Earlier this week, Caesars Entertainment and World Series of Poker officials ignited a storm of controversy. By simply introducing one new rule into their books for the 2021 competition beginning in September, the WSOP seemed to shoot themselves in the foot with the only contingent that could come to this year’s event, the U. S. player. Late last night, the WSOP issued a clarification to that rule but, for some, it did not change the situation.
“Health and Safety…Are Our Top Priority”
Earlier this week, WSOP officials started the snowball rolling by burying deep in the 2021 rulebook a new entry, Rule 115. This would have slipped by if it were not for the expert eye of poker’s Kevin Mathers, who tweeted out the new rule to his followers. With the simple comment that “Rule 115 is notable,” Mathers let the poker world know what was going on (for the record, the WSOP posted the 2021 rules, but did not make it easy for them to be found):
Needless to say, this sparked a huge outpouring of vitriol from the poker community. Of special note was the part in the rule about removing players for simply being in nearby contact with someone who tests positive, which would be in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines. This would mean that someone who was completely healthy could be, at any point in the tournament, be disqualified by no actions of their own.
WSOP officials certainly took their time to act on the brouhaha before issuing over Facebook a slight adjustment, but not removal, of some of the attributes of Rule 115. “The health and safety of our World Series of Poker participants and Team Members is our top priority,” their Friday statement began before getting into the meat of the subject. “WSOP participants who are known to have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be required to leave the tournament and quarantine if they are fully vaccinated within the appropriate timing parameters and remain asymptomatic since the time of exposure (emphasis from writer).
2021 To Be a Tough Series for All Involved
Even without this latest issue, the 2021 WSOP was going to be a tough series for all involved.
The decision to delay the 2021 WSOP from its traditional May start time looked like a brilliant move early in the summer. COVID-19 infections were down, locales such as Las Vegas were beginning to remove their mandates on masks, and it seemed that the three vaccines that were in use were working effectively.
A sizeable chunk of the populace did not see this, however. They chose to ignore the requests to get vaccinated, flouted rules that were meant for the unvaccinated, and in general left a pathway for the COVID-19 virus to reestablish a hold on the populace. This came in the Delta variant, which has mutated from the original strain into a highly potent infectant virus that is reversing all the work that has gone in previously.
The resulting resurgence in the COVID infections and deaths has seen bestbet Jacksonville postpone their tournament with the World Poker Tour and Las Vegas itself has reinstituted a mask mandate inside buildings. This would appear to apply to the WSOP as well, but the WSOP has not addressed if they will act against anyone who violates a mask mandate inside the tournament arena on the grounds of the Rio.
Add into this the factor that the 2021 version of the LIVE WSOP could be one of the least attended in history. With the lack of international travel available (it is possible to travel to the U. S., but not without jumping through many hoops), foreign players may not be making the trek to poker’s greatest tournament. In addition, the influx of COVID in the Las Vegas area may make it unappealing for foreign players – whose countries are trying to stamp out their own influxes of COVID – to go through the effort of coming to the States.
It all leads to many questions yet remaining regarding the 2021 WSOP. With six weeks left until the start of the event, time is running out to come up with concrete answers.