The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to disrupt the poker world, with this year’s already delayed World Series of Poker (WSOP) events being the latest to be affected. In what’s rumored to be the last World Series of Poker to be held at the Rio in Vegas, this year’s proceedings have had plenty of dampeners thrown at it.
The 2021 World Series of Poker, is due to kick off on September 30th with its first three events including the coveted $25k HORSE event. But many players are wondering if the series will even be played out this year in the land of the free, home of the brave.
Europeans are Not Currently Allowed Entry into the United States
Despite Americans being free to travel to anywhere within Europe, this has been a one-sided affair, with the borders for Europeans wanting to go state-side firmly closed. The latest from the white house on the matter came from Jen Psaki on July 26 when she stated “the United States was not yet ready to lift restrictions on international travel, citing concerns over the highly contagious Delta variant, which is now the dominant variant in the U.S.”
This ban on EU travel has been in place since March 2020 when the US was under Trump’s administration, in his last week in office the now-former president attempted to lift the ban, but this move was rescinded by Joe Biden who took over as president shortly after.
All of this means that the WSOP which is, after all, the World Series of Poker, will now not allow a huge chunk of the world allowed to participate due to US laws in place. With a large number of the poker world’s talents coming from this continent that are now not able to compete for bracelets.
Addition of Controversial COVID-19 Rule
The rule states:
“In accordance with guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control, [Rio] reserves the right to remove any Participant from any WSOP Event at any time prior to or during the WSOP Event, in its sole and absolute discretion, for any health or safety related reasons, including but not limited to, if Participant is determined by [Rio] in its sole discretion, to have received a positive test result for COVID-19 or come into close proximity (within 6 feet for 15 cumulative minutes) of any person who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if Participant refuses to undergo any health and safety screening required by [Rio] to participate in a WSOP Event. If Participant is removed from a WSOP Event pursuant to this paragraph, and for no other reason, Participant shall not be entitled to any compensation or remuneration of any type other than what Participant had already been awarded prior to being removed from the WSOP Event. However, for the avoidance of doubt, should Participant be disqualified for any additional reason or reasons that subject Participant to penalties pursuant to the Official Rules, those penalties shall apply. Further, in the situation where one or more Participants is disqualified pursuant to this Paragraph, [Rio] reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to determine whether to proceed with any WSOP Event as scheduled or to postpone or reschedule a WSOP Event, or any portion of a WSOP Event, to a later date.”
The key takeaways from this addition to the rules are that you can be pulled from the tournament for being in contact (within 6 feet) with someone who has COVID-19. Essentially, if you shared a table with someone who tests positive for Covid you’ll be leaving the tournament with no compensation.
The WSOP then took to Twitter to clarify some more information on rule 115, the tweet states that in accordance with CDC guidelines, participants who have been exposed to a person who has tested positive will not be required to leave the tournament if they are fully vaccinated and remain asymptomatic since the time of exposure.
Shuffle Up and Mask Up
As of July 2021, the gambling hub of the world has re-instated the use of masks within all Las Vegas businesses including casinos and poker rooms. This means all players will have to wear a mask to play the events unless the law is changed before the WSOP begins.
Former WSOP main event winner Chris Moneymaker has stated that he thinks it’s 50/50 whether the WSOP will go ahead this year. The 2003 world champion has stated that he will not be making the events this year as he has safety concerns about contracting the virus and bringing it home to his 9-year old son.
What Does the Tournament Schedule Look Like
Some poker players have speculated that the WSOP will be cancelled this year. This seems to be a pretty common outlook from the poker world given the huge 2021 WSOP schedule with 88 bracelet events, which is likely an attempt to make up for last year’s lack of action.
This schedule is banking on fully packed out Rio, but with so many players looking to avoid travel and with concerns over the new rules in place, just how many runners these events will get may well see some of them pulled from the roster due to a lack of demand.