Following state guidelines

The World Series of Poker announced Tuesday that players will be permitted to go maskless while seated at their tables. The decision, says the WSOP, is in line with Nevada Emergency Directive 050, signed by Governor Steve Sisolak on September 2. Whenever players are away from the table, even a step, they must wear masks.

The emergency directive expanded mask exceptions to include conventions even in counties with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 spread. Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is classified by the CDC as “high” – all but one Nevada county is in that category and that one is labeled as “substantial.”

There are plenty of mandates and qualifiers in this new policy, though. Convention organizers can only make masks optional if they require attendees to be vaccinated. If they do not require vaccination, masks are mandatory.

A slew of conditions apply, as well. To fit the new rule, a convention must: have 4,000 attendees or more, be held for a “discrete period of time,” require pre-registration and be open only to those who pre-register, have controls to keep unregistered people out, require proof of at least one round of vaccinations and be able to verify it.

By the looks of the first few conditions, the World Series of Poker certainly seems to qualify as this type of convention. And since the WSOP is requiring everyone in attendance (with an exception that we will get to) to be vaccinated, organizers can allow players to go without masks while at the tables.

Governor Sisolak replied to the WSOP’s announcement on Twitter, saying, “The more Nevadans vaccinated, the quicker our economy can recover. I continue to be encouraged by the businesses and organizations leading this effort, including @WSOP.”

Pandemic requires flexibility

The last couple weeks have been replete with COVID-19 updates from the World Series of Poker. It’s unfortunate that all of the WSOP news leading up to the poker festival surrounds the pandemic, but that’s the way life is right now and hopefully that won’t be the case next year.

The WSOP was already moved from the spring/summer to the fall because of the pandemic, but all in all, that wasn’t too big of a deal. About a month ago, however, poker media king Kevin Mathers shed light on 2021 Rule #115, which stated that the WSOP could remove players from a tournament if they were in close contact with someone else who tested positive for COVID-19. This elicited an outcry from players, who worried about the risk of disqualification through bad luck of the seating draw and no fault of their own.

Shortly thereafter, the WSOP clarified the rule, saying that as long as someone is vaccinated and asymptomatic, they will not be removed from a tournament just because they were near a COVID-positive person.

Then, in late August, the WSOP dropped the big bombshell, that all attendees must furnish proof of vaccination. That divided the poker community between those who were pleased with the safety protocol and those who did not want to get vaccinated (there is also a faction that are in favor of vaccinations but against the WSOP’s mandate).

Last week, the World Series of Poker provided another clarification/update, saying that dealers and “WSOP Team Members” are encouraged to get the vaccine, but are not required to do so. This again created a stir, though the WSOP’s hands may be tied because of the terms of employment upon which staff had already agreed.

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