I knew I’d miss live poker, but I didn’t think I’d miss live poker THIS much.

I’ve always known that I’m lucky to live in an area that’s a 25-minute drive from three casinos and reside in a town where there’s bar games running every day. Because of this, I played live games several days a week, whether it was just for a couple a quid (that’s pounds, for non-British people) in a bar game or hitting the casino to play some larger buy-in events. Prior to COVID-19 live poker was a big part of my weekly routine.

Without sounding hyperbolic, I do feel like a Tom without a Jerry, a Homer without a Duff Beer. It really does feel like an appendage of my body has left me without knowing when it’s going to return. Action-wise, I can turn to online poker, play baccarat online or other blood-pumping casino games; but it’s just not the same as shuffling the chips and staring down an opponent in person.

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I’m seeing posts on social media platforms about casinos reopening in the US. Albeit most of these games will likely be operating on a 4-handed basis and behind a plethora of plexi-glass that would make an ice-hockey rink blush. I can’t pretend that I’m not jealous. I am, incredibly so. Like a scorned lover with a heart that beats for poker, I can’t bear to see her with somebody else when I can’t have her.

I was lucky enough to qualify for an event through my league that had some mouth-watering prizes on display, good cash prizes, all-inclusive trips to Vegas and so on. COVID-19 ruined that and the event has been indefinitely cancelled.

Furthermore, some friends and I had planned to play several events in this year’s GUKPT Goliath series, a festival I’ve longed to participate in but have never been able to due to prior commitments. COVID-19 obliterated that like an ace from space on the river to crack someone’s pocket kings.

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I was feeling a bit sorry for myself until I was speaking to a reg, Richard White, who some of you may know from poker Facebook groups such as On the Bubble or Ace High Poker. Last year, Rich won an all-inclusive paid trip to Vegas. Brilliant! He was ecstatic and rightly so.

I did a quick weekend trip to Vegas on a whim when I was doing my dissertation for university in 2018 in what can only be described as a quarter-life crisis. And of course, my trip was fantastic, never have I ever wanted to return to a place more.

Seeing how excited Rich was, I told him all about my weekend jaunt in Sin City, and every time we’d meet since then, he’d tell me it’s now only “X number of days till Vegas.” It was a nice running joke we shared, and reminded me why I love live poker; you don’t get to have these quirky bits with people from behind a computer screen.

I’ve regularly spoken to Rich in lockdown and he let me know that due to COVID-19 his all-inclusive trip unfortunately isn’t going to be happening any time soon.

When he won his prize, the trip to Vegas was then a full year away, so you can imagine there’s been a lot of pent up energy. To have that taken away due to some very extreme unforeseen circumstances must have been heart-breaking.

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I caught up with Rich on the phone after one of our online home games to see how he’s been keeping (side note: remember to check up on your bros at this time!). I didn’t know whether to bring up the trip in conversation, but like when you know you should fold but end up calling, I couldn’t resist.

“I’m devastated Cal, obviously I’m grateful that I’ve got health in this time, but thinking selfishly I’m beyond gutted.” Rich said.

“I should be in Vegas right now. Even though I won the trip nearly a year ago, I’ve been waiting for it a lot longer than that.

“I’m trying to fool myself that I’m playing these online games in the Bellagio or Caesars Palace, just so it doesn’t sting as much.”

We chatted some more, and Rich told me the trip had been rearranged and had a confirmation date. With casinos opening in the US now, and with humankind having a bit more knowledge on COVID-19, Rich eventually will get his happily ever after.

In the meantime, for me, it’s online poker for the foreseeable future and watching the UK populace argue over a Prime Minister’s aide breaking lockdown rules.

Come back soon live poker, please.

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