Wearing a Mask to Your Poker Room: What to Expect

2 years ago
Wearing a Mask to Your Poker Room: What to Expect
21 Jun

Poker rooms are reopening across the states now. While several places have reopened their slots and table games, poker has remained off most of their menus. 

Ostensibly this is because poker is a particularly dangerous game in a pandemic. In reality, it is probably because the hourly take from raking a poker table tends to be lower than at roulette or blackjack.

In an effort to reassure punters that playing a few hands of cards isn’t a death sentence, casinos in Vegas are instituting mandatory mask rules. Laying aside the loss of life question, a lot of people are asking how this will impact the dynamics of the game.

What is live poker when you can’t read anyone’s faces

While many players already wear hoodies and wrap-around shades to reduce non-verbal leakage, the new rules will mean everyone is covered chin to cheek.

While some experts suggest the false confidence might lead to additional tells and giveaways in other areas, some are pointing out that faces are often the least reliable source of reads. Instead, players focus more on hand and eye movements or on non-body language tells like betting patterns.

The biggest effect, however, is likely to be on the social side of the game. Humans like to see who they’re talking to, and covering faces will muffle table talk and have an impact on the sense of community about the table.

Whatever the effects on the game, players should remember that masks are not going to make a game completely safe. They reduce transmission but do not eliminate it.

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Jon is a freelance writer and novelist who learned to play poker after watching Rounders in year 9. He has been giving away his beer money at cards ever since. Currently he is based in Bristol where he makes sporadic donations to the occasional live tournament or drunken late night Zoom session. He ...Read more


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