The state of California is well known for having its own unique and highly competitive poker scene – most of which can be found in Los Angeles. While LA isn’t famous for its casinos, its high-stakes poker rooms are comparable to those found in globally prominent gaming spots like Las Vegas and Macau. However, this all came to a halt when the pandemic came.
Much like the rest of the world, LA’s poker scene took a huge hit when physical businesses had to close for public health reasons. But there is some good news. On January 25, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom lifted stay-at-home orders, thus allowing the poker rooms in LA County to officially reopen for business. Since then, the different poker rooms in LA County have managed to bounce back.
“People have been itching to get out to do some sort of entertainment,” said John Griffo, the director of business development for Commerce Casino, which hosts one of the world’s largest poker rooms. “Cardrooms are one of the safest environments to be out in right now. Nothing can be served on casino floor, so there’s no reason to take off your mask.” Griffo made this statement early this year.
Today, only vaccinated people are allowed to enter LA County’s poker rooms, and they’re no longer required by the state to wear masks – although many still do. Rooms are also back to full capacity. However, tableside cocktail service is yet to return, which is due to the minimal amount of staff currently allowed to work. If you want a drink, you’ll have to get up and get it from the bar yourself. Apart from Commerce Casino, the conditions are similar in Bicycle Casino and Hawaiian Gardens – three of the largest poker rooms on the planet. Likewise, places like Hustler Casino, Hollywood Park Casino, and the rest of LA’s other poker rooms have reopened with these limitations as well.
It’s clear that following mass vaccinations, the state of California is loosening up pandemic-related restrictions on businesses. In fact, the situation is much the same in nearby San Diego. While some of the biggest poker rooms in the world have reopened for business in LA, Sycuan Casino in San Diego will be hosting one of the few live US poker tournaments to push through this year. With the Mid-States Poker Tour happening in San Diego and LA poker rooms slowly getting back up on their feet, California’s poker scene seems to be on its way to adjusting to the new normal. That being said, everyone should still follow basic public health and safety protocols when traveling around LA. Observe hygiene, try to limit your exposure, and phone ahead before visiting a poker room or any of LA’s fine restaurants and other establishments.