Many poker fans don’t think we’ll see a 2021 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, but I’m a bit more optimistic. The reason I believe there’s a reasonable shot the event will take place, and I’m not talking about another online series, is because the WSOP team has some options at their disposal to make it work.
Before going any further, we must acknowledge there’s a decent chance there won’t be a live series for the second straight year. Although the thought of no WSOP in Las Vegas again sounds miserable, that’s the reality of the situation given the continued spread of COVID-19.
And even if we do have a live series in 2021, it most certainly will be different than in years past. Don’t get your hopes up on 70 bracelet events at the Rio and a packed convention center for seven weeks in June and July. One way or another, there are going to be changes to the summer series we all love. Either there won’t be a live WSOP or the live WSOP will look a bit different. I’m hopeful and optimistic about the latter, and I have some suggestions to make that happen, which I’d love for the WSOP staff to take into consideration.
Where to Play the 2021 World Series of Poker
I’ve accepted the fact that COVID-19 is forcing tournament operators of major events to cancel and postpone tournaments. Safety first. But I’d like to have a live series to cover this year, and I personally know many poker players who are anxious to chase some bracelets at the Rio again.
Caesars Entertainment, which owns the WSOP, has nine casinos in Las Vegas, including the Rio. My first suggestion is to mix it up a bit. The Rio convention center gets packed to the gills during the WSOP, at times so crowded you have to fight your way through the halls. That obviously won’t fly with social distancing recommendations from the CDC and local governments.
So, an alternative option is to spread the events out to other Caesars casinos. The large-field events would likely have to run at the Rio because there is more space for non-hotel guests to park, and the convention center is so huge. But an example would be if you held a $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament at the Rio, you could run a $10,000 buy-in event over at Planet Hollywood at the same time.
Going even further, designate one casino solely to host final tables and allow limited audience seating. That way you’re keeping fans away from the main areas of play.
Ditch the Cheapies
One of my favorite parts of the summer is to watch some Average Joe from Paducah, Kentucky or some other random town come to Las Vegas, ship a bracelet, and go home with life-changing money. That’s why many of us got into poker in the first place, right? We all saw Chris Moneymaker come out of nowhere to become world champion in 2003 and we all wanted to be just like him.
So, it pains me to make this recommendation for the 2021 World Series of Poker, but I’d suggest cutting out all the events under $1,000, and possibly even $1,500. The reason being that the three-figure tournaments attract such massive fields that it would likely lead to a massive COVID-19 spread.
Even if the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it in the US by the summer, and that’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci expects, millions of Americans are already refusing to get the shot, which means many will still be vulnerable to the virus. And then you factor in new mutations of the coronavirus that are beginning to spread without enough data to determine if those vaccinated will be immune from those newer mutations.
If the WSOP refuses to eliminate the cheap events, at least put limits on entries, say 1,000 players maximum per tournament. The less packed the Rio is and other casinos that host the WSOP, the better the chances of making this work.
Registration, Full Schedule, Online Series
Over the past few years, the WSOP schedule included 70 or more bracelet events each summer. I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen again with the WSOP.com and GGPoker poker sites being available to host some of those tournaments.
There are certain events that make the WSOP what it is — Main Event, Poker Players Championship, $10K H.O.R.S.E., etc. Without those tournaments, the summer simply isn’t complete. So, the schedule should include the biggest events hosted in Las Vegas.
For the Main Event, my suggestion is to host four Day 1 starting flights instead of the usual three. The reason for that is, once again, to limit the crowds. There isn’t any need to split up Day 1 into multiple flights for the other higher stakes events because they draw relatively small fields (usually 100-200 players).
Other tournaments I’d like to see hosted in Las Vegas include $50,000 NLH High Roller, $25,000 High Roller PLO, $1,500 Monster Stack, $10,000 Heads-Up NLH, $10,000 Razz, and at least 10-12 events priced at $1,000-$2,000, along with a few more of the $10k’s. Play the rest of the series online at WSOP.com in the US and GGPoker for the international players.
Signing up for these events should all take place online. It’s 2021 and we’re still in a global health pandemic. Pay online for each event so that players aren’t forced to stand in lengthy lines. Every little precaution could help prevent players from spreading the virus around to each other, especially to those who refuse to get vaccinated.
When it Should All Take Place
One issue the WSOP staff is going to run into is COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada. As it stands, Governor Steve Sisolak will allow local governments to determine health restrictions for businesses starting May 1. So, that means the current limited seating and gathering capacity restrictions in Las Vegas could be lifted without the governor’s approval in time for the WSOP in late May.
There are no guarantees on that as we don’t know what Clark County will decide in a couple of months. But those decisions will obviously impact the 2021 World Series of Poker.
Assuming most restrictions are lifted by summer, it may still be wise to bump the series back at least a month. Perhaps, start it after the Fourth of July holiday. By doing so, you’re buying some additional time for Americans to get vaccinated, and for the local government to lift restrictions.
The second option is to just host the series in the fall, a few months after Dr. Fauci expects the vaccine to become available to everyone in the US. But if you run the WSOP in the fall, it’s going to be difficult for most recreational players to travel to Las Vegas. And that means most of the bracelet events should be the $10k’s and higher that attract mostly pros. I’m fine with that being the alternative if that is the only way we can have a 2021 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.