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It started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and was first identified as a cluster of cases of pneumonia. It then took off, propagating around the world. COVID-19 is a variety of coronavirus that spreads rapidly and recently reached the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, as of March 15, there were already over 150,000 cases around the world. It has been declared a pandemic. Governments and health organizations were quick to respond with precautionary measures such as avoiding crowds, frequent washing of your hands, extensive use of hand sanitizers, wearing facemasks to deter transmission from one person to another, and with advice to be extra cautious for those over 60 years old and with underlying health conditions.

Efforts are underway by medical scientists and researchers in many countries to develop cures and vaccines to stop coronavirus. It could easily take months.

Large gatherings have been cancelled and many sporting events have been cancelled or postponed; major events across the country have been cancelled or postponed until the virus is better controlled.

It was just a matter of time until it hit the casinos. Attracting large crowds and with players sitting at tables practically touching one another, casinos and card rooms pose a risk of person-to-person transmission of the deadly virus.

There have been occasions when I thought that this was all a dream. I wish it were so. Two weeks ago, I decided to stay out of the casinos for the time being — until the situation is much improved.

Saturday, following the lead of the NBA, MLB, NHL, and other sports organizations, many Los Angeles-area card rooms made the difficult decision to temporarily close their doors for a period of time with plans to re-open as soon as possible. Among those were the Commerce Casino in Commerce, Garden Casino in Bell Gardens, the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, and my favorite, the Hustler Casino in Gardena. Also closing were Casino M8trix and Bay 101 Casino in San Jose.

On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took executive action to “temporarily close bars, night clubs, restaurants (except for takeout delivery), entertainment venues, and other establishments in the City of Los Angeles.

California Governor Gavin Newsom recommended stopping all public gatherings of 250 or more people. Casinos considered this as well as risks to public health in reaching their decision to temporarily close.

So what will you do? Will you play online? Will you find another activity to replace your weekly or daily visit to the poker room? Nobody can accurately predict when the card rooms will re-open and what precautions will be taken once they do resume admitting customers.

This could be a perfect time to reassess your skills, re-evaluate your money management strategy, perhaps read up on the game and come up with a few new wrinkles. It will be a way to turn a negative into a positive. 

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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