Ike Haxton Calls for Live Poker to be Boycotted amid COVID-19 Crisis

Elite poker pro Isaac Haxton has expanded and clarified his thoughts and concerns about players continuing to play live poker as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, and widespread availability of a vaccine remains some months off.

By: Haley Hintze

Late last week, Haxton stirred the pot with a series of tweets about the worsening pandemic numbers in Las Vegas:

Haxton received plenty of support but also a fair amount of pushback for his statements. In an exclusive for HSDB, Haxton has clarified and expanded upon what he sees and fears for the live-poker-playing public.

“I'd clarify that I am calling for players to not play,” he told HSDB. “Calling for venues to stop offering live poker as long as the state is allowing it is beside the point. They're structurally incapable of considering whether it's an ethically responsible thing to do. As long as they're allowed to do it and it will make them more money, it's what they'll do."

“That goes for daily operations of poker rooms, anyway. WSOP seems to be going out of their way to lose money doing something irresponsible, which is an interesting choice. Maybe there's something I don't understand about their TV contracts that makes it make more sense.”

Haxton then turned his viewpoint to the players’ perspective. “I'd say there's a pretty wide range of opinions among poker players. Most of my closer friends agree with me. Those are mainly people who play a lot online and play the highest stakes, so I've got to acknowledge it's an easier decision to make when you're not reliant on live poker for income and have enough money saved up to comfortably take time off. I understand that some smaller-stakes live specialists are in an impossible situation and I'm not going to tell people what to do when they're struggling to make ends meet.”

Is COVID information fatigue setting in? Haxton acknowledged that some players might not be making the right choices or considering all the data as circumstances change. He said, “I do think a lot of people who are still comfortable playing live in Vegas are simply misinformed, though. And that's where I'd most hope to be able to have an impact. Lots of people are in complete denial about the seriousness of COVID, and at this point those people are probably unreachable."

“But a lot of others think some version of ‘Well, if casinos are open it must be reasonably safe.’ I hope those people would consider that in much of the rest of the world, the level of spread we're seeing in Vegas would trigger a complete shutdown. It is by no means clear that America has the right idea about what is an acceptable level of risk to tolerate. When it comes to leisure activities, I think it's probably smart to apply a stricter standard than, ‘Is it so dangerous the American government will stop me from doing it?’"

“I also think a lot of people don't really appreciate how much worse things have gotten recently. Maybe it was a close decision whether or not to play live poker in August. It's about ten times more dangerous now than it was then and I feel like not that many people have really updated their behavior accordingly.”

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