real money to their play chips. Then using Zelle, Venmo, Paypal and other payment apps, players can send their buyins to the host or banker, who then disburses winnings through the same payment methods.

No rake, and no worries among trusted friends.

5. PokerStars SCOOP Series

It’s that time of year again — the PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP). And the coronavirus pandemic can’t stop arguably the top annual internet poker series. SCOOP began April 30 and runs until May 19. This one is the biggest SCOOP series ever, with over $85 million in prize money guaranteed.

Benny Glaser has already won his fifth career SCOOP title, tying him for third among all-time winners. Glaser is also a talented live player, with more than  $2 million in live tournament cashes, and three WSOP bracelets.

The 2020 SCOOP series features a $1 million guaranteed high roller with a $10,300 buy-in on May 19, and both a $10,300 Main Event ($5 million guaranteed starting May 17) and $1,050 PLO Main Event ($400,000 guaranteed starting May 17).

Jon Sofen
Written by
Jon Sofen
Semi-pro poker player with 17 years experience on the felt and more than five years working as professional poker media.

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