WSOP Team Members “strongly encouraged” to get vaccinated

Late last week, we reported that everyone attending the 2021 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to gain entry. At the time, the WSOP’s announcement of the new policy implied that poker dealers would be included in the mandate, even if the press release did not explicitly say so. We and virtually every other media outlet assumed that “anyone attending” meant everyone at the event. Apparently, this isn’t so.

According to an update from our friends at PokerNews, WSOP dealers and staff are not required to be vaccinated, but are rather “strongly encouraged” to do so. And so we have another twist in the fluid COVID-19 saga at the World Series of Poker.

PokerNews asked WSOP officials if dealers and staff were included in the policy. To that, the WSOP replied: “As with all Caesars Entertainment Team Members, WSOP Team Members are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Caesars is committed to making vaccination easy and accessible for all Team Members. Additionally, the Company is providing significant incentives for Team Members who choose to be vaccinated.”

PokerNews asked other questions related to COVID-19 and the tournament, but those queries went unanswered.

New rule scared players

COVID-19 has been a controversial, yet necessary topic of discussion in the leadup to this year’s World Series of Poker. The pandemic already caused the annual poker festival to be nixed last year (along with essentially every other live poker tournament) and this year’s was delayed until the fall to give organizers more time to implement health and safety measures and hopefully allow the pandemic to subside at least a bit.

But as the delta variant has contributed to a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths around the United States, that relief from the pandemic has not arrived. As such, the WSOP added Rule #115 to this year’s official rulebook, which spooked a lot of prospective players, as it said that anyone at the WSOP who was in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 could be removed from the competition.

The WSOP later clarified, saying that if someone was in close contact, but is vaccinated and asymptomatic, they would not be required to leave the tournament.

Updates keep coming

The situation evolved further last Friday, when the WSOP announced that “anyone attending” the Series will be required to show proof of vaccination. And again, while staff and dealers were not explicitly mentioned, the above phrase plus, “This policy is inclusive of all participants, press and vendors,” made everybody assume that staff and dealers were included.

But in this case, someone at PokerNews clearly realized that it might not be obvious if “WSOP Team Members” were actually included in the vaccine mandate, so they asked.

The WSOP’s response will certainly draw further criticism, and probably from both sides of the WSOP vaccine argument. While there are many more players than dealers and staff, dealers, in particular, can be in close contact with many players during a long tournament day. We won’t speculate too much here, but the decision could have to do with the difference between what an business can/is willing to do with its employees/contractors and what it can/is willing to do with its customers. A possible dealer shortage could also play a factor, though who really knows in which direction? Either way, people are going to keep talking about the WSOP with four weeks to go until opening day.

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