WSOP Roundup: The World Series of Positive Results

  • A new wave of COVID-19 infections has led to a number of WSOP infections, including Hellmuth
  • Some players, such as Andrew Brokos and Doyle Brunson, have chosen to skip WSOP altogether
  • Dan Smith has won his first WSOP bracelet, while Dan Zach defeated Dirksen to claim his second
  • Meanwhile, Adam Friedman earned his fifth bracelet, beasting a final table including big names
Poker players wearing gloves
The WSOP has returned to Las Vegas for the 2022 edition, but it has led to a series of players testing positive for COVID-19. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Hashtag positivity

Covid-19 may not be front-page news anymore but the extremely contagious virus that ground the planet to a halt for almost two years has not gone anywhere. With the BA-4 and BA-5 variants, both sub-lineages of the highly transmissible Omicron, likely to become the dominant strains in the coming months, a summer surge seems inevitable.  

mass gatherings become super-spreader events

Crucially, with each new wave, the rate of reinfection dramatically increases as immunity from previous variants wanes and the protection offered by our vaccines loses efficacy. Against the backdrop of this increase in cases, mass gatherings become super-spreader events, none more potent that a tournament poker festival where the object of the game is to end up with the chips once handled by every person in the room. 

It comes as no surprise then that a large number of players attending the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas are testing positive for the virus. Phil Hellmuth was one of the early high-profile casualties:

Since then, David Baker, Andrew Neeme, KL Cleeton, Chad Holloway, Dylan Weisman, Brock Parker, Kitty Kuo, Randy Ohel, Ryan Lee, Jennifer Newell, Mike Gorodinsky, Ashley Sleeth, Matt Waxman, Elio Fox, Ashley Feinberg, and the other David Baker have all caught the virus.

Some players sitting Out

The good news, for now, is there is no indication that these sub-lineages are any more severe than Omicron, a symptomatically milder virus than its predecessors. Covid-19 cases might be on an upward trajectory again but the overall epidemiological situation currently paints a broadly positive outlook. According to Anthony Fauci, “we are out of the pandemic phase… in that we are no longer in the acute fulminant accelerated phase of the outbreak and… into hopefully a more controlled component.” 

many have decided to sit this one out

Policy changes are reflecting this outlook. Last Friday, the Biden administration announced that the US will no longer require a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test. This certainly makes traveling to Vegas for the WSOP a whole lot easier but with much still unknown about the long-term effects of long Covid, many have decided to sit this one out. 

Poker player, coach, and podcaster Andrew Brokos is playing it safe:

Wisely, 88-year-old poker legend Doyle Brunson has decided to skip some events:

Deeb Sprints, Smith Hollers, Zach wins war of attrition

The literal opposite of skipping WSOP events is multi-tabling them and that’s exactly what Shaun Deeb did yesterday as he attempted to make the money in three concurrent events:

At one point, the perennial POY-chaser was captured on camera, sprinting between tables in the $3,000 Limit Hold ‘Em 6-max (6 of 10 overnight) and the $1000 Flip and Go (64th):

There was an altogether less frantic vibe two weeks ago when Dan Smith took on Cristoph Vogelsang for the $25,000 Heads-Up No Limit Hold ‘Em title. In fact, thanks to the German, the place of play was almost sedate as he took 2-3 minutes over every decision:

Nonetheless, Dan Smith emerged victorious, winning his first WSOP bracelet and, in the process, removing himself from that list of the best have-nots:

In what was a jam-packed opening fortnight, Smith wasn’t the only Dan to take home some wrist candy. In the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship, Dan Zach defeated Dustin Dirksen in a seven-hour heads-up war of attrition to capture his second WSOP gold bracelet and the $440,757 first-place prize:

Four in four for Friedman

A few days ago, Adam Friedman could only wrap his bracelets around his wrists and ankles. One can only imagine where he will put his new one but perhaps a curious ritual he has with Brandon Shack-Harris can offer the clue:

Friedman’s fifth bracelet came in the $10,000 Stud, his fourth Championship Event win in four years after his super-human three-peat last November in the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice. He finished Day 2 atop the leaderboard and never looked back, beasting a final table that included Phil Ivey, Yuval Brohstein, and runner-up Jean Gaspard.  

2-card poker is boring”

In his post-match interview, the mixed-game specialist insisted that “2-card poker is boring,” adding, “Seven-card stud is the most complicated limit game that has ever existed. There are more nuances than almost any other two games combined. It is a beautiful game. It is really a shame that it is dying more and more each year.”

Friedman won $248,254 and is now one of only 30 players to possess at least five WSOP gold bracelets. Records are made to be broken. Tens of millions of dollars will be won and lost over the next month. The show must go on and either way you look at it, this will be the World Series of Positive Results.