Vietnam poker scene now flourishing thanks to early pandemic response

Posted on: July 07, 2020 07:29 PDT

Live poker looks a little different in Las Vegas, if you can even find it. With properties opening on Las Vegas Blvd at a staggered pace, and with poker rooms being an afterthought in Sin City due to social distancing requirements that make playing difficult and not very profitable, the Silver State isn’t exactly a mecca of hope for poker players.

But it turns out Vietnam might be.

Poker rooms in Vietnam appear to be back to normal, with the number of COVID-19 cases dropping to zero.

Images on Facebook show packed poker rooms with players seated at nine-handed tables. Visibly absent are masks, plexiglass, or any evidence that there’s a pandemic to control.

That’s because there isn’t one. Vietnam is one of the few COVID-19 success stories dotting the globe. Despite its border with China and a population nearing 100 million people, there were just a few hundred coronavirus cases on its soil — and not one death.

Experts credit Vietnam’s ‘extreme but sensible’ response. Instead of a slow reaction, Vietnam instituted travel restrictions in early January, well before it even had a single case. Schools also remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday and remained closed until the middle of May.

Today, poker has returned to somewhat normal, with Hanoi’s Suncity Casino now open and the city’s first poker tournament now in the books, with around 400 players anteing up.

But if you’re a non-Vietnam resident looking to play, you’ll have to wait. Vietnam’s borders continue to be closed and it’s not clear when they’ll reopen.

There is some optimism elsewhere in the world, though. Some European poker rooms have reopened, including King’s Casino Rozvadov in Czech Republic, with poker games not requiring a mask since June.

The United States, however, doesn’t look too promising for poker players. The country is among the hardest hit, and experts fear the recent July 4th holiday could fuel a massive COVID-19 outbreak in the weeks to come.