Weekend Positive Vibes: Live Poker in the US is Officially Back (For the Most Part)

3 min read

The coronavirus didn’t kill off live poker like some pessimists projected a year ago. In fact, it’s clear the poker industry is crushing it right now. And there’s plenty of evidence to back up that claim.

live poker coronavirus
Aside from the annoying face masks, live poker is back with a vengeance. (Image: tampabay.com)

Alright, so we’re still wearing face masks at the poker tables and sitting behind those annoying plexiglass dividers (in most US casinos). And quite a few poker rooms, even in Las Vegas, still haven’t reopened. But the poker industry has gotten as close to its pre-coronavirus days as it’s been in over a year. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.

The first sign that things are getting back to normal around these parts is live poker tournaments are attracting huge crowds. Just take a look at some of our recent Big Winners of the Week articles and see for yourself the size of these fields.

The $5,000 buy-in WPT Venetian in Las Vegas finished with a field of 937 entries, 203 more than it had the last time it took place (2019). Down in South Florida, the $3,500 WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open had a whopping — get this — 1,573 entries back in January.

Live Poker Cash Games are Booming

It isn’t just the major live poker tournaments drawing in massive fields. Riverside Casino in Eastern Iowa is having a banner weekend with its $1,100 MSPT Regional Main Event. The $300,000 guarantee was completely obliterated as 862 players signed up. In Las Vegas, the recently completed Wynn Spring Classic’s 16 events had more than 4,700 combined entries.

We could go on and on listing tournaments that attracted huge fields in recent weeks, but you get the point. Cash game attendance all across the country has been on a steady rise since casinos reopened last summer. If you’ve paid attention to the Bravo app recently, you’ve probably noticed the lengthy wait lists at many card rooms in the US, not just in Las Vegas and other poker hotbeds.

On Saturday Night, the MGM National Harbor Casino Resort in Maryland had over 30 games running. The nearby Maryland Live casino had over 25 cash games spread after midnight. The Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa, Florida was absolutely packed with 31 tables full, with a wait list, late into the night.

With thousands of Spring Breakers heading to Las Vegas and the 70-degree temps this time of year, most of the card tables have been packed this weekend. Aria, Bellagio, Wynn, The Orleans and Venetian all had wait lists running late in the evening on Friday and Saturday.

As exciting as it is to see live poker rebound from the COVID-19 closures in 2020, everything isn’t roses. Masks are still required in nearly every poker room, and plexiglass dividers are still separating players in most card rooms. On top of that, there are numerous poker rooms around the country, including 11 in Las Vegas, that still have yet to reopen. Many of those rooms will likely remain closed permanently.

But considering where the live poker scene was just eight months ago — non-existent — there isn’t much to complain about right now.

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