Are you one of the many poker enthusiasts who dreamed of winning some of the $143 million in Nevada poker prize money awarded last year? It’s likely that the pandemic will drive those numbers down for 2020, but the casinos are preparing for a healthier 2021. Will you be in one of their cushy seats playing next year? And will you be practicing at home with your friends between now and then?
The question of the moment is: Can you play together and stay healthy at the same time? The better question is how can you make your poker room a healthier place to enjoy the game with guests after the danger of contracting the virus that causes Covid-19 has passed.
Pandemic Poker Precautions
Jennifer Veltman, MD, chief of infectious diseases at Loma Linda University Health in San Bernardino County, California, suggests playing outdoors, socially distanced, if possible, while Covid surges across the country. “I would encourage the group who would like to play a card game to meet outdoors for this activity in well-ventilated spaces. Buy a heat lamp if you live in a cold area,” she advises, and “do not eat at the same table as others who are not part of your household.” Like most medical authorities, Veltman cautions, “Do not entertain indoors.”
If your poker circle had a tournament planned for the holidays and it just can’t be canceled or held outside for some reason: “I recommend people act as though anyone in your group who does not live with you has Covid-19,” the doctor advises. “If an indoor meeting is absolutely necessary, I’d recommend that everyone in attendance is tested 24 to 48 hours prior to the event, wear a mask when together, and do not eat at the same table, as testing is not 100% accurate at identifying people who are infected. Additional protective strategies should still be in place,” she comments.
Wellness Designed Casino Spaces
Nicole Fournier is executive director of interior design for MGM Resorts International and one of the highest-rated poker rooms in Las Vegas at its Bellagio property. All of the company’s poker rooms have ergonomic seating and soft/warm lighting, she says. A big factor in increasing their wellness potential was making them smoke-free.
“Bellagio’s Poker Room is, and has been, non-smoking for many years,” she notes. They went even further this year, she reports, reducing the risk of second-hand smoke exposure for its poker players. “Upon reopening in June, we made the decision to relocate the designated smoking areas (originally positioned directly outside and adjacent to the room) to a new area within the resort.”
Indoor air quality is a concern of any casino, but especially for those that cater to a high-end clientele that associates health and wellness with luxury. “All MGM Resorts International HVAC systems have been adjusted to allow for up to 100% outside fresh air, while also allowing for frequent fresh air exchanges,” Fournier says. They use MERV 14 filtration, she reports, (signifying high performance on the indoor air quality scale). The resort is also using plexiglass partitions at the gaming tables to protect patrons and dealers during the pandemic.
Casino-Inspired Home Play Space Tips
Fournier knows that many Bellagio players practice at home between visits to the casino to hone their poker skills. To make your post-pandemic play as healthful as possible, she recommends, “Keep the game small and intimate; make it a tight-knit game with a close circle of friends. Have a designated room if possible, private enough so that the rest of the household will not be disturbed.”
This could mean locating your card room in an area far from bedrooms s for minimal disruptions to sleep or study. Homeowners with finished basements might look at that space, especially if they have walk-out access to a yard allowing the patio doors to remain open for more air circulation. A radon detector will enhance the safety of any lower level living space.
Poker Safety with Style
For Long Island, New York area interior designer Lori Miller, wellness and atmosphere were both important parts of the poker room she completed for a residential client who enjoys the game. “The lighting creates a specific mood,” she notes, adding, “the main lights are 3000 [Kelvin temperature} LEDs, which is a great substitute for daylight.”
She also lined niches with wallpaper made of crystals and mica particles. The visual impact adds Vegas-style sparkle to the space, but her interest was also in the metaphysical properties associated with the material, she says. “In healing, mica provides one with energy and purpose.”
On a more practical level, Miller chose paint with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) to protect indoor air quality in the home from chemical off-gassing, and opted for a durable, low maintenance, water-based finish for the table. The client already had HEPA filters in the HVAC system to help with a family member’s allergies, the designer says, so she didn’t need to augment the room’s filtration.
Customizing A Poker Enthusiast’s Home
Asheville, North Carolina-based custom home builder John Judd had different considerations for his multi-space poker project. “We have a client that loves to play, and has an entertaining area with a ventilation system for cigar smoke. Friends and family relax and play cards in this area with a domed brick ceiling and brick flooring, or they have the option of the lower level that has multiple seating options including couches, card tables, and bar seating.”
The home was designed for both indoor and outdoor entertaining, Judd says. “The couple hosts a lot of gatherings and once things move indoors, friends and family head to the main level or lower level entertaining spaces. The lower level space has card tables, a theater, and a bar. The layout allows the space to be cozy and multifunctional,” Judd shares. The enhanced ventilation system makes it more comfortable for everyone else even when cigars are smoked during play.