2021 World Series of Poker First Weekend Is in the Books

  • With a handful of tournaments completed, attendance numbers are down compared to 2019
  • Pandemic travel restrictions are likely the biggest cause for the decline
  • “The Reunion” event beat its $5m guarantee
  • Two of the ten online bracelet events ran this past Sunday
Rio Las Vegas
Poker players are celebrating the return of the World Series of Poker to the live tables at the Rio. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Numbers down, but tables still busy

The long wait for a real, live World Series of Poker has ended, as the first weekend of the 2021 WSOP is in the books. Pushed back to the fall from its normal spring/summer dates in hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic would be more manageable, it had been over 800 days since a card was dealt at the WSOP, not counting the end of the hybrid online/live Main Event that concluded at the beginning of this year.

many decided it wasn’t worth the hassle

So far, attendance numbers appear to be suffering because of the pandemic, but not necessarily because players are afraid to play. The top reason for decreased attendance is almost certainly pandemic-related travel restrictions for players trying to come into the United States from around the world. There are hoops through which one can jump to do it, but many decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. Vaccination requirements, different time of year, and general COVID concerns are also all likely factors.

At the time of writing, four events have reached their conclusions: $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em, $25,000 H.O.R.S.E., $1,000 Covid-19 Relief No-Limit Hold’em Charity Event, and $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better.

For comparison of comparable tourneys, the Casino Employees event had 685 entries in 2019 and only 420 this year, while $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better had 853 entries two years ago and 607 this weekend.

Hit the ground running

This week’s 2021 WSOP schedule is jam-packed, as is every week. Counting yesterday through this coming Saturday, 14 different tournaments will get underway. Among the highlights are the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship, the $25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship, and the $1,500 Millionaire Maker event.

allowed the event to draw 12,975 entries, generating a $5,449,500 prize pool

One of the more anticipated events, $500 “The Reunion” No-Limit Hold’em, began on Friday with the first of three starting flights. They are currently in the midst of Day 2, with the tournament slated to conclude tomorrow. The World Series of Poker guaranteed a $5m prize pool, and that, combined with the low buy-in, allowed the event to draw 12,975 entries, generating a $5,449,500 prize pool.

The $25,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em 8-Handed event will finish up Monday night. $1,500 Dealer’s Choice 6-Handed, which began over the weekend, is also ending this week.

Online is an option

For those who cannot or do not want to travel to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker in person, there are ten online events scheduled while the WSOP-proper is going on. They are only open to players on WSOP.com in Nevada and New Jersey, however, so those who want to play will have to be physically located in one of those states.

Two online events already took place on Sunday, October 3: $5,300 No-Limit Hold’em Freezeout and $500 No-Limit Hold’em BIG 500. Through the rest of the WSOP, there will be one online bracelet event each Sunday, with two on November 14.

Because Pennsylvania does not share online poker liquidity with Nevada and New Jersey, players on WSOP.com in the Keystone State cannot participate in the ten online bracelet events. They do have a single bracelet event of their own, though, slated for November 21.