That was the big question asked by Doug Polk this week when he hosted Garrett Adelstein on his podcast, the highstakes cash game specialist known as “G-Man” talking about all things poker, and in particular how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of the game.
Garrett Adelstein expected live poker games to die any time in the last decade
It is a timely question, but one that might seem defunct with a live World Series of Poker about to take place in Las Vegas, having skipped 2020 due to coronavirus, and a slew of other events taking place recently.
However, it is one worth asking, as the vast majority of players aren’t among those who can jet off to Cyprus for the recent Poker Masters series, or even tick the WSOP off their bucket list given travel restrictions and various vaccine issues.
Adelstein, a regular on live at the Bike and various other livestreamed cash games, has an unexpected answer when Polk quizzes him on “the current state of live poker.”
“I always just feel grateful to play in a good game!” replies the 35-year-old, Arizona-born pro, saying he has expected the live games to die at any time in the last decade or so.
“I’ve never felt that more so than Covid…” says Garrett, asking rhetorically: “Why are people going to go back to live casinos and risk their health?”
That question has been asked a lot recently, and it’s been unclear how to replicate a live boom when the online game has proved a massive draw throughout the past year and a half.
Live tournament and cash game pros transitioned to online play, recs focused their efforts more on the virtual version, and an influx of new and lapsed players flocked to the internet in pursuit of an escape from the tedious nature of a global pandemic lockdown.
All the major events found an outlet in online poker, but there was always going to be the day that live poker was a possibility, even if it involves masks and restrictions and reductions of numbers for a time at least.
Live games are still highly popular
Adelstein believes live poker has a lot going for it, while online is facing problems that will only worsen.
“People just love live poker,” he states confidently. “I don’t want to go on a rant shitting on online poker, but it’s no secret the games are dying, real time assistance is a very real problem, and to me playing live poker in a casino versus online, there’s just no comparison…”
In Garrett’s opinion, live games are “thriving” despite masks and such things as being unable to eat at the table.
“People are starving and they can’t breathe but they’ll sit there for 10 hours cos they love poker that much!”
It’s not only the upcoming WSOP that will test the waters and reveal the numbers of those happy to be back at live venues.
King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Leon Tsoukernik’s “poker island” in the Czech Republic, hosted the WSOPC this month and smashed their €1million Main Event guarantee when 912 runners turned up.
Day 2 has started. WSOP Circuit main event has €1.3 million + in the prizepool! pic.twitter.com/RFtgEHuPjC
— King's Resort (@PokerroomKings) September 12, 2021
Live poker has survived the pandemic
Last month, the GUKPT Manchester Main Event drew almost 500 entries, and the partypoker EAPT is currently running in Siberia, while Slovakia is already on its second big festival, with another to come soon.
Of course, it’s not going to be plain sailing as we enter and re-enter various phases of opening up venues and potential future Covid-related outbreaks and lockdowns.
And for some, mandatory vaccination and/or masks, Covid passports and various other issues might still put them off playing live, but the numbers don’t lie, and so far it’s looking like live poker has survived the pandemic.
To paraphrase the great American author Mark Twain, “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated!” may well be live poker’s new motto.
If you are among those planning to get back out into real world poker, you will definitely not want to miss this important article by our VIP Grinders team.
Mark Patrickson investigates how the initial post-Covid boom for live poker will see plenty of juicy games on the go, but also the need to change your approach after 18 months of online poker!
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