Cards Back in the Air: Gaming Regulators Allow Las Vegas Poker Rooms to Reopen 5-Handed

Having gone months without live poker, players flocked to the two Las Vegas poker rooms that opened on Thursday, with both Orleans and South Point enjoying plenty of traffic.

Orleans poker room after reopening

The Orleans poker room opened to eager players on Thursday, even if they had to play short-handed and were encouraged to wear masks. (Image: Facebook/Sue Rosen Soto)

That wasn’t so great for players who didn’t get to the rooms early, as the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s mandate of four-handed tables meant that wait lists were long.

Then in a surprise, both rooms began playing five-handed before Thursday ended as patrons reported that the NGCB decided to allow an extra player per table. Though it would seem unlikely for two casinos to independently put their licenses at risk at a time when the public is sure to be watching, CardsChat News has not yet been able to confirm that Nevada’s gaming regulators did indeed change the reopening rules.

Taking Poker Demand’s Temperature

Longtime poker pro and real estate agent Roy Cooke reported that Orleans used every other table and is taking a max rake of $3 with no jackpot drop, while South Point took a max rake of $3 with a $1 promo rake when a flop was seen.

Casinos recommend that players wear masks, but they are not required. Only about half of the players wore them, according to posters on social media.

Sue Rosen Soto reported on the Facebook group RealGrinders that the Orleans did a “non-invasive” temperature check of foreheads when patrons entered, using thermometers that can record a temperature without touching the skin.

She said about a dozen games were running at the Orleans, a mix of No-Limit Hold’em and Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, primarily, with players in the games that wouldn’t normally play short-handed.

“No badbeat? No promotions? 4 handed? Gotta be desperate to play,” wrote RealGrinders user Mary Ingraffia.

“We are…lol,” Soto replied.

User Alexander Lindenmuth pondered why players wouldn’t want to wear a mask, since the face-covering can be advantageous. “It covers your mouth. It’s perfect for live tells,” he wrote.

Others reported that while poker tables played short-handed, patrons in the slots and bar areas did not appear to be practicing social distancing. The NGCB told casinos they should discourage patrons from gathering in large groups under the reopening plan.

Muted Bustle in Las Vegas Casinos

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that light foot traffic and moderate vehicular traffic was observed on the Strip, which hasn’t fully opened up – including most of the casinos with the biggest poker rooms, such as Aria, Bellagio, and Encore.

The Venetian opened its poker room on Friday morning and the Bravo Live poker app showed six NLHE games running at around noon. Orleans was also running six games at that time, while South Point hosted nine games.

Johnny Kampis
Written by
Johnny Kampis
Johnny Kampis -- the author of "The Essential Guide to Vegas during the World Series of Poker" and "Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros" -- has been making the summer trek to Las Vegas from Alabama since 2004. When not playing poker, he's a professional journalist who's written for American Spectator, Fox News, HuffPost, Watchdog.org, and many others. He currently writes for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and serves on the FCC's media advisory panel.

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