Harrah’s poker room in Vegas can’t withstand COVID-19, closes for good

Jon Sofen
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Posted on August 14, 2020 4:27 pm EDT

Another bad beat for the Las Vegas poker community this week. Harrah’s revealed it has decided to permanently close its small but popular poker room. The room is being renovated and will soon transform into a non-smoking slot machine area.

Harrah’s is a budget-friendly hotel and casino compared to most Las Vegas Strip properties. Caesars Entertainment owns the casino and has determined that poker is no longer profitable for the company. As such, the seven-table card room has been, as ESPN commentator Norman Chad often says, “whamboozled.”

Harrah’s had one of the smallest poker rooms in town and only attracted the low-stakes players. No-limit Texas hold’em at the $1/$2 level — along with some occasional low-stakes limit games or $2/$5 no-limit — were the only games you’d find on most days.

No surprise among poker community

Many poker players who frequented Harrah’s weren’t surprised with the closure. Jennifer Gay Pique, a local grinder whose husband runs the card room at Sahara, wasn’t too surprised.

“Harrah’s Poker Room Las Vegas is permanently closing. Staff have already been informed. While I understand a certain amount of this is to be expected and fewer poker options isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the existing poker rooms, my heart always hurts a little when another room shutters,”

Harrah's poker room Vegas

Jennifer Thill Mrkvicka was saddened by the closure. She responded to Pique’s post, and wrote: “I am heartbroken. This was my home poker room, its where I started as an on call 119 dealer and left a shift manager. This room was the first place I played Texas hold em in a casino.”

But others on social media weren’t surprised and didn’t speak so highly of the Harrah’s poker room. The card room was small compared to most in Las Vegas, and only had a couple of games running most nights. During the World Series of Poker each summer, the room would get packed throughout the day thanks to an influx of poker players in town.

Coronavirus impacting Las Vegas poker scene

Harrah’s is the second card room in Sin City to announce a permanent closure. Binion’s Horseshoe and Casino downtown on Fremont Street, the original home of the World Series of Poker, was the first of the 31 poker rooms in town to go, back in June.

COVID-19 is having a negative impact on poker in Southern Nevada and all across the globe. Of the 31 card rooms that were open pre-coronavirus, just 14 of them have returned to action. And two — Binion’s and Harrah’s — have already announced permanent closures.

On a positive note, many of the reopened poker rooms have recently been granted permission to spread nearly full tables as opposed to the five-handed poker limits permitted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board back in June. At present, Santa Fe Station, Boulder Station, Red Rock Resort, Venetian, Orleans, and South Point are all up to eight-handed poker. But the city still has a long ways to go to get back to its pre-COVID days.