SAHARA adds live poker tournaments even as Nevada struggles with increased COVID

Jon Pill
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Posted on: September 7, 2020 6:51 pm EDT

The SAHARA Las Vegas has had its doors open for a few weeks now. They opened their poker room again in August. Now they are putting on weekly tournaments and advertising them hard across the poker-sphere along with a “$5,000 bad beat jackpot.”

Once a week, up to forty-eight players can fork out $120 — plus $100 for rebuys — to play in their small but iconic poker room.

This comes as a pleasant surprise for any Vegas-based players or holidaymakers who miss live poker. Small weekly tournaments are how a huge number of recreational players consume live poker. Tournament rebuy limits act as their own stop-losses.

However, some might argue that opening Vegas poker rooms is risking disaster, since COVID is a real problem in Vegas.

COVID is taking off in the Nevada desert in precisely the way a wildfire wouldn’t. Despite its sparse population, when assessed on COVID cases per million, Nevada is the 10th worst state. And the statistics for Nevada don’t include those people who flew in on Friday, caught a dose of the virus, and started showing symptoms after flying home on Monday.

Paradise, Nevada, home of the Las Vegas Strip, is about 1,000 miles east of Camp Funston, which was ground zero for the Spanish Flu in 1918. But the two cities are much closer than that in spirit.

Safety concerns

To combat concerns about COVID, the SAHARA has put on the usual security theatre.

the SAHARA has installed sneeze-guards at their seven poker tables. And they have limited each table to seven players plus a dealer.

“Since welcoming back resort guests, the SAHARA Las Vegas has followed a comprehensive outline of health and safety protocols under the resort’s SAHARA Cares program,” their website claims. “Under this program, a number of contactless solutions were developed to assist with social distancing measures including “Take a Seat” table game reservations.

However, the rules once seated at the table are less encouraging. The casino sets out to “encourage our guests to please maintain a safe social distance.”

Hope for poker

Chips and cards are still potential sources of transmission. Masks, even if properly worn, are not 100% effective at stopping the virus’s transmission.

The hope is that the precautions are enough to slow any spread, and to keep players safe. How well they work will be interesting to review as Vegas continues to open. 

And if the SAHARA do manage to pull safe live poker off, that is fantastic news for us, the players. Many players value the human contact of brick and mortar games. The WSOP Online’s best efforts still have proved no substitute for the real thing. So most of us are rooting for live poker to make its comeback.

We will continue to track American poker’s re-opening here.