World Poker Tour (WPT) executive director and Tournament Directors Association (TDA) founder Matt Savage may ban face masks at his events following a recent Facebook poll.
Wanting to know the community’s thoughts on the issue of players covering their faces, Savage started a Facebook poll on January 7. Running for ten days and asking whether hidden faces should be against TDA rules, Savage found 65 percent of respondents were in favor of the motion.
Nowhere to Hide in Poker
Although far from comprehensive, results from the survey of 308 players echo the sentiments voiced by a number of top pros in recent years.
As poker veteran, Doyle Brunson has long been against anything that masked a player’s face, including sunglasses, which often caused controversy on High Stakes Poker (see video above).
Daniel Negreanu has also taken issue with shades. Deviating from the argument about reading tells, the Canadian tweeted in 2015 that sunglasses open up the possibility of foul play.
A player wearing sunglasses is at least 1000 times more likely to be marking cards. Not all sunglass wearers are cheats obviously.
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) June 4, 2015
In contrast to Brunson and Negreanu, Phil Laak and Phil Hellmuth have not only covered up their faces on route to major titles but made it part of their brand.
Over the last decade, tournament organizations have also taken opposing views to sunglasses and the issue of face covering. When PokerStars Big Game first aired in 2010, shades were outlawed because the organizers believed it would detract from the show’s entertainment value.
In contrast, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) partnered with Blue Shark Optics in 2011 and still sells the product to this day. Likening poker and sunglasses to peanut butter and jelly, WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said the deal was a natural fit.
Distraction or Protection
Players may not have the option to hide at future events operating under the TDA banner, including the WPT, if Savage listens to many his followers. Reading through the replies, a vocal majority feel that anything covering a significant portion of the face is more than just a bad look.
“I don’t enjoy playing with players who don’t interact, but I also believe it’s a weird thing to regulate. Wear what you want – if you are that afraid that I can soul read you, then I can probably do it without seeing your face,” Carey Pickus wrote.
Lloyd Fontillas pointed out that the medical masks have a legitimate purpose in blocking out smoke and viruses. However, not everyone shared his views on this topic.
“Wtf. What’s next, wearing gas masks in case the apocalypse comes? Stay home if you’re scared of catching a cold,” quipped Roberto Cat.
This isn’t the first time Savage has attempted to gauge the community’s thoughts on accessories at the poker table. In 2017, he hosted an event at the California Poker Championships and banned everything from hoodies to cell phones.
Dubbed the #SocialExperiment, the tournament was designed to create more convivial atmosphere and make the game more appealing to casual players. Initial feedback was positive but implementing a complete ban on face covering at future events may not please everyone.
If specific rule changes aren’t implemented before the summer, they will likely to be a talking point at the annual TDA Summit, which takes place in Las Vegas on June 28 and 29.