Updated May 17, 2021 - 8:36 am
Poker players are starting to look each other in the eye again.
The plexiglass dividers that have been a staple of Las Vegas poker rooms during the coronavirus pandemic have come down this week at several casinos after they were approved to return to 100 percent capacity by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
The Orleans on Saturday became the latest poker room to remove its plexiglass.
“It is down as of early this morning!” Orleans poker room manager Garrett Okahara said via email.
Poker rooms that have removed the plexiglass include the Caesars Entertainment properties (Bally’s, Caesars Palace, Flamingo and Planet Hollywood Resort); MGM Resorts properties (Aria, Bellagio and MGM Grand); Station Casinos properties (Boulder Station, Red Rock Resort and Santa Fe Station); and Wynn Las Vegas (room located in Encore).
The Golden Nugget, South Point and The Venetian still have plexiglass in place.
The removal of plexiglass dividers signals a return to normalcy for poker in Las Vegas after it was upended along with most other pastimes by the pandemic.
Casinos reopened June 5 after the initial shutdown because of the pandemic in March 2020, and the Orleans and South Point immediately brought back their poker rooms. The Venetian followed the next day, and more rooms gradually came back over the next few months.
Games started with four players allowed at each table under social distancing guidelines, then five-handed games were quickly approved. While many poker players returned to action, the games were a far cry from the normal nine- and 10-handed tables.
The Bellagio opened a new phase of pandemic poker when it installed plexiglass dividers that allowed six-handed games starting June 18. The other poker rooms quickly followed suit.
Eventually, regulators allowed rooms to offer eight-handed games with dividers, and that remained the standard until this week.
So far, most of the rooms that have removed the dividers have chosen to stick with eight-handed play instead of reverting to the normal nine or 10. The Wynn is playing nine-handed, and the Orleans said it would go to nine-handed for tournaments while sticking with eight-handed for cash games.
“Thank you all for your patience and understanding over this last year,” the Orleans poker room posted on Twitter.
Good morning poker players! With the recent removal of our plexiglass dividers, tournaments at the Orleans will be played 9-handed, effective immediately. Cash games will still be 8-handed for the time being. Thank you all for your patience and understanding over this last year.
— OrleansPokerRoom (@OrleansPokerRo1) May 15, 2021
With face masks now optional at many resorts for fully vaccinated patrons, poker this summer could look like what it was before the pandemic.
Henderson poker pro and YouTube personality Jeff Sluzinski, who goes by Jeff Boski online, hailed the removal of plexiglass Friday.
“A timeless moment in poker history,” he said on Twitter.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, the late chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.