Live Poker In Maryland: What To Expect As Rounders Return To MD Card Rooms

Posted on June 23, 2021

On a recent Monday night, I ventured to Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover, Maryland, for some live poker and a weekly tournament.

This was my foray back into live poker following more than a year of playing occasionally but exclusively online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully vaccinated and eager to trade chips, I wanted to see what live poker in Maryland casinos looks like these days. After the coronavirus shut down card rooms across the world, is poker really back?

A work conference brought me to Maryland Live! for an overnighter. While there, I decided to check out the poker room to get feel for post-pandemic poker.

Thankfully for card sharps out there, the poker room employees told PlayMaryland that things are starting to return to normal. For better and worse, as I learned.

First impressions: live poker in Maryland

Maryland has four live poker rooms located in casinos throughout the state. On Tuesday night, 56 tables were in use, according to the Bravo Poker app.

MGM National Harbor (26 tables) and Live! Casino & Hotel (21) had the busiest rooms, followed by Horseshoe Baltimore (eight) and Hollywood Casino Perryville (one).

Last week I arrived at Live! Casino & Hotel for a weekly Monday night tournament. After paying for my $150+$16 buy-in, I battled it out against a meager field with 38 entries (including re-buys).

Some tight-aggressive play and timely pots kept me alive for a few hours. Ultimately, though, I pushed with a straight draw and flush draw – neither of which got any help. And my tournament run was over.

Still, after a year away, it was nice to riffle some poker chips and scoop the occasional pot.

Midway through my run, though, some of the downfalls of live poker reappeared.

With all tables capped at eight players instead of the usual 10, I definitely had more elbow room. And as the tourney director moved around players to fill empty spots, I was often playing against just four or five opponents.

However, that facade of safety quickly collapsed.

Positively filth street

“Sir, do you need a tissue?” the dealer asked a player who was a few seats to my right.

“Nah,” he said, wiping his nose.

“Really, I can get you a tissue,” she said, with a tinge of annoyance.

“Nah, it’s not that,” he said, adding some more nose droppings to his hand and sleeve as he dismissed the dealer. “I’m good.”

More sniffing. More wiping.

Now, suddenly, I couldn’t help but notice the snotty situation developing in front of me. Neither could anyone else. The dealer was clearly perturbed but trying to be professional. Fellow players were looking, well, a bit skeeved out.

“Can we get some hand sanitizer over here?” the annoyed player seated between myself and Mr. Mucus finally asked out loud.

A floor person arrived with an industrial-sized bottle a moment later, and nearly everyone at the table doused their hands. But as I looked at the cards and dirty chips and the various high-touch surfaces all around me, I realized that germaphobes of any degree are still going to have a tough go of it in MD poker rooms.

Sure, I was largely safe from COVID-19, I figured. But you’re never going to take all of the yuck out of live poker.

Maryland live poker

What to expect with MD live poker

Most of the Maryland card rooms are back to normal with live poker. Dealers are spreading games of all types and stakes, and tournament schedules are quickly filling.

PlayMaryland reached out to all of the poker rooms to get the latest on health and safety precautions:

Live! Casino & Hotel

Location: 7002 Arundel Mills Cir, Hanover, MD 21076 (443-842-7000)
Max players per table
: 8
Plexiglass dividers at tables: No
Food at tables: No
Masks optional for players: Yes
Masks optional for dealers: Yes
From the poker staff: The Maryland Live poker room is busy once again, and staffers said the number of players has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. Things feel normal “for the most part – but not completely until food is allowed back at the tables,” one employee told me.

MGM National Harbor

Location: 101 MGM National Ave, Forest Heights, MD 20745 (844-646-6847)
Max players per table
: 8
Plexiglass dividers at tables: No
Food at tables: No
Masks optional for players: Yes
Masks optional for dealers: Only if vaccinated
From the poker staff: The National Harbor poker room is again Maryland’s busiest and arguably the most competitive. Staff members report a growing number of players for live games and tournaments.

Horseshoe Baltimore

Location: 1525 Russell St, Baltimore, MD 21230 (844-777-7463)
Max players per table
: 8
Plexiglass dividers at tables: No
Food at tables: No
Masks optional for players: No, masks must be worn (Baltimore-wide mandate)
Masks optional for dealers: No, masks must be worn (Baltimore-wide mandate)
From the poker staff: Business is picking up at the Horseshow Baltimore poker room, according to staffers. Additionally, social-distancing measures are no longer in place, so poker players’ guests are welcome to watch the action from within the room.

Hollywood Casino Perryville

Location: 1201 Chesapeake Overlook Pkwy, Perryville, MD 21903 (410-378-8500)
Max players per table: 8
Plexiglass dividers at tables: No
Food at tables: No
Masks optional for players: Yes
Masks optional for dealers: Yes
From the poker staff: “Things are pretty busy here,” an employee said when I asked if things are back to normal. “There’s just a lot going on right now. Honestly, I’ve gotta go.”

Photo by PlayMaryland / Dann Stupp
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