Las Vegas is slowly becoming an eight-handed poker town

Jon Sofen
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Posted on August 13, 2020 5:16 pm EDT

Short-handed poker is dying off in Las Vegas just two months after the casinos reopened. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) is beginning to relax its coronavirus restrictions, allowing for card rooms to spread up to eight-handed games. And it’s making for busier poker games in the poker capital of the world.

On June 4, Gov. Steve Sisolak gave the A-okay to Nevada’s plethora of casinos to open their doors for the first time since mid-March. But the GCB at first put some strict restrictions on poker rooms that made it difficult for most of them to get back in action.

The limitations required four-handed games, maximum, though that lasted only a short while before the GCB permitted five-handed play. Only Orleans, South Point, Golden Nugget, and Venetian reopened during the first week of June due to the forced short-handed play. That’s out of 31 poker rooms in town prior to COVID-19.

But the poker rooms began finding ways to convince the GCB to increase the table maximums, including installing plexiglass dividers. And shortly after Governor Sisolak required face masks to be worn in public at every business, the GCB was more willing to permit near-full poker games.

Two more card rooms move to eight-handed play

Earlier this month, we reported that Venetian and three Station Casinos – Santa Fe, Red Rock, Boulder – received permission from the GCB to start spreading eight-handed games. And now two additional casinos — South Point and Orleans — are joining the party.

So, out of the 14 card rooms in town that have reopened since June, five now have eight-handed poker games available. And you can expect more to join that group soon.

Only three of the 14 poker rooms are still stuck playing short-handed. Caesars Palace, Flamingo, and Golden Nugget, remain at five-handed play. All three of the MGM Resorts rooms that have reopened — Aria, Bellagio, and MGM Grand — continue to play with a six-player cap. Sahara, one of the smallest poker rooms in town, is now allowed to have up to seven players per table, and plexiglass dividers are in place.

Every poker room in Las Vegas that offers seven-handed-or-more games now has plexiglass dividers protecting the players at each table.

Even with the increase in players per table, Las Vegas’ card rooms are still a bit shorter-handed than they were pre-coronavirus. Every card room in town before the global health pandemic hit spread nine or 10-handed games.