WSOP Requires COVID 19 Vax for Live Events

COVID Concerns Didn’t Thwart The 2021 World Series Of Poker

The World Series of Poker is back. After canceling the 2020 series, the event returned to the Rio in 2021, albeit not in the summer when the series usually takes place. And even though attendance was down, the series didn’t turn into a ghost town. On a very positive note, Main Event attendance (following the removal of specific international travel bans) was the ninth highest in the tournament’s history.

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A Win Over COVID

The attendance number is somewhat surprising. As the world begins to return to normal (or whatever COVID-normal looks like), certain activities are still seen as risky. Unmasked, large indoor events are at the top of the list, which is precisely what the World Series of Poker is. To be fair, the event wasn’t a free-for-all, as the WSOP took several precautions.

Per the WSOP:

Players over 21 years of age seeking to participate in the 2021 WSOP must provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to registration. This includes all WSOP bracelet events, side events, satellites and live action or cash games. In order to be considered “fully vaccinated” you must receive your final vaccine dose at least 14 days prior to your entry date. The Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino reserves the right to modify any and all Official Tournament Rules at any time in the interest of health and public safety, including, but not limited to adding any requirement that a Participant must be fully vaccinated and/or complete certain testing or screening in order to participate or continue to participate in the WSOP.

Within the WSOP playing areas, players will have the option to remove their mask while seated and playing at their poker table, consistent with Directive 50. However, pursuant to the Rio’s health and safety policies, players must put their mask on anytime they are moved or step away from their poker table for any reason while indoors.

Even with a vaccine mandate and the above mask requirements in place, the eight-week series had all the ingredients for COVID disaster. Thousands upon thousands of poker players from all over the world descended on the Rio, sat down in close quarters (indoors and many unmasked) for hours on end, and moved cards and poker chips back and forth.

And nothing. Well, almost nothing.

As the above tweets demonstrate, there were COVID cases, but it wasn’t a super spreader event, and there was nary a mainstream headline about COVID at the WSOP.

But this scenario, on a smaller scale, has played out at other venues all over the country for months as poker tournaments returned. So, the lack of COVID headlines at the WSOP shouldn’t be shocking.

Seniors Come Out in Force

Age is one of the highest risk factors for a negative COIVD outcome, but that didn’t hurt the series’ Seniors Tournament. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, attendance in other events was down about 30% compared to 2019 WSOP numbers, but the Seniors event (50+ years old) only saw an 8% decline. The Super-Seniors event (60+ years old) saw a sharper drop of nearly 30%, which is in line with other events.

“I’ve got the two vaccinations and the booster and a flu shot, and I’m masking up,” 70-year-old 2001 WSOP Main Event final table participant, James McManus told the LVRJ. “Since everyone else except for the dealers will be vaccinated, I felt like it was not a crazy risk to come out and play.”

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