WSOP May Face Poker Dealer Shortage

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Signaling that the WSOP organizers may be facing a dealer shortage for this year’s series, Caesars Entertainment is shuttering two of its poker rooms in order to shift staff to the Rio. 

Poker dealer.
The WSOP may be thin on dealers in 2021. (Image: Chicago Tribune/Julie Jacobson/AP)

The poker rooms at Bally’s and the Flamingo will be closed from Sept. 26 to Nov. 26.  The WSOP runs from Sept. 30 to Nov. 23. An employee of the Flamingo poker’s room confirmed that the closing is directly related to staffing issues, which have been going on for more than a year now.

Local players and fans of the 11-table room are worried that the Flamingo will remain closed after the WSOP, but the staff hasn’t received any notice this is true, and confirmed the room will reopen after the WSOP. CardsChat News reached out to the WSOP, but officials didn’t respond to our request for comment.  

While Caesar Entertainment management is determined to get all 88 live bracelet events off without a hitch, the 52nd iteration of the WSOP was bound to face challenges and questions in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. After announcing it would require all players to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, the WSOP leaked that dealers won’t be required to be vaccinated.

Even so, Caesars Entertainment is offering dealers $250 to get the jab and will even have vaccinations available on-site. Dealers have until Nov. 4 to get vaccinated, allowing them to work all of September masked, but un-vaxxed. Dealers who already had the shot will be entered in a drawing with a $25,000 prize pool and a $5,000 top prize.

Details of a staff shortage have been circulating Twitter and poker dealer groups on Facebook since this summer, and a quick glance at the job search site Indeed shows that casinos across the country are looking for dealers for all of their table games.

How many players will show up?

A handful of popular players, including 2009 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Cada, said they won’t attend this year’s series because of the vaccination requirement, while others, like Ireland’s David Lappin, said they won’t make the trip because of Las Vegas’ vaccination rate. 

“I’d love a last minute trip for the Main Event in November but the truth is, as a family man, last-minute changes of plans are not really possible. Also, and this is the biggest factor, the fact that Nevada is only 55% vaccinated makes it a reckless proposition,” Lappin, a UniBetPoker ambassador and commentator, said. 

Despite Lappin’s hesitation, the WSOP will most likely see a player pool bump thanks to the US recently ending travel restrictions from Europe. How many players will take their chances at the Rio is something WSOP officials would love to know.

Less tables, same amount

COVID-19 and its restrictions helped shutter nine poker rooms since 2019 when Vegas had 31. Some rooms, like the one at Mandalay Bay, took months to reopen while others, like those at the Mirage, MGMGrand, Binions, and, Planet Hollywood will be shuttered indefinitely, if not forever. 

Before the global pandemic, Nevada poker rooms experienced their best month ever. In July 2019, poker tables brought in $22.2 million in rake at 650 tables across 56 locations — 31 of them in Vegas. That’s about $34,000 per table. 

A year later, 252 tables at 22 locations earned $8.8 million, which is still around $35,000 per table. This July, $15.5 million in rake was brought from 35 locations and 450 tables, averaging $34,000 per table. 

So while the Mirage filled its poker room with slots and Green Valley Ranch changed its room to a sport’s watching lounge, poker tables in the state are still performing at pre-COVID levels. 

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