Could WSOP Be Canceled Because of Coronavirus?

  • WSOP numbers could be depressed for safety fears
  • Illnesses can spread easily throughout poker rooms
  • Doug Polk, Mike McDonald betting on WSOP cancellation
  • WPT has already called off, postponed tournaments in Asia
dangerous cells as a 3D render
The poker community is wondering whether the coronavirus could eventually force the cancellation of the 2020 WSOP. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Will come down to money and safety

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been the number one worldwide concern for weeks now. The virus continues to spread. Tens of thousands of cases have been confirmed, with death tolls in the four-figures.

As more people become infected in different countries, including the United States, one of the top questions from a poker standpoint is if this potential pandemic could result in the cancellation of the 2020 World Series of Poker (WSOP).

The WSOP is as easy a place as any for a virus to spread

It is a logical question to ask. Players come from all over the world to compete in the WSOP at the Rio in Las Vegas. Those people are in close contact for the bulk of the day, handling chips, cards, and money. The WSOP is as easy a place as any for a virus to spread.

Many airlines have reduced or canceled routes to highly affected countries. It is entirely possible that, if things get worse, they could start halting flights into the U.S. As it is already, many travelers have canceled excursions, opting to forego business trips or vacations in favor of playing it safe.

Caesars and Rio have a lot of money riding on the WSOP and would loathe having to cancel the poker festival. There might come a point, though, where they estimate that numbers would be depressed so much that it’s worth it to take the hit. Plus, they might cancel simply for public health reasons.

A month ago, Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate communications for the WSOP, told PokerNews that they are “monitoring the situation” and that nothing has changed. But that was a month ago.

Poker players can’t pass up a prop bet

On Thursday, two poker pros, Doug “WCGRider” Polk and Mike “Timex” McDonald, proposed WSOP coronavirus bets on Twitter. Each announced that they are accepting action, betting that all World Series of Poker events will be canceled this year.

Polk wants to book at 20:1, meaning that he will put up $1 for every $20 someone else is willing to risk.

“I think there is a real chance of WSOP being canceled,” he tweeted the previous day. “There are just so many countries that fly in and with severe travel restrictions it might not be realistic.”

McDonald seems even more confident that does his counterpart, as he is looking to make the same bet, but at 12:1 odds. He is willing to win less money should the WSOP skip a year.

He defines the WSOP “happening” as there being at least one bracelet event run on American soil in 2020.

“And when I say ‘normal,’” he added, “I mean something like if all casinos are closed and 20 people play a home game at someone’s house that determines who is 2020 world champ – I still win.”

WPT cancels Asia tourneys, status quo so far in Vegas

Around the gaming industry, companies are beginning to take steps to ensure the safety of the employees and customers as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The World Poker Tour has canceled the upcoming Season XVIII WPT Vietnam event and has postponed the inaugural WPT Taiwan event scheduled for May. It has been moved to the end of the season.

The WPT’s Danny McDonagh said in his announcement on Facebook that the decision was made “until a clearer picture about the spread of the Corona Virus [sic], and the ability to safely hold the events, can be determined.”

The company said it will follow any directives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Wynn Las Vegas has taken the minimal step of installing hand sanitizers both in public areas and in employee areas of the property. The company said it will follow any directives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has informed the media that it is coordinating with public health officials.

Casinos in Macau, the gambling hub on the south coast of China, were shut down for two weeks this month. They reopened late last week.