Omicron variant spreading quickly

As the world rushes headlong into yet another COVID-19 wave, this time thanks to the omicron variant, we are all experiencing the challenges of simultaneously trying to be safe and live our lives. After live tournaments were cancelled for the vast majority of 2020, they have come back with a vengeance this year as poker-starved players have returned to the felt. But COVID-19 issues remain and tournament organizers continue to adjust their policies to try to make the best of a bad situation. The latest pandemic decisions come from PokerStars, which announced new PokerStars Live tournament rules over the weekend.

The new rules were not developed because of a tweet, but the timing worked out well because of a suggestion made by Justin Bonomo on Friday:

Shortly thereafter, Willie Elliot, the customer engagement manager for PokerStars Live Events, responded, pointing out the specific COVID-19-related rules for PokerStars Live tournaments.

Positive test before the money

The gist of the entire slate of rules: players who test positive before or during a tournament have the opportunity to get their buy-in and fee refunded, either entirely or partially.

Breaking it down further, if a player who has registered for PokerStars Live event tests positive for COVID-19 before the tournament starts, they will receive a full refund.

If the tournament has started and has not reached the money, a player will receive a full refund if their chip stack is greater than or equal to the starting stack. If the player has less than the starting stack, they will receive a refund proportional to their stack size versus the starting stack. If they have half their starting chips, they will receive half their buy-in back, and so on and so forth. In all situations, the tournament fee (the portion that goes to the house) will be refunded.

Positive test in the money

Once the tournament is in the money, a player who tests positive for COVID-19 and therefore has to leave the tournament will not receive a refund. Instead, they will be considered eliminated, receive prize money for the place in which they were knocked out, and their stack will be blinded off. Tournament organizers will try to move their stack to different tables, if possible, in order to not give one table an advantage.

If the tournament gets to the final table and then someone tests positive, the other final table members are permitted to reach out to that player and the tournament director to make some sort of deal, if, of course, they want to.

PokerStars emphasized that local rules might dictate changes to the rules. Stars also said it reserves the right to require a player to furnish proof of a rapid antigen test result if they ask for a refund. The site didn’t say why, but logic would dictate that a player who is low on chips before the money might try to claim they tested positive so that they could recover some of their buy-in.

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