Poker Live Games Shuttered But Online Play Continues

Shihaam Isaacs

Last updated: March 28, 2020

Casinos are dark and live poker tournaments are but one casualty of the global pandemic that has grabbed society by the throat and choked off all mass gatherings.European Poker Tour Sochi was scheduled from March 20-29 but that has been scrapped in favor of what looks like an October reschedule where EPT Sochi will run from October 2-11, with the European Poker Tour Main Event scheduled on October 6-11.

Severin Rasset, managing director of The Stars Group, wrote, "We are deeply disappointed that circumstances have forced us to postpone. However, our priority is the safety and good health of our players during this uncertain time."

Poker superstar and the new GGPoker ambassador, Danny Negreanu, was one of the first professional players to call for the suspension of live events, “It’s our responsibility to think not just of ourselves but those that are high risk. We are fortunate that we can self-quarantine. Not everyone is in that position to do so right now. Myself and my wife Amanda have been doing so for almost a week now. Any and all measures to help social distancing are worthwhile. The only way to slow the spread right now is social distancing.”

The World Poker Tour announced that its scheduled final tables for the WPT Gardens Championship, WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open and WPT L.A. Poker Classic have all been postponed and instead of being held in late March or early April, all of the final tables have been rescheduled to late May. However, even that could be optimistic depending on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The folks running the second-longest tournament series in the world, trailing only the WSOP, the Irish Poker Open, have rescheduled the live event to go online. This year’s iteration will be conducted via PartyPoker on an online platform, although not available in the United States, running from April 6-12. 

 

Online Poker Gets a Boost

There are still online tournaments in the most trustworthy sportsbooks listed by SBR because nothing says social distancing like a keyboard, a monitor, and a mouse. In fact, online poker numbers are soaring because, quite frankly, it is the only game in town. In the United States, four states including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania offer legal, regulated online poker provided the player is within state borders and at least 21-years-old. PokerStars is the only legal game to be had in Pennsylvania due to the casinos and live events being shutdown which has seen their average and peak numbers doubling and even tripling at some points. 

“We are seeing great results,” Eddie Motl, VP of communications for FOX Bet, the sports betting sister site of PokerStars, told Penn Bets, “with new sign-ups growing steadily in recent weeks.”

As evidenced above, one of the few silver linings in all of this is that the legal online poker rooms in those states where it is sanctioned will get more exposure and more traffic. That is nothing but good news for those who enjoy cash games and tournaments in the comfort of their own homes with all the anonymity their screens name can provide. PokerStars is reaping the benefits of players turning en masse to online poker and its 14th anniversary of the Sunday Million last week made history by surpassing the 62,500 entries needed for the guarantee at an average buy-in of $215 for a guaranteed $12.5 million with registration remaining open until Monday with a cap of 107,000 players. Although the cap wasn’t reached the final tally was a whopping 93,016 entries dwarfing last year’s Sunday Million count of 61,342 which was a record until this year. 

In the meantime, all we can do is wait for the storm to pass before we return to our daily routines, which for many of us, includes calling, checking, raising, and getting lucky or going broke on the river. Until then, online poker is proving to be a very lucrative alternative to the real thing.