Three members of a regular Florida poker game have died from COVID-19 after all eight contracted the disease in March, The Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
The group of senior citizens, all originally from New York, had played in the same friendly poker game in Aventura twice a week for ten years, according to one of the survivors.
They played their final game on March 12, while one member of the group was displaying cold-like symptoms.
‘I Don’t Know How I Made It’
At the time, just 51 cases had been confirmed among Florida residents, and 13 of these were on a cruise ship on the Nile. Two deaths had been reported.
And while the CDC had just declared the virus to be a pandemic, strict social distancing mandates had not yet come into play in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis had issued restrictions on visits to nursing homes, but bars, casinos, and nightclubs would remain open for another week.
Just two weeks later, almost 2,500 Floridians had tested positive for COVID-19. Among them were the eight players in the Aventura home game.
“It’s a tragedy,” Harriet Molko, a player in the game who tested positive on March 22 and spent nine days in hospital, told the Sun Sentinel. “It’s just a nightmare and I’m trying to get over it.”
Molko added that at one point she thought she would die.
“I don’t know how I made it,” she said. “I guess I’m just younger and stronger.”
Those who weren’t so lucky — Marcy Friedman, 94, Beverly Glass, 84, and Fred Sands, 86 – all had underlying health conditions.
The Trouble With Poker
The report underlines how efficient an incubator of the coronavirus a poker table can be, as players pass chips and cards between one another in proximity.
Which makes it all the more mysterious that the World Series of Poker — an event that attracts upwards of 6,000 entrants — has not yet been officially canceled.
The Series is scheduled to kick off on May 26 at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which, like all casinos in Las Vegas, is currently on lockdown.
The WSOP has canceled several circuit events, including two scheduled for May in Calgary and Paris. But its silence on the flagship event is perplexing, especially for those who booked their flights in advance and have been left in limbo.
Organizers may be playing a waiting game to see if the event can be pushed further into the summer or early fall. But COVID-19 is unlikely to be defeated by then. Even if social distancing measures are relaxed considerably, an event that packs thousands from across America and the world into a convention center is unlikely to be the smartest move.
Meanwhile, the deaths of three for whom poker was no championship clash, but a simple, bonding social event, drives home the brutality of the coronavirus, when an apparently harmless game of cards with friends can end in horror.