Editorial: Will There Be a 2021 World Series of Poker?

The confetti has been swept up, the noisemakers…oh, wait a second. There were no big gatherings for New Year’s Eve this year. It was quite odd looking at an empty Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but it has become the situation we face under the current COVID-19 pandemic. And, especially after the massive cluster…(my Marine background would say it, but we’re a family page here!) that has been the “hybrid” WSOP “World Championship,” it must leave you wondering what – or whether – the 2021 World Series of Poker will be held?

Relax – It Will Happen

First off, everyone needs to relax. There will be a 2021 WSOP, but it isn’t going to be anything like what we’ve seen previously on the stage in Las Vegas. Even with the summertime fun of the WSOP.com/GGPoker series and the embarrassment that was the “hybrid” in December, Caesars and WSOP officials have now probably learned that they have to hold the biggest event in poker in a live setting or don’t have it at all (and do you really think they’re going to do that?). Thus, the “powers that be” at the WSOP are strategizing right now to making the 2021 event go off in May.

The rollout of several vaccines to combat the COVID-19 outbreak are a welcome sign for anyone who is a fan of mass gatherings. Whether it is a rock concert, sporting event or a poker tournament, these vaccines were necessary to allow for the return of large-scale events around the world. Thus, the December rollout of these valuable medical tools will give everyone a bit of relief when it comes to large gatherings later in the year.

This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s just going to go back to “the way it was.”

The tables themselves will probably remain with the Plexiglas and eight-handed. It is also conceivable that, if the Plexiglas is taken away, that the players at the table will have to all wear masks while playing – no exceptions. That way all players are protected from each other and the personnel working the tournament – the floor staff, dealers, and waitresses (if they’re allowed to work) – are also taken into consideration.

There is the one thing that many might have a problem with, however, and it isn’t the masks. I can easily see the WSOP requiring that you have a valid COVID-19 vaccination and must present the evidence of this vaccination upon registering for events. If you cannot provide this information, you don’t play the events.

What Would Be the Ramifications?

Other than the “not playing” part for not having been vaccinated, the WSOP can go further. The officials with the WSOP held firm to their COVID rule at the “hybrid” WSOP final table here in the States regarding Upeshka DeSilva. For those of you who might not have heard this, DeSilva was at the final table of the U. S. segment of the WSOP but tested positive for the virus. He was summarily disqualified from the tournament and given the ninth-place finish.

There were many who didn’t like this outcome, but it was what the WSOP said would happen, the players understood that they ran this risk, and it wasn’t “a surprise” when the WSOP put their rule into motion. The same thing could very well happen this summer at the 2021 WSOP when, more than likely, the WSOP will test players before final table play and, should anyone pop positive for COVID, would be removed from the event and banned from playing in any other WSOP action for a week (the CDC guideline for quarantine). If you’re one of those people who say, “I’m not wearing a mask” or “I’m not getting a vaccine” or “There’s no way they’re testing me,” guess who isn’t going to be playing at the 2021 WSOP?

The COVID-19 virus is serious. By the time that the WSOP rolls around, it is possible that the virus may have killed more than a half million people in the U. S. (and we’re already at 350K), WAY more than the average “flu bug” that goes around. The WSOP isn’t going to want to take any chances in providing a “super spreader” for the virus, thus it will take whatever tactics it feels is necessary to provide a safe event.

Even with all these preparations in place, there still is the potential that many countries will not allow their citizens to fly to the U. S. (you know, because we’ve done such a fantastic job in controlling it) or vice versa – the U. S. may not allow people in from other countries. It is a grim reality of our current world, but there may not be a “normal” WSOP event until well into 2022…or potentially further. So, if you’re looking to play poker this year, mask up, get jabbed in the arm and take care of yourself and you should be ready to play at the 2021 WSOP, because it is going to be held…how it looks may be a whole other matter.

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