OPINION: No headphones. No phones. No hoodies. Could this be the future of poker?

  • Experiment at Commerce Casino bans hoodies, sunglasses, phones and more
  • #TheSocialExperiment is designed to get players interacting around the table

On the live poker circuit, it’s commonplace to see players moodily hunched around the table, hoods up and shades on in an attempt to conceal even the slightest tell that might give their opponents an edge.

Commerce Casino Poker
No more hoodies at the table – Commerce Casino is encouraging players to interact

It is this display of seemingly anti-social behaviour that can make the televised WSOP games so fascinating. In few other spheres will you encounter such contrasting characters; divas in halter-neck tops playing alongside Russian basement-dwellers with drawstring hoods obscuring their entire face; perma-tanned playboys going head-to-head with awkward ingenues hiding behind wraparound shades.

The social experiment

Such reclusive behaviour is part and parcel of the game, but the organisers of one poker tournament are determined to change all that. LA’s Commerce Casino is hosting a $350 buy-in event where the big talking point isn’t the $100,000 that’s at stake – it’s the ban on smartphones, sunglasses and hoods.

#TheSocialExperiment as it’s called could pave the way for other tournament organisers to follow suit, prohibiting the sort of attire and actions that could give players an unfair advantage over their opponents. While some players will feel that the Commerce Casino is overstepping the mark, others will welcome their attempt to level the playing field.

After all, if steps aren’t taken to prevent the sort of masking and subterfuge that some players are prone to resorting to, soon the game will consist of little more than a group of nondescript, non-gender human shapes in morph suits interacting with one another. From a television perspective, that’s a scenario no one wants.

Gaining a competitive edge

Poker is reaching a stage that competitive swimming approached a few years ago, when the world’s leading athletes, including Michael Phelps, took to wearing complete bodysuits in an attempt to reduce drag and gain an edge over those who had chosen to stuck with Speedos.

The authorities eventually clamped down on such bodysuits, and swimming reverted back to the way it had always been, with competitors relying on their athletic prowess rather than technology to win. Could live poker be heading the same way?

In theory, live poker ought to be far more sociable than its online counterpart. After all, what could be more sociable than sitting around a table with a group of like-minded individuals playing cards?

But when half of those players can’t hear one another cos they’ve got music blasting through their headphones and the other half can’t be seen due to their face-concealing attire, what’s the point in even competing in real life? Everyone would be as well going home and reverting to playing online in a darkened room, where no one can read their tells.

Whether the No Limit Hold ‘Em Triple Stack aka #TheSocialExperiment proves to be a success remains to be seen – the event takes place on 29th April. If nothing else, it provides food for thought. Perhaps it’s time we all put down our phones, unplugged our headphones and took the time to interact with our fellow humans, be they strangers on the Tube or opponents at the poker table.

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Casinopedia

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