Unless you live in a bunker and have no access to the internet (which would be impossible considering you’re reading this article), you know all about the damage COVID-19 has done to the live poker industry. In 2020, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 51st annual World Series of Poker, a heartbreaker for the poker community.
Each summer, thousands of poker players from all around the world travel to Las Vegas to compete in prestigious and juicy tournaments, and to win coveted gold WSOP bracelets. But that didn’t happen this year for the first time since 1969, a year before the World Series of Poker originated.
Summer for poker players isn’t just about chasing poker dreams and winning money. It’s also about catching up with old friends you don’t get to see the rest of the year. This past summer, however, was quite different. There wasn’t a reason to travel to Las Vegas as the WSOP was canceled and replaced with an online bracelet series on WSOP.com and GGPoker.
By mid-March, most professional sports leagues in the US had already been canceled or postponed. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, one of the biggest annual sporting events, was canceled. The NBA, NHL, and MLB seasons were all put on hold for a few months due to COVID-19. But Caesars held off until late April before calling off the 2020 World Series of Poker.
Instead, all we got was an online bracelet series that few outside of those who played in the events cared about. There wasn’t much buzz for the 85-bracelet event series split between GGPoker and WSOP.com. Most of the interest in the series stemmed from Daniel Negreanu’s multiple meltdowns while live-streaming his play. Or, Ryan Depaulo winning a bracelet from his car outside a Whole Foods in New Jersey.
The Rio in Las Vegas was empty this past summer. Let’s all hope that COVID-19 fades in 2021 so that we don’t have to write this same story at this time next year.