The situation involving the World Series of Poker’s plans for running the 2021 WSOP amid a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid. Among the most recent developments is the WSOP’s recent announcement that masks will not be required to be worn at the poker tables by players who have been vaccinated and who are asymptomatic.
As always, though, there’s a twist: Players literally have to be seated at the table they’re playing at to be able to remove their masks. If they’re standing up, moving from one table to another, or doing anything else in one of the rooms or elsewhere in the Rio Convention Center. So if you’re playing the WSOP, you will need a mask, even if you’re not always required to wear it.
And of course, the players will be vaccinated. As we detailed last time out, that’s one of the preconditions for playing in any 2021 WSOP event, or any poker at all within the confines of the Rio.
There’s rather more to this tale, however. It begins with the WSOP’s latest clarification on the mask issue, which was announced via the WSOP’s Twitter account:
If you’re looking for the applicable part of NV Emergency Directive 050, here it is: “For certain large events or conventions held in counties where face coverings are required indoors pursuant to other Directives, fully vaccinated attendees and fully vaccinated staff may remove their face coverings inside the venue during the event or convention if all requirements of this Directive are met.”
The WSOP has also updated its FAQ regarding the series’ requirements for COVID-19 and attendee participation. It’s probably not the last update, either.
Moving on. The WSOP’s update on the mask situation removes one possible source of confusion. Everyone who attends the series — playing, working, whatever — will be required to be vaccinated or wear a mask. For everyone other than WSOP staff, it’s vaccine-mandatory. That’s not true for the series’ workers, however. The WSOP continues to attempt to incentivize dealers to be vaccinated, but the story remains the extreme dealer shortage affecting not just the WSOP, but poker rooms nationwide.
In past years, it’s been a common occurrence for the WSOP to cancel daily tournaments, satellites, and even some cash games on weekend daytimes when massive-field bracelet events are running. There’s only so much space to be had, huge as the Rio Convention Center is. Yet this year, the same cancellations may occur, but for a different reason — the lack of available dealers. We may learn as soon as the Colossus event in early October whether such shortages will affect the full, normal range of WSOP offerings.
There’s one wild card, however, and that’s the federal government’s proposed labor mandate affecting companies employing 100 or more people. That certainly applies to the WSOP. However, there’s a 75-day grace period for all companies that would be affected. In a fortunate bit of timing for Caesars and the WSOP, the series will have just completed by the time the 75-day grace period ends. Over the last decade or so Caesars has caught lots of bad breaks in a corporate sense. This time, a little bit of good fortune will go their way.
As we’ve mentioned before, it won’t be until several days of the WSOP have elapsed to get a good feel for the series’ probable total attendance. Were I a betting person, I’d wager the series will draw, overall, about 70% of the 2019 participation levels. I think at this point, Caesars and the WSOP would book that as a big win.