Poker Room Sneeze Guards: This Generation’s Berlin Wall

A too-real story of hyperbole

Photo by Daryl DeHart, via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Las Vegas and casinos around the world are changing the way they conduct business in response to the continuing effects of Covid-19. Most of the measures they’re taking coincide with steps already in place across the world, including social distancing, the wearing of masks, and an emphasis on handwashing and sanitizer. But some methods don’t appear — at face value — to make much sense.

Enter: poker table sneeze guards/protective shields. While they may help separate players and dealers from one another, they ignore the blatant Petri dish of players handling and passing around chips and cards.

Apologies to Mr. Gorbachev and the Gipper

In times of great unrest, something as frivolous as poker tables’ protective sneeze guards shouldn’t be given a passing thought. Right?

Well, that’s not how the masses think. It’s times like these when the majority of the population acts the most irrational. People feel vulnerable when their thin veneer of control is peeled away and discarded.

When these depressing times inevitably happen, a percentage of the people hit the streets to target the unrest directly. But many more choose not or are unable to join the fight. Still, these people retain the anger and look for other outlets to vent their frustration.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has helped illustrate, modern people get worked up for all the wrong reasons. When the harrowing events don’t happen right in front of their faces — or they get riled up enough through cellphone footage — the masses are hard-pressed to concern themselves with the big picture issues. Instead, they fall back on less significant liberties, with a focus on personal vanity and leisure activities.

A Republic is difficult to keep because it is almost impossible to coordinate its rulers — the people — toward singular, mutually beneficial goals.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The eye in the sky cannot spy contentment

To a gambler, there is no greater leisure activity than the game itself. Following three months of social distancing measures, the Las Vegas Strip reopened on June 4, 2020. Despite gossip that nobody would want to visit or could even afford a trip to Vegas amidst the pandemic, people showed up in droves.

For many, three months of inactivity is a long time. And what better way is there to relieve oneself after a lengthy prison sentence, than by bathing in a warm bath of sin? After being sequestered in their own homes, with only nature, bored spouses, and aimless children to keep them company, people will obviously flock to whatever the exact opposite of that is.

For many, the alternative to the ordinary involves casinos, bars, and dancing girls (the exotic variety of which are not expected to return until at least 2021).

Even though poker shields won’t be anywhere near as oppressive as the Berlin Wall, many will view them as barriers set up by a governing body with “the purest of intentions.” The United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union may have segregated Berlin for practical reasons, but the end result was anything but. And since modern folk get overexcited for the wrong reasons, unnecessary blockades in poker rooms might be the high ground to which some players will cling.

Since I enjoy the game myself, there’s a part of me that wishes poker players were smarter than the people crowding the streets demanding their rights to haircuts, manicures, and sweaty gym equipment. However, it’s due to my personal experience that I know this to be a fallacy. The majority of poker players are just as pent-up and petty as anybody else.

In a few months’ time, they’ll be even angrier. To begin with, their precious poker rooms did not open along with the rest of the city. At this time, there are no plans for poker rooms because one hundred percent of everyone’s focus is on keeping everyone healthy through this initial stage. If the virus reemerges — potentially harder the second time around — there’s a good chance everything will be forced to shut down for a second time.

The last time Vegas shut down was in 1963 following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The move was unprecedented, even though the city went dim for less than twenty-four hours. Plus, in those days, you could likely find a non-sanctioned poker game around most corners. Nowadays, poker is so regulated only three U.S. states sanction online poker.

So, when poker rooms finally reopen, in addition to smaller tables, players hiding behind masks, and the aforementioned Petri dish of soiled cards/chips, unnecessary Plexiglas shields will also find their way into the mix. Of course, this is only my opinion, but if these sneeze guards don’t break their already rattled brains, then maybe I’m overdramatizing the entire situation.

Oh, how I wish I was overdramatizing things.

An editor, writer, journalist, and foppish socialite obsessed with creating and helping others tell their best stories. Co-founder of

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