US to Extend Europe Travel Ban in Place with 2021 WSOP Only Two Months Away

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With just over two months until the start of the 2021 WSOP, international travel could be an issue, especially after the US government made clear Monday that it isn’t ready to lift a pandemic-related European travel ban.

2021 wsop poker biden
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden speak to reporters about lifting a 16-month travel ban. (Image: Reuters)

The United States is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases despite nearly half the population being fully vaccinated. Over the past seven days, the country has averaged more than 50,000 daily cases, nearly quadruple the averages over the Fourth of July weekend.

Efforts to snuff out Delta variant

The total number of cases per day isn’t the only metric President Joe Biden’s staff is using to assess the situation. One troubling factor, which happens to be the main reason the US isn’t ready to lift a ban on travelers from Europe, is the newer, more contagious, and potentially more dangerous Delta variant is becoming the dominant COVID-19 strain. In Nevada alone, the Delta variant represents more than 80% of all new COVID-19 cases.

“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a Monday press conference. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”

Nationally, cases are up 170% over the past two weeks, the death rate is up 19%, and the Delta variant now represents 83% of all COVID-19 cases in the US.

Shortly after taking office in January, Biden set a goal for 70% of the US population to be fully vaccinated by July. We’ve fallen short of that goal, thanks in part to political propaganda and the spread of anti-vax misinformation. As of last week, only 56% of the country is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. In June, an Associated Press analysis found that 99.2% of all COVID-19-related deaths were among the unvaccinated.

The national outlook has since worsened for the unvaccinated, with new cases per day quadrupling compared to last month. 

Notorious 9/11 truther Jeff Madsen, who studied film theory in college before becoming a poker pro, has been using his Twitter platform with over 18,000 followers to push his anti-vax medical opinions.

These are the discredited views that experts say are hindering efforts to get the virus under control.

Good news, bad news for the 2021 WSOP

The extended European travel ban doesn’t necessarily mean doom for the upcoming 2021 WSOP, which is set to begin Sept. 30 at the Rio in Las Vegas. The fall World Series of Poker has 88 bracelet events scheduled, including the $10,000 Main Event Nov. 4 – 23.

As of now, Europeans will have a difficult time getting to the United States in time for the series if they aren’t already in the country. The current travel ban doesn’t prevent Europeans from entering the US. Instead, those traveling from Europe (and Canada) must first travel to a non-restricted nation for 14 days before flying to the US.

You may have noticed some European pros such as Stephen Chidwick, a Brit, have been competing in high rollers in the United States since COVID-19. Those players were either in the US before the pandemic began or spent 14 days in a non-restricted country, such as Mexico, prior to arrival.

There will undoubtedly be some international players at the 2021 WSOP, regardless of the Biden administration’s travel restrictions, and the bracelet events could still attract massive fields. In the 2019 WSOP Main Event, 6,110 of the 8,569 entries were Americans, and nearly 80% of the field hailed from nations that aren’t currently facing travel restrictions. Three players who made the Main Event final table in 2019, however, were from countries currently affected by US travel bans.

For now, the WSOP is moving forward with plans for a fall series in Nevada, which currently ranks 8th among states with the most cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days. As Las Vegas casinos have reinstituted mask wearing for employees, regardless of vaccination status, the WSOP is actively recruiting dealers and floor staff, while running online satellites in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware on They have a countdown clock ticking, reminding us all the scheduled start is just 64 days away.

But if the latest efforts to snuff out the surging coronavirus Delta variant loses its battle against misinformation and vaccine hesitancy, the 2021 WSOP could be a little less worldly than usual.

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