Poker during a pandemic is a bad idea

We were all waiting for this shoe to drop. It felt inevitable. Caesars entertainment finally announced that the 2020 World Series of Poker has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled to begin just over a month from now on May 26th, the goal is now to hold the WSOP sometime in the fall.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak closed the state’s casinos a month ago; all commercial casinos in the U.S. have been shut down since around the same time, give or take a few days. Though governors around the country are working out plans on when to “re-open” their economies, casinos and poker rooms are thought to be among the most difficult to re-open safely. Poker rooms – and an event as large as the WSOP – are veritable petri dishes, what with all the chip and card touching and close quarters.

Most reasonable people have thought for weeks now that holding the WSOP this spring/summer was just unrealistic.

Tournaments could go online

In Monday’s press release, Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the World Series of Poker, said:

We are committed to running the World Series of Poker this year but need additional time to proceed on our traditional scale while prioritizing guest and staff well-being. In the interim, official WSOP competitions are expected to be played online this summer, and we will soon announce details of an expanded series of tournaments to be played on WSOP.com and through partnership with international operators, which will allow players to chase WSOP glory from their homes.

The World Series of Poker certainly has experience hosting events online. There have been official bracelet events on WSOP.com the last several years. Last month, the site held the WSOP.com Online Super Circuit Series for residents of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. And in May, international players will get their shot at Circuit rings with the WSOP Super Circuit Online Series on GGPoker.

The natural problem with having some “official WSOP competitions” online during the pandemic is that normally, they are WSOP.com. That’s great when thousands of poker players are in town for the WSOP, but since people will still be home, most will not be able to play. Thus, the importance of a “partnership with international operators,” as Ty Stewart mentioned.

Kid Poker has some thoughts

Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu had been calling for the World Series of Poker’s cancellation or postponement for a while.

“At this point, it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There’s no social distancing in poker. You’re using the same cards and chips, sitting around a table for 10, 12 hours a day.”

He added that he doesn’t think that live poker will be a real possibility until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.

Speaking about the possibility of some online bracelet events on WSOP.com and others on sites that cater to the global poker community, Negreanu didn’t love the idea. He appreciated having more events online, just not if the World Series of Poker goes online-only.

“I think it would be sort of illegitimate if they did it that way,” he said. “I can’t imagine having bracelets that are only available to Nevada residents.”

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