In a stunning move this morning, Caesars Entertainment and World Series of Poker officials took a monumental step for their upcoming tournament series. All people who enter WSOP tournaments will be required to show that they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. This new requirement will extend to the personnel working the event, including the media and Rio staff, and any spectators that may be in attendance for the series.
“This is Not a Decision We Have Taken Lightly”
The Executive Director of the WSOP, Ty Stewart, emphasized that the decision was one of public safety and nothing else. “This is not a decision we have taken lightly–it is made with no agenda beyond protecting player eligibility and the operations of a unique televised gaming event,” he stated with the announcement of the regulation. “The nature of poker is to be in close proximity with your opponents for extended periods of time, and a seat at the World Series of Poker is a commitment for both our company and the participants. We want players to be excited for their return to the WSOP, while offering the greatest level of protection and limiting complications during the tournament this fall.”
The proof of vaccination is only required from players for the first event that they take part in. This rule will be in effect for ANY of the WSOP festivities that are offered. Whether it is cash games, side tournaments, satellites, or the preliminary bracelet events or the $10,000 WSOP Championship Event, all players will have to show that they have been vaccinated. It is a one-time deal, however, so players will only have to go through showing their vaccination card once.
For those that haven’t been vaccinated as of yet, there is plenty of time to get the shots. The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a four-week process – first shot, wait two weeks, second shot and two more weeks to full coverage. The single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine skips two weeks, which may be more in line with some players schedules, especially as the date of the WSOP draws near.
COVID Continues to Have Effect
The COVID-19 situation has been one that has plagued the WSOP for a year and a half now. It was the cause of the original postponement of the 2020 WSOP, which was then moved to an online situation in two locations, the WSOP.com sites in New Jersey and Nevada and GGPoker for the international players. This was understood to have been the “action” for 2020, although the WSOP unwisely decided to run a “hybrid” WSOP Championship Event in late 2020 that was roundly criticized.
Perhaps with the memories of this fresh in their minds, the WSOP decided in 2021 to initially postpone the event until the fall. This would allow for the trio of vaccines that were rolling out at the time to take full effect. Initially, this ideal worked well but, due to huge numbers of unvaccinated people, variants developed and have become the predominant strain of COVID in late summer 2021.
The Delta variant of the COVID virus has sent infection rates, hospitalizations, ICU occupation, and deaths skyward. In Florida alone in the last month, infections have tripled, and many cities do not have any available ICU beds for needy patients. The people occupying these beds is, by a huge percentage, unvaccinated individuals.
In Las Vegas, the Delta variant has caused businesses to revert back to mandated indoor mask usage in an attempt to thwart the rise of infections. This rule applies to the WSOP, but the further step of vaccine proof is one that Caesars Entertainment and the WSOP are taking on their own.