The COVID-19 pandemic climate is constantly changing and with it, so does the live poker climate. On Friday, the World Series of Poker updated its policies once again, announcing that all attendees of the 2021 WSOP must provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
Included in the directive are all attendees, not just poker players. Media members, vendors, spectators, everyone, must show proof that they have received their final vaccine dose no later than 14 days before “start date.” It is not immediately clear if that means the WSOP’s start date or the player’s start date, but the above tweet rewords that to “first registration,” so it may be the latter.
this is not a decision we have taken lightly”
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly–it is made with no agenda beyond protecting player eligibility and the operations of a unique televised gaming event,” said Ty Stewart, WSOP Executive Director, in Friday’s announcement.
The WSOP will use the CLEAR mobile app and Health Pass feature. Once a player has validated their vaccination status with CLEAR, they can go ahead and register for tournaments at the Rio cages. Those who don’t use CLEAR, or haven’t had their vaccination status verified by the app, can visit a separate location at the Rio to show their COVID vaccination card or other health pass that may have been issued by their state or country.
All attendees and staff are required to wear face masks.
COVID-19 rule confused players
Earlier this month, prospective participants raised eyebrows at a specific rule for this year’s World Series of Poker, brought to light by poker media guru Kevin Mathers. Rule #115 stated that players could be removed from the WSOP if they test positive 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.”
players didn’t want to risk getting unlucky based on seat draw
The revelation elicited strong responses from the poker community, as players expressed hesitancy to make the trip to Las Vegas if there would be a chance they could be disqualified just because somebody else had COVID-19. Luck is enough of a factor in poker; players didn’t want to risk getting unlucky based on seat draw.
A few days later, the World Series of Poker clarified that as long as a player is vaccinated and remains asymptomatic, they will not be removed from the proceedings, even if they are exposed to someone with the virus.
Pandemic still affecting live poker
As was the case for most live poker tournaments starting in mid-March last year, the 2020 World Series of Poker was cancelled because of the pandemic. In its place rose the WSOP Online on both WSOP.com and GGPoker. Additionally, the WSOP created a separate hybrid online/live Main Event that started on the internet, whittled down two live final tables – one each in the US and Rozvadov, Czech Republic – and concluded with a heads-up showdown at the Rio for the bracelet. Because of COVID-19-related travel complications, that heads-up match had to be delayed until the first week of 2021.
This year, the 2021 World Series of Poker returns, but rather than running during the late spring and early summer, it has been pushed back to the fall, scheduled for September 30 through November 23. Tournament organizers did this in order to have more time to make proper healthy and safety decisions and in the hopes that the pandemic would slow.
As we know now, the pandemic has kicked back into higher gear with the spread of the more infectious delta variant of the virus. Already this month, the bestbet Jacksonville and Maryland Live! casinos have announced the postponement of World Poker Tour events. The former was to conclude in the next few days, while the latter would have begun in mid-September.