New South Wales (NSW) Police gave Poker NSW the green light to resume poker events in the state. Poker NSW is free to host poker cash games and certain tournaments although strict COVID-19 related restrictions are in place.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to cause massive problems for the live gambling industry in Australia. Cancellation of sporting events hurt the sports betting sector. It, however, is easy to fully resume because there’s little need for person-to-person contact.

Getting back to some sort of normality for casino table games proved more challenging. These games require players to gather around a table and handle casino chips. Some also involve touching cards. Games from blackjack, to baccarat, to roulette are popular but they now look different. Casinos limited the number of players per table, dealers handle chips for players, and there is frequent sanitation of the chips and gaming areas.

It is a similar story for pokies, which require players to touch buttons and screens. Pokie players tend to move around and play several different machines during a session. Casinos got around this by restricting the number of pokies available, providing styluses or gloves, and, again, following strict hygiene rules.

Poker is far more complicated and Poker NSW is working hard to get the game back into venues.

Poker NSW Working Hard For Poker’s Return

It’s possible to play poker with as few as two players, but it’s a better game with at least six. Live cash game players prefer eight or nine players due to the rake casinos take from each pot.

Poker players frequently touch cards and chips and plenty of space is required to keep the tables social distancing. This is why tournament poker is unlikely to return because venue needs to be huge.

Poker NSW is a cooperative of several major poker operators that represent almost 90% of the poker events conducted in NSW. They’re working together to bring poker back to NSW, doing so by creating a safety plan.

A lot of work has gone into creating the safety plan and that hard work has ultimately paid off. NSW Police has lifted the blanket ban on poker events, although multi-table tournaments are still banned. Venues can offer single table formats where no single player interacts with more than nine other players.

The new rules mean there are no massive tournaments like the WPT Gold Coast or Aussie Millions. Single table tournaments (SNG), Shootout tournaments, and Time Tournaments are permitted.

What Are The New Guidelines?

The new guidelines put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the tournament directors. All tournament directors must undertake the Government’s Infection Control Training and display their certificate. Tournament directors must address the players before the tournament and check nobody is or has been ill recently.

Several other rules created by Poker NSW are set in stone. There’s no budging from them otherwise substantial fines are dished out.

  • Players must remain seated during the tournament and not congregate in public areas.
  • Absolutely no eating or drinking at the tables.
  • Apply hand sanitiser every 20-minutes.
  • Sanitise tables, cards and chips frequently.
  • A maximum of eight players seated at a long table and six at a round table. This is down from 10 and eight respectively.
  • At least 1.5 meters distance between each table.
  • Everyone’s contact details must be recorded.
  • Players must wear masks when seated at the tables.

These rules aren’t ideal but it is better than not having poker available in Australian. Poker NSW needs plenty of credit for getting this safety plan into fruition. It’s fantastic that someone has taken it upon themselves to be a vessel for the poker community.