Over its brief history as a nationwide activity, online poker fell into a legal grey zone. While arguably not strictly legal, for years federal and state regulators left this very visible industry alone. But on April 15, 2011, poker’s Black Friday, The U.S. Department of Justice provided clarity. On that day, the DOJ shut down the operations of all US poker sites. While online poker has resumed legal status for residents in a few states – Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware – online poker remains banned in most of the country. I believe that the current pandemic has brought clarity to this long neglected issue: it is time for the federal government to legalize online poker across the United States.
Recently New Hampshire joined Florida and Las Vegas in reopening their poker rooms. Our friend Robbie Strazynski at Cardplayer Lifestyle asked us to write a post about the status of poker in our neighboring state. We very happily took this as an excuse to visit all of our local New Hampshire rooms and gather information about their new rules, safety practices, and traffic flow. For the full article, head on over to Cardplayer Lifestyle Poker Blog and read about The Great Reopening: New Hampshire.
Perhaps the decision whether to return to play live poker seems frivolous given everything else happening right now. But with most states decreasing restrictions, we are faced with myriad decisions around leisure activities. Do we go back and eat at our favorite restaurant that just re-opened? Does the advent of summer draw us back to busy oceans and lakes? Do we golf, bowl, play pick-up basketball, or walk and bike on crowded rail trails?
For some people, the answers are simple. At one end of the spectrum are people who want everything back to normal and see minimal risk. Others will continue to avoid any environment outside their home that is not critically life-sustaining. Most people, however, fall somewhere in the middle. The question whether to play live poker, or resume any activity, is dependent on the answers to a series of questions regarding conditions and risk factors.
As we approach the end of June 2020, most poker rooms in the United States remain closed. However, there are several rooms that have opened in the last couple of weeks. The areas with the greatest activity so far are Florida, Las Vegas, New Hampshire, and scattered sites around California. If you have been missing poker, and live in an area with open rooms: should you venture out?
As we have mentioned previously, Paul and I do some writing and other work for Advanced Poker Training, an excellent poker training website created by Steve Blay. After two years of development, this spring Steve launched a new poker training site to help players learn how to play PLO well. Omaha Poker Training has some of the same great features as APT, including a choice of 9-max or 6-max PLO cash games and multi-table tournaments.
The wide range of OPT game options allows you to customize training to target your home game, local card room, or even a $10,000 championship event at the World Series of Poker. Opponents can be selected from easy, moderate, or expert play in order to model training at a level that is right for the individual’s typical circumstances. You can even set starting hand ranges that are particularly troublesome so as to focus and improve on the exact situations currently causing you difficulty at the tables.
Recently, I sat down with Steve and talked to him about his love of chess, programming, and poker. I also asked him about Omaha Poker Training (OPT) and its development.
Interview with Steve Blay on Omaha Poker Training
Heather: When did you start playing poker and what drew you to the game?
Steve: I remember playing a lot of poker with my brother Allen in college, and never realizing how much skill there was to it. It wasn’t until I saw a special about Phil Hellmuth on TV, and I was stunned. You mean this is a skill game? Here’s this somewhat nerdy looking kid, who dropped out of college and went to Las Vegas and beat all those guys from Texas with cigars in their mouths. I want to be that guy! I bought David Sklansky’s “The Theory of Poker” the next day.
This month, in one fell swoop, we lost our two favorite activities: live poker and travel. Fortunately for us, we had just finished our latest poker journey. COVID-19 restrictions came mere days after we returned from a trip to Florida in which we visited five new poker rooms (Room reviews to come. So far we have shared our thoughts on Silks). In fact, we were sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for our flight home when we learned of the first coronavirus victim in the state of Florida. We also may have ignored our better selves and played one last tournament in New Hampshire before that state closed its poker rooms. Happily, we’re now two weeks out from that tournament with no ill-effects. Unless you count poker withdrawal.
It didn’t take long for the withdrawal set in. We watched with a mixture of horror and relief as first Connecticut, then Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and finally Las Vegas shut down all live poker rooms. Horror, of course, because – NO POKER! And relief, because we would have struggled to make the right decision, was poker still an option. Hopefully, we would have done the smart thing and stayed home. I’m glad that we didn’t have to find out. As Paul says, can you imagine an activity more conducive to spreading disease than live poker? I kind of never want to touch a chip again.