Much like in life, there are no guarantees, but if certain things happen over the next few months, we just might have a 2021 World Series of Poker.
Last year’s World Series of Poker transformed into an Online Bracelet Series mixed between GGPoker and WSOP.com, due to COVID-19. And the poker community certainly doesn’t want that to happen again.
That isn’t to say the online series wasn’t entertaining. We saw some exciting moments, such as Ryan Depaulo shipping a bracelet from his car outside a Whole Foods grocery store in New Jersey. But it just wasn’t the same, and lacked the prestige of the previous 50 years.
So, the focus now is on avoiding a similar scenario in 2021, even if major changes are made compared to previous years. You probably shouldn’t expect the standard 70-plus bracelet event series at the Rio in Las Vegas beginning in late May, with a July Main Event start date. Given that it’s already the middle of March and no schedule has been released — and COVID-19 is still a major concern — if there is to be a 2021 WSOP, it almost certainly will take place later in the year. Rumors have been swirling around about a fall series, but nothing official has been released.
Making the 2021 WSOP happen
For the 2021 WSOP in Las Vegas to take place, and not the online version, the poker community will need to win the equivalent of a flush draw with two over cards. What that means is the odds are looking solid, but there are no guarantees.
First off, America needs a vaccinated population. That doesn’t mean everyone in the country must get vaccinated, nor are we telling you what to do with your own health. But unless a significant percentage of Americans and foreign travelers are vaccinated by the time the WSOP staff wants the series to begin, you can forget about it happening.
The good news on this front is the vaccine rollout is finally moving along. President Joe Biden said he anticipates every citizen will have free reign to get the shot. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, expects more than half the population to be vaccinated by July.
Equally positive news is that coronavirus cases have been down significantly over the past month. In early February, and in the month prior, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the US exceeded 100,000 every week. Over the past month, however, seven-day averages are well under 100,000, and in some cases, under 60,000 per day.
Even if the virus begins to fade, the WSOP also needs the state of Nevada to permit the event to take place. That means capacity restrictions must be lifted. Want some more good news? Starting May 1, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak will permit local governments to determine COVID-19 restrictions going forward. Betting on Clark County, home to Las Vegas, lifting the 50% capacity in casinos soon after certainly wouldn’t be a horrible wager.
CardsChat News confirmed with Ty Stewart, the WSOP’s executive director, that our assumptions about what must transpire for the series to run this year were “on the right track.”
WSOP must adapt
The world has changed so much since the last time the poker world gathered at the Rio in Las Vegas (2019). If the WSOP is to run in Las Vegas like most in poker hope, those who plan and organize the series must be flexible.
That includes having multiple start dates planned just in case the preferred date doesn’t work out. It may also include adjustments, such as moving certain events to other venues instead of hosting the entire series at the Rio.
And if a player becomes ill with COVID-19 in the middle of tournament, they’ll need to have a procedure in place to handle the situation. Will that player’s chips get blinded off? Or will they simply be removed from the tournament as if they had just busted and be paid accordingly, which was the case with Upeshka De Silva at the 2020 WSOP Main Event final table. Those are questions we can’t answer, but the WSOP staff must determine in the event there actually is a 2021 WSOP.