Holiday Poker Events Becoming the New Normal as Traditions Change

November 25th, 2016 | by Jason Reynolds

Not to sound clichéd, but the world is ever-changing. Spending 24 hours a day with family during major holidays was a given once upon a time. But today, with fewer traditional families than 20 years ago, many partake in activities that have nothing to do with relatives or the holiday on these days. And that’s where poker comes in, of course.


Even Snoopy would probably rather get into a holiday poker game than watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” one more time. (Image:

Years ago, it was difficult, if not impossible, to find a poker game on Thanksgiving or Christmas in most places. In fact, throughout the entire holiday season, decent tournaments were at a premium. That isn’t the case in 2016.

Take the World Poker Tour, for example. On December 5, the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio in Las Vegas kicks off. This $10,400 buy-in tournament is one of the most highly anticipated WPT tournaments of the year.

Then December 8-19, in Prague, Czech Republic, the European Poker Tour (EPT) has a major event scheduled. This pre-Christmas series will most certainly attract players from all over the world. In cities such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, many casinos will likely be offering lower buyin Christmas Day (and eve) poker tournaments as well.

Culture Shift

In America, traditional religious observances are becoming less important overall to many. Add to that more fragmented and shall we say, sometimes less-than-harmonious family units, and you can see where the demand for non-familial entertainment stems from.

What this means for poker and other extracurricular activities is that more people don’t feel bad about ditching the family on religious holidays, or at least they turn to poker for comic relief after one too many interchanges with Aunt Millie. That’s a pretty big shift from years back.

The decline in religious focus isn’t the only reason playing poker is now socially acceptable during holiday time. On non-religious holidays such as Thanksgiving, poker is becoming an alternative to eating yourself into a stupor and falling asleep in front of the TV.

Of course, not everyone has a family to spend time with during the holidays, either. Distance, travel, and many other factors can mean you are all alone, and what better place to both have fun and gain some social interaction than at a live, or even online, poker game?

Finally, there’s just the desire to break up stale patterns. To many poker players, a game of $5-$10 no-limit hold’em at the Borgata sounds more appealing than watching the same old Charlie Brown holiday special that’s aired year after year, surrounded by relatives who are criticizing you for something, anything, or everything.

If you happen to be spending the holidays in Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware, or better yet, if you live in one of those states, your options will be much greater, of course. There should be plenty of online events, sit n gos, and cash games to choose from, and this also gives you an excuse to escape the crowd.

Unless, of course, your whole family likes to play, then you can set up your own poker “war room” and discuss strategy while you play with football in the background.

New Attitudes

Nowadays, when a poker player says, “I’m going to play some cards,” the response is usually, “cool, good luck.” A few decades ago, the response likely would have been less laissez-faire.

If you want to know who to thank for some of that change in attitude, look to, surprise! Chris Monyemaker. After all, he is the one who 13 years ago took poker from the underground to the mainstream, and eventually directly into millions of homes.


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