The poker gods haven't been too kind to the Illawarra's thriving poker community of late.
Those who run poker games and the thousands who play have gone without live games for the best part of four months.
Like it has throughout much of society, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the poker industry hard.
Following strict NSW Government restrictions, most clubs and pubs throughout the Illawarra have been left with little choice but to cancel poker games.
Those who run poker games, such as APL Illawarra owner Donna Gregory understand why club's are reluctant to have games at their venue.
"We do not blame our clubs, they are just following the rules," Gregory said.
"They can't afford to get fined by the government if certain restrictions are broken. They are doing it tough too.
"I'd love for poker to be back but I understand it's a difficult predicament."
Just four months ago Gregory was running 14 games over five days at various clubs and pubs in the Illawarra.
To have no games in the space of a couple of days was "extremely tough".
"Financially it's been hard but I understand it's been hard for a lot of people who have lost their jobs because of this pandemic," Gregory said.
"I cant afford to get sick. I've been looking after my dad over the last four months while poker has been off.
"I've been in Cootamundra. If I didn't have dad to look after I would have gone stir crazy."
Just a couple of weeks ago it seemed likely poker would return to Illawarra clubs.
Gregory and other poker tournament directors were advised to look at a return date. But then came the outbreak of coronavirus cases at Crossroads Hotel in Casula.
"When we came out of lock down I thought we were going to come back but that has all changed again and we don't know when we will return.
"It is so unpredictable for the clubs, there is nothing we can do.
'APL has a plan in place where we have five people on a table, sanitising on the table, cards to be washed, chips to be sterilised but we can't even implement that yet because we don't know what's going to happen.
"We are waiting for our clubs, but with the fines the government are giving the clubs - if they do the wrong thing - they can't take the risk of having us back either."
It has been hard. The mental challenge is there. You go from seeing the same people and the friendships every day to not playing, not doing the things you like and not socialising. I think that alone adds to people's depression and mental health.Ashley Wheeler
The last few months have also been tough for Tyson Orth, the owner of WPT League Illawarra.
The new kid on the block, having only bought into the business recently, was starting to build up the league in the region when COVID-19 hit.
"We went from one night a week to having five or six games ready to go and then basically nothing. It was tough," Orth said.
Orth is one of the few still running a game in the region. At time of publication a WPT League poker tournament was being held at Wiseman Park Bowling Club.
"That's probably the only silver lining for us. New players are able to see what we have to offer," he said.
Orth and Gregory said poker players were also hurting from the lack of live games.
Windang poker player Ashley Wheeler, who has been playing poker regularly for the past 13 years, admitted he was doing it tough.
"It has been hard. The mental challenge is there. You go from seeing the same people and the friendships every day to not playing, not doing the things you like and not socialising. I think that alone adds to people's depression and mental health," he said.
Wollongong poker player Sandy Haynes said she was missing mixing and socialising with friends. "I miss playing, but I miss seeing the people more," she said.
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