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partypoker ambassador Isaac Haxton talks about the Return of Live Poker

Tags: coronavirus, Isaac Haxton, partypoker.
Posted on 03 June 2020 by "T".

Let's check out what partypoker ambassador Isaac ‘Ike' Haxton has to say on how live poker may change when casinos and poker rooms re-open once again to the public.

How and when might live poker return?
I don't know about you folks, but I'm really starting to miss playing live poker. Sitting around a table, shuffling chips, talking s**t. Drinking too much coffee. The steady, mellow pace that can make 12 hours pass before you've noticed. I love it, I miss it, and it looks unlikely any of us will get to play any time soon. I've been thinking about what it's going to look like when we finally do go back and today I'm going to try to organize some of those thoughts and maybe start a conversation about them.

Live poker is, unfortunately, a fantastic way to spread illness. We sit around a table all day, touching our faces, eating and drinking, and then touching cards and chips and passing them around. We sit shoulder to shoulder and breathe in one another's faces. Every thirty minutes, a new dealer pushes in and takes the seat at the center of the table, facing the players in the three through six seats at not much over a one meter distance.

In the context of an international tournament festival, a bunch of factors make all this even worse. We've traveled from all over the world, on planes, through airports, and in taxis, coming into contact with countless people along the way. We're stressed out, jet-lagged, not eating well, and not sleeping enough, all of which surely compromise our immune systems. It seems like there's a bug getting passed around at almost every tournament stop and personally I'd estimate I go home with a cold nearly half the time.

Live poker may or may not resume before we have a vaccine for the coronavirus and/or it has been effectively eradicated. My personal instinct is that it would be better if it did not, especially the sort of international events that people travel for. But it is possible to imagine a world in which the virus is largely contained with only intermittent flare ups and people feel comfortable resuming. Either way, I expect that players will probably be inclined to be a lot more cautious about spreading illness and some changes will be called for.

Some of what follows may be pretty divisive. For the most part, I don't have very strong convictions on what should change, but I'd like to get a conversation started about our options.

Masks are likely the first thing on many people's minds. At a minimum, I think taboos and rules against face coverings are gonna have to go. If a player is more comfortable wearing a mask, it does not seem reasonable for tournament officials to prohibit it or for their peers to give them a hard time. Should wearing masks at the table become standard, expected, or even mandatory? I could go either way on this. I'm currently inclined to think that's not necessary. If a player is feeling sick and/or coughing and wants to wear a mask to protect others, this should absolutely be encouraged.

In fact, the way we think about playing while infectious probably needs to be reconsidered. When you've traveled across the world at significant expense to participate in a tournament, it's a hard decision to make to skip it because you're feeling ill. In my nearly 15 years playing live tournaments, I don't think I've ever done it. I'd do my best to cough down my shirt and disinfect my hands regularly, but I wouldn't even consider taking a day off. I think most of my peers are similar. It's a somewhat common sight to see players at the table coughing persistently or blowing their nose every few minutes. I think our expectations here should, and can, change.

The poker community is remarkably good at self-policing. If we can all agree that it is poor behavior to register a tournament or show up to a cash game when you know you have a cold or flu, I think we can all hold each other accountable to stop doing this and make a big difference in how much illness is spread at poker events. We could also start scanning people for fevers before letting them play. I'm torn on that measure, but I think the upside is probably worth it.

It seems likely to me that we can make some improvements with the hygiene of the chips, cards, and tables. I don't really have the technical knowledge to know what makes sense here, so I'd love to get some feedback from any readers who do. I know there are antimicrobial coatings that are used on high touch surfaces in public areas like hand railings and elevator buttons. I don't know how feasible, effective, or expensive it would be to apply this sort of technology to chips and cards, but it seems worth looking into. Incorporating some kind of sanitizing step in an automatic shuffler box might also have potential. Sanitizing table surfaces with a simple wipe down periodically certainly makes sense.

Perhaps some things could be done differently with the arrangement of tables to give everyone a little more room? Larger, rounder tables with a maximum of 6 or 7 players might allow everyone closer to two meters distance from each other's faces.

Would it be realistic to get away from the standard 30 minute dealer down? 1-2 hour downs, with a few minutes rather than a few seconds break before moving to a new table, might allow dealers to deal to 2-4 times fewer players per day and give them time to wash their hands before the start of each down. I suspect there may be good reasons for the 30 minute down that I'm overlooking and welcome feedback from dealers and floor managers about whether or not this is actually feasible.

Finally, if we really want to take seriously the goal of reducing the spread of illness at poker events, I think we need to start thinking holistically about how to make them healthier places. For the last few years, the typical major live poker festival has meant playing 10 or so consecutive days for up to 14 hours a day. Play frequently concludes around 2am and then resumes at noon. It can be hard to find 8 hours a night to devote to sleep, and when you factor in time to unwind after playing and disruptions due to jet lag, I think a lot of people average only 5 hours or so.

We often have little choice other than to eat at the table, and the food options can be pretty unhealthy. I think it's worth considering what we might change to relax the pace of these events a little and give the participants, staff as well as players, greater opportunity to take care of themselves.

I would love to see a guarantee of 12 hours between conclusion and resumption of play. This strikes me as the minimum to afford time to eat, unwind, sleep, bathe, and eat again without being frantic the whole time.

The food situation at the typical live poker tournament could probably be improved. Eating at the table might have to go. I love eating at the table, because it helps me maximize my hours per day spent playing poker, but it's pretty unhygienic. If you're trying not to even touch your face while you're at the table, you certainly can't be eating. Organizers could do a lot to take players' food needs more seriously. Poker tournaments could be scheduled such that it's possible to eat three meals a day, none of them at the table. You could start earlier than the typical noon or 2pm, have a catered lunch break, and conclude before all of the restaurants are closed so people can eat a normal dinner instead of late-night-menu room service.

It's entirely possible I'm overestimating this effect and the changes aren't worth it, but I can't help thinking that better rested, better fed players would get sick much less often. It also just might make the live tournament experience more enjoyable to a broader range of people.

Anyway I'm curious what people make of all of the above ideas. It's a conversation we're going to need to have before we all get back to the felt, so we might as well get started. Give me a holler on twitter, @ikepoker, if you've got any thoughts.



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12 comments on "partypoker ambassador Isaac Haxton talks about the Return of Live Poker"

 maragatero03/06/2020 23:14:22 GMT
Well, we was talking about that matter for month, and I think that the long thought of this guy is really coherent with all that we said here. The world don´t be the same despite the isolation finish, despite the vaccine will be working, until the total eradication of the bug. And all the measure that we was chating, and all that Haxton is saying, will be absolutely needed
 CALICUL04/06/2020 06:36:42 GMT
Life returns to normal and people need to get out of their homes. In casinos, live poker is good to play and gamblers are scattered all over the world, but online they can gather and sign up for interesting games. It is easier in front of devices (pc, laptop, android) but both options are needed.
 dule-vu04/06/2020 10:31:20 GMT
I can imagine how much pros miss live poker and how bad they want that every open,especially in america where they cant play online on big sites,so they need live games and to play with big amounts!but other countries also want to make live games or tournaments,so we will have lot of news in next weeks about it,but just with less players on them!
 antonis32104/06/2020 22:23:27 GMT
Wearing masks at casinos these days should be mandatory , I see they take so many other measures , just impose also the use of masks , so what , players won't be able o check some tells from players , still hey will be seeing their hands , or the neck , or eyes idf they don't wear glasses , lol Smile
I also have never decided not to go somewhere (school , university , job, for fun somewhere ) if I had a cold , but now things have changed , people have othr demendings , stricter , so you have to take this into consideration also at the casinos when you go there to play live SmileIf you have a cold , if you are ill , simply don't go . Also , I think , if they have body temperature detectors at the doors , they might not allow you the entrance , so you will have gone there for nothing , a waste of time AND money Smile
 maragatero05/06/2020 00:34:01 GMT
Well, in other news is announced that Casinos in Las Vegas will be open tomorrow, because the Nevada´s district hasn´t much more case of coronavid in the last two weeks. I think that these is too much rush, and they are thinking in the echonomy but not in the health. I accept that I don´t know the zone, and how does the people make their moves, and makes their travelling. Hope they have luck!
 CALICUL06/06/2020 07:28:31 GMT
Life is beautiful in live tournaments for professional players because for them this is a job from which they survive. There is not so much pleasure for themm because the games are taken seriously by the majority. Online is good but live is more appropriate at this time for VIPs.
 Mober07/06/2020 11:03:48 GMT
All addicts miss their addiction. Especially at the beginning Smile
Sitting on a table for 12 hours he says playing poker.
And he is missing it...
Yes they can make a lot of money some of this player,
but missing this whole thing sounds silly to me.
 antonis32107/06/2020 20:34:42 GMT
Probably , nowadays , with this corona virus spread , eating at the poker table , just to save some time , while you wait for your turn to play , I agree won't be a good idea , for health/hygienic reasons . But , on the other hand , all these restrictions that I hear , about fewer players at the tales , a way to be found so as not to touch allthe time the chips , the plexiglass dividers , I believe all these are axaggerations . Masks , gloves , cover of all face and neck if needed , temperature detectors at the entrances of the casinos , ae good enough measures . I think they have gone too far with this social distancing , other ways , BETTER , to achieve protection there are , but WILL to do so , there isn't ....
 CALICUL08/06/2020 08:41:38 GMT
Coronavirus did not bring more players to the online tables. I noticed this and poker is not as popular as in the past. It's very sad because when i watch 50 cent games or $ 1 with 200 or 300 players and 2-3 years ago there were 1000 or more. Too many rooms have reduced this number but also the abandonment of some gamblers.
 dule-vu08/06/2020 11:00:39 GMT
Posted by antonis321:
Probably , nowadays , with this corona virus spread , eating at the poker table , just to save some time , while you wait for your turn to play , I agree won't be a good idea , for health/hygienic reasons . But , on the other hand , all these restrictions that I hear , about fewer players at the tales , a way to be found so as not to touch allthe time the chips , the plexiglass dividers , I believe all these are axaggerations . Masks , gloves , cover of all face and neck if needed , temperature detectors at the entrances of the casinos , ae good enough measures . I think they have gone too far with this social distancing , other ways , BETTER , to achieve protection there are , but WILL to do so , there isn't ....

players already have lot of stuffs on them when they play poker,so to have mask wouldnt be anything strange!you all know how they have sunglasses,ski masks and lot of different stuffs,so this will just help them on playing live poker!they will still need to wait that they allow to lot of people to be on one place!how soon,we will see!
 antonis32108/06/2020 16:37:57 GMT
For sure dule vu , some of these things ghey want introduce to the poker tables for the protection of the players , they will also help them protect themselves from '' tells reading '' , or they are already using them Smile Covering mouth , or even neck , some people even hiding their hands , or their eyes ofcourse , is a common practice Smile

If they find a way to apply these protection measures on a 8/9max table , then the problem with the tournaments will have been solved . But if they desire more and more protection measurres , for example these hatefull plexiglass deviders , then not , this will not be possible on a large scale , like on a multi table tournament , so as for it to take place Smile
 maragatero23/06/2020 20:44:57 GMT
Well, as we said in some past moments, the return of live poker´s tournaments still is far away. All the anxious people who wanted to see the tables full again, will have to wait a bit more. The covid is here (in the world) and it appears that want to keep with us for a long time...

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