Ostensibly this is because poker is a particularly dangerous game in a pandemic. In reality, it is probably because the hourly take from raking a poker table tends to be lower than at roulette or blackjack.
In an effort to reassure punters that playing a few hands of cards isn’t a death sentence, casinos in Vegas are instituting mandatory mask rules. Laying aside the loss of life question, a lot of people are asking how this will impact the dynamics of the game.
What is live poker when you can’t read anyone’s faces?
While many players already wear hoodies and wrap-around shades to reduce non-verbal leakage, the new rules will mean everyone is covered chin to cheek.
While some experts suggest the false confidence might lead to additional tells and giveaways in other areas, some are pointing out that faces are often the least reliable source of reads. Instead, players focus more on hand and eye movements or on non-body language tells like betting patterns.
The biggest effect, however, is likely to be on the social side of the game. Humans like to see who they’re talking to, and covering faces will muffle table talk and have an impact on the sense of community about the table.
Whatever the effects on the game, players should remember that masks are not going to make a game completely safe. They reduce transmission but do not eliminate it.