In 2020, live poker gaming was severely lacking. Players were unable to take part in live games due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit the US in March, casinos shut down, which meant no poker. When casinos started to reopen some weeks and months later, poker was still nonexistent. Operators had to figure out how to offer poker gaming in a way that would keep players and employees safe. As 2020 came to an end, a few events had taken place with restrictions to ensure safety. Now, the first major event of 2021 is about to begin in Florida, and many wonder if the event will be safe.
Lucky Hearts Open
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida is hosting the World Poker Tour (WPT) Lucky Hearts Open. The main event of the stop begins on Thursday and is the first live WPT event since the tour canceled last year due to COVID.
The event is expected to draw a crowd as it has a buy-in of $3,500 and features a $1,000,0000 prize pool. At least 285 players need to compete so the guaranteed prize pool will be reached. According to local news reports, some 1,000 people are attending preliminary events each day. If this is any indication, the event is sure to be a success!
The casino’s ballroom will host the tour, with 40,000 square feet of space available. There are 60 tables in the room, where players will be seated 8 to a table, plus the dealer. Each player will be separated by plexiglass for social distancing. Everyone in the poker room must wear a mask.
What About COVID?
As the Lucky Hearts Open is expected to take place, many are wondering if the live poker event will be safe. Poker has taken place across the US in a safe manner. However, Florida is one that is facing a severe surge when it comes to positive cases of the virus.
Each day, as many as 16,000 new cases are being reported. With so many new cases in the state, is it a good idea to host the WPT in Florida? The World Poker Tour was contacted by news outlets on the matter, including Casino.org. They did not comment on any safety concerns or other issues.
For many, the idea of hosting a poker event right now, in Florida particularly, is something that should not be done. The casino is taking every precaution, but the virus could still be spread. Players are sharing cards and poker chips, which increases the likelihood of infection, even if the items are cleaned on a regular basis.
In most of the US, this event would not be allowed to take place. However, the Hard Rock is operated by the Seminole Tribe on reservation lands. The property is not subject to the jurisdiction of the state and does not have to follow coronavirus restrictions.
Hopefully, the poker tournament will be completed with everyone safe and sound, with no new cases of the virus after it is over.