The WSOP has clarified its stance on COVID-19, saying that players won’t necessarily be disqualified if they’re exposed to the virus.
The WSOP’s new COVID rules, first announced last week, sparked a debate last week when it emerged that players could be disqualified from an event without remuneration if they test positive for COVID-19. Rule 115 also stated that anyone within “close proximity” to a positive case of COVID-19 would be removed from an event without compensation. A stream of questions followed the announcement and the WSOP has responded.
The main point of clarification is that fully vaccinated individuals won’t be required to leave the tournament area if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
WSOP will follow CDC guidelines
The organizers have made it clear that Rule 115 takes into account current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and Nevada state regulations. As such, vaccinated players won’t automatically be expelled from an event just because someone in the room tests positive.
“Consistent with current CDC guidelines, WSOP participants who are known to have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be required to leave the tournament and quarantine if they are fully vaccinated within the appropriate timing parameters and remain asymptomatic since the time of exposure,” the WSOP’s announcement states.
Daniel Negreanu added further clarification. As a senior player with close ties to the rule makers, he tweeted that there will be no onsite testing, and proof of vaccination won’t be required.
WSOP Rule 115 clarification:
No on-site testing or proof of vaccine required (as of today)
WSOP will not DQ a player unless they volunteer they have tested positive
Any contact tracing done by CDC in Nevada is independent of the WSOP.
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) August 14, 2021
Moreover, the WSOP won’t disqualify a player unless they voluntarily declare that they’ve tested positive for COVID, or they’re contacted by the CDC. In essence, Negreanu’s tweet means that, by and large, the WSOP will be using an honor system. Anyone who tests positive will have to tell the organizers because there won’t be any way to test people inside the Rio.
Staff won’t be required to play doctor
Taking this position means members of the WSOP staff won’t have to take responsibility for spotting potentially positive COVID-19 cases. Prior to the WSOP clarification, it was assumed that dealers and tournament officials would have “ultimate” and “sole” discretion for identifying possible health risks.
That position could potentially put people who aren’t health experts in a tricky position, particularly if removing a player from an event means they forfeit their buy-in. The implication from the latest update is that fully vaccinated people can stay in the game as long as they aren’t displaying any COVID symptoms.
Anyone who feels ill and tests positive should let WSOP officials know so they can be officially removed from the tournament. The WSOP’s expectation, therefore, is that players will be honest and consider the safety of others ahead of their own interests.
Players divided on COVID stance
Given the nature of the topic, players are split on the impact Rule 115 will have on the WSOP. Veteran pro Mark Seif believes the WSOP should “require proof of vaccination” from everyone who wants to play. Twitter user Dawn P wants to know if the WSOP will be held responsible if “players get sick and/or die.”
Precedents have already been set with regards to people proving they aren’t a health risk. Casinos in certain European countries are currently asking for proof of vaccination or a negative test before players are allowed inside. What’s more, various festivals in the US, including Coachella, will require visitors to provide proof of vaccination.
You almost got it right. Just require vaccination and call it a day.
*Flame me. I know it's coming.
— Shawn J (@OfficialShawn) August 14, 2021
Still, there are some people who consider these mandates a breach of their civil liberties. What’s more, there are people who can’t have the vaccine for medical reasons. This means they could be blocked from taking part in the WSOP if vaccine passports are mandatory.
It’s a fine line and there are valid arguments on both sides. The WSOP is basing its rules on CDC guidelines in the same way other businesses are. There are those that agree with this approach and there are those that don’t. Ultimately, this year’s WSOP will be different, and players will have to take responsibility for their own safety while also considering the safety of others.