Updated June 21, 2020 - 6:17 pm
The Bellagio poker room upped the ante Thursday when it reopened with the approval to host six-handed games.
The installation of plexiglass dividers between the players gave the Bellagio an edge over the other poker rooms open in Las Vegas, which have been hosting five-handed games, per guidelines from the state Gaming Control Board. The dividers also mean that players at the Bellagio are only encouraged to wear masks, while the other rooms are now required to have players wear them.
Casino poker games usually have nine or 10 players at the table.
The other rooms are charting different courses in response. One is installing its own dividers to allow six-handed games, another is sticking to five-handed, and another hopes to be approved for six-handed play without dividers.
Regardless of how many players were at the tables, poker rooms had no shortage of action throughout the weekend.
“We’re really happy to be open,” Bellagio director of poker operations Mike Williams said. “We’ve definitely had a positive response.”
The room was running at least 15 games throughout the day Saturday, and sometimes more than 20. It is open 24 hours a day.
Bobby’s Room, the high-stakes area of the Bellagio poker room, which hosts some of the biggest games in the world, was empty Saturday. Williams said he hoped to see the bigger games come back and that the room was ready when the players were.
The Orleans, which reopened June 4, is prepared to match the Bellagio’s plexiglass. Poker room manager Garrett Okahara said in an email that the room had already ordered dividers and hoped to have them installed and ready for six-handed play by Thursday or Friday.
The Orleans was running more than 20 games for a long stretch of Saturday afternoon into the evening. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily.
“Although I assumed there would be pent-up demand upon opening, the demand has certainly exceeded my expectations to this point,” Okahara said. “It can only get better with six players, too!”
Caesars Palace, which reopened Thursday, is standing pat. Ryan Bishop, an executive who is running the room, said he saw no need to install the dividers.
“We’re getting plenty of business without it,” he said. “The players are happy.”
Caesars was running 10 to 15 games throughout Saturday. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.
The South Point, which reopened June 4, wants to get to six-handed but without dividers. Poker room manager Jason Sanborn said in an email that the casino has put in a request to go to six-handed, saying that the new requirement of masks — which were only encouraged before — negates the need for plexiglass.
“Gaming indicated that masks equal plexiglass by the way they worded the new guidelines, so we feel like we have a good case to go six without them,” he said.
The South Point was running more than 15 games for most of Saturday. It is open 24 hours a day.
“The demand for poker has been great, and traditional tournaments haven’t even been added back into the schedule yet,” Sanborn said.
The Venetian became the first room to bring back multitable tournaments when it offered $250 buy-in 80-person shootout events Friday and Saturday. In that format, the 80 players were spread at 16 five-handed tables. Each table played down to one winner, then those 16 winners were placed at four four-handed tables. Those four winners then advanced to the final table.
The 80 seats were sold out before the tournament started both days. The Venetian said on Twitter that it would offer the same format next Friday and Saturday with the buy-in raised to $300 (still a maximum of 80 players).
The Venetian, which reopened June 5, did not say whether it would install plexiglass. It was running 20 games for most of Saturday. It is open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Attempts to reach the smaller Golden Nugget and Sahara Las Vegas poker rooms were unsuccessful.
The Nugget, which reopened June 6, was running eight games most of Saturday. It is open 24 hours a day. Sahara, which reopened Thursday, ran a handful of games Saturday night. It is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates The Venetian.