Poker Event Safety in the Spotlight After esports Shooting

A devastated, mentally broken player opened fire on his fellow competitors on Sunday, killing two and injuring 10 more in an attack that left his community horrified, heartbroken and shocked.

Of course, the incident happened at a "Madden" tournament in Florida and not a poker tournament, but is it much of a stretch to imagine that same sentence applying to a poker event in the wake of its occurrence at an esports event?

The horrific attack left many in esports wondering if heightened security is needed at future events. Officials from Electronic Arts, makers of "Madden," canceled further events to review. At least some in poker expressed the same sentiment.

"It’s a sad state of affairs but it should be obvious by now that if we want to curb senseless shootings (inside buildings anyway), we need to install metal detectors at every school, arena, and store/building where there is substantial traffic," Mike Sexton wrote on Twitter.

Sexton expanded upon his thoughts in an interview with CardPlayer.

"Sadly, I’ve always worried about some poker player who went broke or felt he got a bad ruling to come back and start blasting," he said. “I predict casinos will all go to metal detectors in the not-too-distant future."

Poker and Gun Violence

Plenty of poker players struggle with mental health issues just like any other subset of society that includes a decent number of individuals.

“I predict casinos will all go to metal detectors in the not-too-distant future."

Furthermore, the amount of money available to be won in poker dwarfs the sums present in all but the biggest esports events. Plus, there's the simple reality that, unlike esports competitors who might lose a small entry fee at most, it's theoretically possible for poker players to lose every penny to their names if they play over their heads in a big cash game or tournament.

That potential cocktail could create a scary situation in a nation where access to guns isn't exactly restrictive — the "Madden" shooter reportedly acquired his weapons legally and easily.

Isolated incidents have happened in the past. A players was shot outside of a Texas poker establishment this spring, for example. In September 2016, a Wyoming man shot three people, killing one, after being upset about poker games running in his community. Many are the stories of robberies gone awry at private games and ending in gunfire.

Thankfully, however, the poker world hasn't experienced a mass attack with devastating consequences at a big event.

Looking at Poker Security

That doesn't mean it's not important to examine poker security, particularly in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting that occurred less than a year ago and left dozens dead and hundreds injured at the hands of a gunman using a casino as his staging point.

Posters in a thread on TwoPlusTwo discussed concerns, with one saying he or she had contacted the World Series of Poker multiple times.

"I know it’s unpopular but we really need metal detectors at the doors, increased security, and increased use of dogs," he or she wrote. "You have a lot of money on the line, emotions running high, out of control egos, and guys being free to wear large backpacks all over the place. Recipe for disaster."

"We work with both local and federal agencies before and during the WSOP to ensure we manage the threat any large event poses."

PokerNews reached out to the WSOP to see if decision-makers there had taken note of the Florida attack and were making any adjustments to security in light of the incident and Sexton's comments.

Seth Palansky, WSOP's vice president of corporate communications, wouldn't comment on specifics but said a lot is done behind the scenes that folks don't see.

"Security is an important consideration when planning and executing a poker tournament," he said. "We take our security very seriously. We work with both local and federal agencies before and during the WSOP to ensure we manage the threat any large event poses.

"We do place a high priority on security and are continuously working with experts to best address threats while operating a large scale event."

A WPT representative took much the same tact. Like Palansky, the WPT declined to offer any specifics about event security or whether decision-makers there were concerned in the aftermath of the Florida shooting.

"The safety of World Poker Tour players, fans, partners, and staff is always our highest priority," the WPT said in a statement to PokerNews. "The WPT will continue to work closely with its casino partners to encourage them to take a heightened, proactive approach to providing safe environments at all of our events across the globe, and we strongly encourage all attendees at our events to report any suspicious activity immediately to security personnel or law enforcement authorities."

It seems changes to security protocol aren't in the immediate future at poker events, or if they are, poker players may not be aware of them. Those concerned will simply have to examine each event individually and decide if there are enough safety concerns present to warrant sitting out.

What do you think?

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