Live poker is finally back in Atlantic City, at Borgata

Borgata poker room
Jon Sofen
Posted on: October 20, 2020 12:11 PDT

At long last, live poker is coming back to New Jersey for the first time since the casinos closed in March. Atlantic City's Borgata Resort and Casino, one of the top places to play poker in the U.S., is reopening its massive card room Wednesday.

The reopening is a sight for sore eyes for the many poker players in the Garden State. Live poker has been M.I.A. for over seven months in the state thanks to stringent health restrictions from Gov. Phil Murphy.

Borgata, owned by MGM Resorts, has the largest poker room in the state, normally with over 80 poker tables. But when the card room reopens October 21, only 30 of those tables will be in operation. That is due to health safety guidelines required by the state. The tables will be spread out to adhere to social distancing concerns.

New Jersey has been one of the top COVID-19 hotbeds ever since the virus began spreading in the U.S. As of October 20, the Garden State is only 10th in total cases (225,960), but fourth in coronavirus-related deaths (16,350). New York still holds the lead for most deaths at 33,502.

Governor Murphy took strict action to limit the spread of the virus months ago. He forced the casinos to remain closed from mid-March until the Fourth of July Weekend. But he refused to permit poker rooms to reopen along with the casinos.

That has since changed, so long as the casinos adhere to several guidelines. At Borgata, each table must be spread out, leaving a safe distance from other tables. Face coverings are required at all times unless taking a drink. Food service won't be available at all in the poker room. Players must leave the room to eat. Polycarbonate dividers will be in place at each table, separating players from breathing and coughing all over each other.

Other safety protocols include temperature checks for all employees and guests upon entering the casino, standalone handwashing stations located throughout the casino, and hand sanitizer available upon request.

Welcome sight for New Jersey poker players

Borgata is currently the only casino ready to reopen its poker room in town. Prior to the global health pandemic, Atlantic City was home to five large card rooms. But the remaining four casinos — Bally's, Tropicana, Golden Nugget, and Harrah's — aren't quite ready to bring back poker. No dates for reopening the poker rooms have been announced by any of those casinos.

But one poker room is better than none for poker players in New Jersey, especially when that casino is the most popular place in town to play. Borgata has one of the biggest poker rooms in the country and regularly hosts major annual events such as the World Poker Tour's Borgata Winter Poker Open.

Tournaments, however, won't be back at Borgata any time soon. For the time being, only cash games will be spread. The poker room is set to reopen at 10 am on Wednesday for the first time since before St. Patty's Day.

“We are happy to welcome back our loyal players as we reopen Atlantic City’s market-leading East Coast poker destination,” said Melonie Johnson, President & Chief Operating Officer of Borgata Hotel Casino said in a press release. “We have made some changes to enhance our guest’s experience and are excited to reintroduce live poker and the Borgata Poker brand more safely.”

Featured image source: Flickr