While you can binge Netflix until your eyes bleed, view endless cat memes, or start an online poker clothing company, there’s only so much you can do at home. After enough time, you eventually feel like a caged animal that needs to go out into civilization.
COVID-19 has definitely put the entire world on the threshold of misery… and not the kind that noted Mike Caro talks about. Whether you believe it’s all a hoax, you think it’s incredibly dangerous, or somewhere in between, one thing’s for sure: at least for now, we’re living in a different world.
So naturally, when I found out that Maryland Live! Casino was re-opening its doors, I was at least curious to see how what this new world would look like. Plus, selfishly, I wanted to raise brand visibility and show people how cool our poker merch is.
Based on my trip, here’s what you can expect when you come back.
Entering the casino
Me, Ashley, who is my girlfriend and CFO of Felt U, and my buddy Greg strolled into Live! around midnight. Not sure how it’s going to be at other casinos, but at Live!, we had to make an online reservation as part of their phased re-opening plan.
After we presented our reservations and our IDs (you know, because I look 12), we were asked to smile at the camera and stand still while a some machine took our temperature. I was a 97.9, to which I made the joke, “Who says it’s not good to be below average?” to the ushers.
They did not laugh.
Ashley and I were both wearing our awesome poker neck gaiters. However, the gentlemen at the door handed us disposal masks. Worried that other players wouldn’t be able to see our swag, I asked if we had to wear them.
“Na,” he said, “we just have to give them out.”
Fair enough! Our gaiters are far more comfortable and breathable anyway.
The casino floor
On our way to the poker room, I noticed that every other slot machine had a cute sign that said, “I’m practicing social distancing.” Nice touch.
Honestly though, you know who probably wins this entire pandemic? Other than this awesome startup poker clothing and merch company, second place has to be plexiglass manufacturers. Plexiglass lines the tables, discouraging too many people from being in one area at a time. For this reason, perhaps combined with the soft opening and the fact that it was 12:15 AM on a Tuesday morning, there wasn’t a ton of activity at the traditional Black Jack, roulette, craps, and other tables. Thus, we had a stress-free walk to Live’s acclaimed poker room.
Poker and covid-19
Finally, what you guys came to read!
Again, because of the soft re-opening and time of night/morning, there were limited tables running. I counted about eight 1/3 tables and one 2/5 table… all seven-handed. This was refreshing because I had read various reports about four-handed and six-handed tables at other venues around the country.
Since the 2/5 table had a waiting list, I decided to play 1/3, as did Ashley and Greg. We were all able to sit at separate tables because, as much as I love their chips, we didn’t come here to take each other’s rolls.
One thing I do regret: I probably should have worn gloves. The cashiers did, which made me feel safe to receive my chips.
After I got my chips, I sauntered on over to Table 18, where six of the seven seats were occupied. I sat down at Seat 4 between two sides of plexiglass.
I felt safe in my little poker cubicle. A couple of times, I hit the top of the plexiglass opening while betting (I have a small scratch on my fore finger to prove it). I also had an awkward reaction to winning a hand: excited that I successfully pulled off a weird turn bluff, I revealed my cards and simultaneously elbowed the right side of the plexiglass, which I guess startled Seat 3.
“Ever win a hand?” he asked sarcastically.
“Not during COVID playing live poker!” I quipped.
Between masks and plexiglass, communication was hit or miss. Me and the guy next to me were able to carry on quite the conversation. We talked about the crazy swings of online poker over the course of the past couple of months. We both agreed that Wilkes-Barre, PA’s Mohegan Sun was old-timey but quaint. I bragged about how my crew was sending multiple people to the World Series of Poker. He also really liked my Maryland-branded poker hat.
I had a ton of trouble hearing Seat 1, however. I think it was a combination of the fact that he was somewhat of a low talker, his non-Felt U mask, and the plexiglass. At times a mumbler myself, there were also times I had to clarify my bet to the dealer. No huge, hand-altering incidents, though.
The actual poker didn’t go that great for the following
- I started out playing really tight, but I went off the rails after I got bluffed in two big pots. After that, I was way more bluffy.
- I admittedly came there to promote a bit, so yeah, perhaps I was a bit distracted.
- The casino still sells alcohol, and I… misjudged how much it was going to impact my live game… or my wallet.
Meanwhile, both Ashley and Greg ended up in the black. I lost the equivalent of a month’s rent. I guess if you want to make omelets, you have to break some eggs… and I definitely broke a lot of eggs.
I think the most common question I’ve received is, “Did you feel safe?”
As I said, I’m for sure wearing gloves next time. The thought of how many germs pass back and forth on those chips is a tad frightening. Aside from that, all of the employees seemed to be taking the proper precautions. Seats were wiped down immediately after a player left the table. Dealers had sanitizer handy. The plexiglass and the masks were helpful safety measures, in my opinion.
Will I be going back anytime soon? I don’t know, I guess that’s up to my CFO.