The upcoming WSOP online bracelet series is sure to bring hundreds of poker players to Las Vegas to compete. But given the COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada, visitors to the popular tourist destination will enjoy a different experience than they have in the past. We’ll help you prepare.
Many Las Vegas casinos, and a few poker rooms, reopened last week. Demand appeared to be higher than expected, although Bank of America Securities isn’t so sure about that, at least from a hotel sales standpoint.
In an article on Yahoo! Finance, BofA Securities pointed to unusually low hotel rates to gauge demand. BofA analyst Shaun Kelly projects Venetian and Wynn, two high-end resorts on the Strip, will lower prices more than 40% compared to June and July in past years.
That’s good news for poker players hoping to save some money while coming to town for the WSOP online bracelet series. But you should be prepared for some major differences between visiting Las Vegas in a normal year and this summer.
Where You Can Play the WSOP Online Bracelet Series
The 2020 World Series of Poker has been postponed at least until the fall. Due to COVID-19 eliminating the live summer poker series, WSOP.com and GGPoker will host an 85-event series on the virtual felt. From July 1-19, WSOP.com will run 31 bracelet events. But all players must be located in either Nevada or New Jersey to compete in those events.
You can compete in the tournaments so long as you’re within those states’ boundaries. That means you can be at a casino, hotel, your grandma’s basement, McDonald’s, or anywhere else that has Wifi. When the series shifts to GGPoker in late July, Americans will be excluded unless they travel outside the country to play.
Poker Cash Game Action Won’t Be as Juicy
Many poker players come to Las Vegas each summer for the WSOP, but don’t compete in any tournaments. They come for the juicy cash games all around town. This summer, you should expect a different vibe.
At present, only four poker rooms in Las Vegas are open — Orleans, South Point, Venetian, and Golden Nugget. When Aria opens its casino on July 1, the poker room is also expected to return. And Bellagio has announced the popular card room will also soon return. But most of the 31 Las Vegas poker rooms will remain closed during the WSOP online bracelet series.
The games you do find won’t be nearly as juicy as in summer’s past. Not only will the online series bring fewer tourists to Las Vegas than usual, but the poker rooms are limited to five players per table, at least for the time being. And that isn’t an appealing structure to most recreational players.
Arrive a Day Before the Event(s) You Want to Play
In a normal summer, poker players could show up on the day of an event, head to the cashier with cash, and buy right into an event once they got to the front of the line. This year, however, it would be wise to arrive in Nevada a day early if you’ve never signed up for a WSOP.com account.
Signing up for an account takes just a few minutes, but you may run into a few minor issues while verifying your identity. Until you’ve sent over a photocopy of your ID and it’s been verified, you can’t play. WSOP.com’s customer service is usually decent, but they are sometimes slow. So, if you show up on the day of the event and sign-up, your account might not be verified until the next day.
Deposit Options at WSOP.com
- Visa/MasterCard: Be prepared for your bank to decline the transaction. Many banks won’t approve the transaction, so you may have to use a different method.
- ACH Payments: Most banks will accept ACH deposits in Nevada. The deposit is instant, assuming your bank approves the transaction.
- PayNearMe: If your bank is a pain in the butt, one option is to head over to the nearest CVS or 7-11 store to make a PayNearMe deposit. On the WSOP.com app, you get a barcode and have the store cashier scan it. Then hand the cashier cash and your deposit is complete.
- Cash at the Cage: The easiest method is to head to a Caesars Entertainment casino cashier’s cage to make a cash deposit. At present, deposits can be made at Caesars Palace or Harrah’s.
Where to Stay
Las Vegas began reopening in recent weeks, but not everything is open just yet. Many of the casinos remain closed, as do certain hotels. And there are fewer AirBNB’s available now than in the past due to COVID-19. But there are still plenty of places to stay with free Wifi available so you can comfortably compete in the WSOP online bracelet series.
By the time the series begins on July 1, most of the Strip should have reopened. MGM Resorts plans to open most of its remaining properties by July 1, as does Caesars Entertainment. Hotel rates are way down compared to last summer, but it’s best to book as early as possible just in case they go up.
Expedia, a leading travel booking site, shows some cheaper-than-normal rates at all Strip hotels. We used the dates July 1-8 for an example. Here are the average nightly rates Expedia is currently showing (as of June 12):
- Harrah’s – $53
- Venetian – $167
- Encore – $136
- Bellagio – $156
- Aria – $117
- MGM Grand – $78
Pricey daily resort fees still apply at all of these properties, despite the decreased demand.
Of course, you don’t have to stay in a casino to play the online series. All you need is a laptop and access to Wifi, which is possible at any local hotel. You may even benefit from avoiding the temptations that come with the casino scene.
Lake Las Vegas, for example, has a pair of gorgeous hotels (Westin and Hilton), and there isn’t a slot machine nearby. You’ll have a comfortable stay at a relaxing, albeit scorching hot, lake. And you won’t be tempted to donk off your chips by heading downstairs to the craps table.
Expect a Different Experience Away from the Felt
If you’re expecting to come to Vegas for the WSOP online bracelet series and to blow off some steam at your favorite nightclub or strip club after a few soul-crushing bad beats, you can forget about it. Strip clubs and nightclubs still aren’t allowed to reopen in Nevada, and it’s unlikely they’ll receive permission by the time the series rolls around next month.
Want to see a show? Don’t bother booking any tickets just yet, as the popular Vegas shows are still on a hiatus. For how long? That’s anyone’s guess.
Another missing component to the Las Vegas experience is the exclusion of the famous buffets. If you’re expecting to play your best poker, it’s probably best you don’t stuff your face anyway.
That’s not to say Las Vegas has become a dull town with nothing to do. Sin City still has plenty to offer, such as casinos and luxurious hotels. But if you’re a WSOP veteran coming to town for the first-ever online bracelet series, you shouldn’t expect the typical Vegas experience.