The World Series of Poker returns to Las Vegas on Sept. 30, but life on the felt won’t be the same as it’s been in the past. Between travel bans, vaccine mandates, mask policies, and a general sense of trepidation, this year’s WSOP will be anything but normal.
Still, for all the obstacles and setbacks organizers and players may face, there will be a live event. This guide will shed some light on how the series is going to play out and, moreover, explain what the rules and regulations players will have to follow when anteing up.
So, without further ado, here are the important questions and answers for the 2021 WSOP in Las Vegas.
When does the World Series of Poker start?
The 2021 WSOP runs from Sept. 30 until Nov. 23. There will be 88 bracelet events with buy-ins starting at $400. The WSOP Main Event gets underway on Nov. 4 and will feature four starting flights.
Day 2 will also be split into four flights before the field converges for the first time on Nov. 10 for Day 3. The bubble is expected to burst at some point on Day 4. From that point onward, play will continue on a daily basis until the WSOP Main Event champion is crowned on Nov. 17.
Where will the WSOP take place?
The WSOP will take place at its traditional home in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. That means it will be run in accordance with Nevada state gaming laws and health policies, as well as the Rio’s own rules regarding COVID-19.
Do I have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play?
Yes. The WSOP announced on Aug. 27 that only players who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can attend the series. As stated in the official rules, players must provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated before registering for any event at this year’s series.
This process only has to be done once but it is mandatory for all players.
Can I provide proof of a negative COVID test or that I’ve acquired immunity from a prior infection?
No. Certain casinos in Europe, including the WSOPE host venue, Kings Resort, currently allow visitors to provide proof of a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours or a certificate of natural immunity. This means, under the current rules, you don’t have to be vaccinated to attend the WSOPE. However, you do have to prove that you’re not infected with COVID-19.
The same rule doesn’t apply to the WSOP in Las Vegas, where all players have to be vaccinated, without exception. The organizers have stated that they won’t even accept an exemption based on religious grounds.
Therefore, if you’re planning on playing in this year’s WSOP, you’ll have to provide proof of vaccination because a negative test and/or natural immunity won’t be accepted.
Do dealers have to be vaccinated?
No. The WSOP has said that dealers will be strongly encouraged to be vaccinated, but it won’t be a condition of employment.
Dealers are hard to come by at the moment, so the WSOP has been fighting to secure as many staff members as possible to work the series. Any dealer who isn’t vaccinated will have to wear a mask at all times, including at the table.
Which vaccines will the WSOP recognize?
The WSOP based its vaccine list on FDA and WHO regulations. The following list of vaccines are either approved for use in the US or approved for emergency use by the FDA and are, therefore, acceptable:
- Pfizer (BioNTech)
- J&J (Jansen) (a one-dose vaccine)
The following vaccines have been authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use and will also be accepted by the WSOP:
- Oxford – AstraZeneca
- Sinopharm – BBIBP
*This list was correct as of August 31 and the WSOP reserves the right to amend it.
Do I have to wear a mask at the WSOP?
You don’t have to wear a mask if you’re sitting at a table. However, the bottom line is that masks must be worn in all other areas inside the Rio by all attendees.
Will railbirds be allowed to watch?
A limited number of spectators will be allowed inside the WSOP playing area this year. Anyone wanting to watch must be at least 21 years old, wear a mask, and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Can people from outside the US attend the WSOP?
Yes, but travel bans mean that it will be tough for anyone outside of the US to enter. We spoke to English pro Stuart Rutter about the mood among European players leading up to the WSOP. He said people aren’t optimistic, but believes there is a 50/50 shot Europeans will be able to enter the US before the end of the series.
Travel expert Simon Calder told CardsChat that Brits and players who live in other countries barred from entering the US can fly to Las Vegas via Mexico. However, the workaround means you have to fly to Mexico and stay there for 14 days. Once you’ve done that, you can enter the US, assuming you can provide a negative COVID test.
At the time of writing, the following countries are on the US no entry list:
- Countries within the European Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City.
- The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
- The Republic of Ireland
- South Africa
What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 during an event?
Prior to announcing its vaccine rule, the WSOP stated that anyone who tests positive during an event will be removed.
If they were in the money, they would receive a prize based on their exit position. If they weren’t in the money, they would simply be removed from the event and their buy-in wouldn’t be refunded. The same rules also applied to anyone who came into contact with someone who tested positive.
These rules sparked a wave of controversy, which forced the WSOP to respond. The updated version of Rule 115 states that vaccinated players who came into contact with an infected person, but who test negative for COVID-19, don’t have to leave a tournament.
This remains the case and, because everyone will be vaccinated, only people who test positive have to worry about being removed from a tournament.
If you have questions about any topics related to the 2021 WSOP that aren’t covered here, leave a comment and we’ll endeavor to get the answer for you.