Multiple card rooms in the Los Angeles area reopened Monday. But poker players aren’t permitted to enter the casinos. Instead, the games are being spread outdoors in makeshift covered rooms to appease the city’s COVID-19 health restrictions.
If you’ve been away from the live poker scene since March, you’ll barely recognize the game in LA. California now has more coronavirus cases than any other state, and Los Angeles County is the state’s top spreader. As a result, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is taking extreme measures to fight the deadly virus, or at least to limit the spread as much as possible.
Part of his plan, which has been heavily criticized — especially by Republicans but also some in his own political party — is to prevent indoor gatherings. Restaurants, for example, haven’t been permitted to serve customers inside for months, and can only offer outdoor seating, delivery, and takeout.
Card rooms in Los Angeles have also been closed since mid-March, except for a two-month period in June. But the local casinos recently pushed for the state to come to a compromise so they can reopen for business. So, to appease Governor Newsom, the casinos offered up a proposal — spread poker games outdoors. The proposal was accepted, but additional health safety measures are in place that will impact the game.
Pleasant outdoor weather
All six Los Angeles card rooms returned to action Monday. That includes the largest poker room in the world, Commerce Casino, which has over 200 tables, though most are unavailable right now. Other large rooms such as Bicycle Casino (“The Bik”) and Hollywood Park are back in business effective October 5.
Southern California has nice weather for most of the year, so playing outdoors might be a pleasant change for some poker players. The 10-day weather forecast calls for sun and temps in the 80s. Each newly-reopened card room is enclosed with a tent roof in place to block out the sun and keep the outdoor room comfortable for players.
But there are some aspects of the game at these outdoors casinos that may be less than ideal for certain players. First off, face masks are required at all times. And there is no exclusion for wearing a face covering while eating, drinking, or smoking because eating, drinking, and smoking are prohibited while playing poker due to county health guidelines.
All patrons are required to pass a temperature check upon entering the room. If your body temperature is high, you’ll be asked to leave. One of the most common symptoms of coronavirus is a fever.
As for playing poker, the tables are only set for four-handed play. So if you don’t like to play short-handed and you’re in the LA area, you might want to travel a bit further south and play at one of the four San Diego area card rooms that are currently open.
One final new change players must get used to is to sit behind a plexiglass divider in place to separate players from each other. Many poker rooms around the world have installed these safety dividers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But there aren’t any studies yet available that prove they actually do help stop the spread.
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