Work, Family, Pandemic Top Concerns as Players Adapt for Fall WSOP

An autumn full of World Series of Poker action probably wasn’t one of the scenarios most players expected to occur barely a year ago, but as the global COVID-19 pandemic roars on, that’s 2021’s new poker reality. Adaptability is the keyword — barring a massive new surge in disease, a live 2021 WSOP is going to play out.

We’ve previously looked at the pros and cons of an autumn WSOP from the perspective of pros, but there’s another truth to this as well. No matter what a player prefers, it’s a new reality, and each player must manage their needs and priorities if they want to play the WSOP.


Arkansas’s Daniel Lowery has been able to manage only brief visits to the WSOP in years past, but 2021 may provide him a larger opportunity. (Image: WSOP Circuit)

Those priorities and challenges vary widely. For full-time touring pros, it’s about building a new live-poker schedule around a shifted WSOP. For most of these players, their poker lives have been centered around an early summer run in Las Vegas. All of that will change for 2021, and the WSOP’s shift to the fall means players will run into scheduling conflicts they’ve never had to deal with before.

For part-time pros and visiting amateurs, different priorities emerge, though they’re along the same themes. Top concerns always involve juggling an extended Vegas trip with work and family concerns, and this year, for many, there are extra pandemic cautions to ponder as well. CardsChat News checked in with several pros, both full- and part-time, to see what the WSOP’s shift to fall means for them.

Increased opportunities for some players

Some part-time pros see the WSOP’s shift as an opportunity. Take Daniel “Duma” Lowery, for example. A nine-time WSOP Circuit ring winner, Lowery owns and operates a sawmill in his native Arkansas, which keeps him fully occupied when he’s not at the tables. For Lowery, 2021 is a new opportunity.

“Scheduling any trips during the summer is usually tough for me considering my business is most busy then,” Lowery said. “The fall in Vegas will also be way more bearable weather-wise. I’m really excited to compete.”

Many poker players who are parents also may find traveling to Las Vegas in the fall to be an additional challenge, but California’s Lena Evans isn’t among them. Evans told CardsChat News, “For me, it is not, but I am the exception … I have [my son] every other week, and his father and I are very cooperative, so if either of us needs more days off, we happily help one another.”

Returning to action as pandemic wanes

How pandemic protocols factor into this fall’s WSOP won’t be totally clear for some time, but the touring full-timers are making plans for all contingencies. According to Ari Engel, who’s been at the forefront of players urging others to care for themselves and others as live poker resumes, it’s about being prepared.

“I’m excited for it for sure. I’m fully vaccinated, and will plan on participating like any normal year without worryingly that my participation is harmful to others,” Engel said. “Summer in Vegas was the worst part of WSOP, so the later timing is definitely a positive and hopefully, the vast majority (or all?) participants will be vaccinated by then.”

Isaac Haxton, another of the game’s most feared players, echoed those sentiments.

“I’m excited to see the WSOP announce a schedule,” Haxton said. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic that by fall it will be looking reasonably safe for vaccinated people to be playing live poker again. I’ve missed it and I’m eager to get back to it. I hope that the whole scene of tournaments and cash games at other venues, alongside the WSOP-branded stuff at the Rio, will come together the same way it does during a normal summer.”

If there’s an underlying theme to all of this, it’s the anticipation for the live WSOP to return. California’s Joseph Cheong might have captured that best when he quipped, “I’m just glad they’re having one. I don’t really care when it is, haha!”

Written by
Haley Hintze
Contributing writer Haley Hintze is a 20-year veteran of the poker world, a Women in Poker Hall of Fame finalist, and two-time Global Poker Awards finalist.

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