Tuesday, Dec. 15 was the date that the nine players who made the final table of the international portion of World Series of Poker $10,000 no-limit hold’em online/live hybrid main event were scheduled to play the final table at King’s casino in the Czech Republic.
But only eight showed up.
According to the official WSOP updates, China’s Peiyuan Sun declined to make the trip to Rozvadov. Per the rules of the event, he was awarded ninth-place money, which was good for $75,360 and his chips were taken out of play.
When the 674-entry field on GGPoker was trimmed to its final nine players, Sun was eighth in chips with 2.185 million. He held just a slight advantage over Stoyan Obreshkov, who was the short stack with 2.119 million. It’s possible that if he had a larger stack, he would’ve made the trip.
While there was no official statement or reason given about why Sun decided to forfeit his shot at becoming the 2020 champion, it is presumed that his decision stemmed from the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has affected most of the world since it started spreading earlier this year.
To mitigate the spread of the virus, players at the table were required to wear facial coverings at the table, a measure implemented by nearly every cardroom currently operating. All eight players were also tested prior to the start of play. Everyone that made the trip was negative.
The location of the final table may also have impacted Sun’s decision. According to a September report from the Global Times, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a travel warning for its citizens, strongly urging them to stay out of the Czech Republic.
Chinese officials cited rising case numbers as the reason for the caution, but the report also mentioned that it came shortly after the Senate Speaker for the Czech Republic visited Taiwan. The move reportedly irritated the Chinese government and violated the one-China principle.
At the time, new cases in the Czech Republic were topping 1,000 per day for the first time in the Central European country. It peaked at around 15,000 cases at the start of November. At the time of the final table, the Czech Republic was seeing roughly 2,000 cases per day, according to data obtained from Johns Hopkins University.
This would’ve been Sun’s first cash outside of his home country. He amassed $17,227 in career tournament earnings, all of which came from this past summer’s online WSOP and six cashes from live events in Macau. His ninth-place finish was the largest of his career by a wide margin.
Before Tuesday’s finish, his largest cash was a ninth-place finish in the 2017 PokerStars Championship Macau for $9,265. A win on Tuesday would’ve netted Sun $1.55 million and a shot at another $1 million in a heads-up match with whoever wins the U.S. final table, which is scheduled for Dec. 28.