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Gossip Column: WSOP’s COVID-19 Vaccination Rule Draws Mixed Reactions From Poker Community

Gossip Column 01-09
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  • Attreyee Khasnabis September 1, 2021
  • 7 Minutes Read

When the World Series of Poker (WSOP) announced on April 1 that its much-awaited annual live series in Las Vegas would be making a comeback in the fall (September 30 to November 23), the news had the global poker community rejoicing. As the days passed by, the complete schedule of the series was announced, and subsequently, the organizers kept coming out with rules and regulations that players would have to follow, keeping in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic was still at large.

On August 27, news came through that all players who wanted to participate in the 2021 WSOP needs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. WSOP said players must provide proof of vaccination before registering for the tournament, to be held at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly — it is made with no agenda beyond protecting player eligibility and the operations of a unique televised gaming event,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said in a statement.

Ty Stewart
Ty Stewart

 

“The nature of poker is to be in close proximity with your opponents for extended periods of time, and a seat at the World Series of Poker is a commitment for both our company and the participants. We want players to be excited for their return to the WSOP while offering the greatest level of protection and limiting complications during the tournament this fall.”

This announcement seems to be a response to the controversy Rule 115 created last month. The rule essentially allowed WSOP staff to remove any player/s from the venue suspected to have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual. WSOP later clarified the confusing rule last week by stating that anyone fully vaccinated wouldn’t be removed.

At present, the 2021 WSOP has shared a total of 129 rules. You can check then out here.

 

Rule 115: What does it say?

Once the rules for the 2021 WSOP were announced, one rule in particular – Rule 115- created quite a lot of confusion.

Kevin Mathers tweeted with a screenshot of the exact wording for Rule 115. In it, the text reads: “In accordance with guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control, [Rio] reserves the right to remove any Participant from any WSOP Event at any time prior to or during the WSOP Event.”

As per the wording of the rule, if a player buys into a bracelet event, sits down at the table, begins to play the event, and later the WSOP staff determines that the player was exposed to the virus the day before, the individual would be disqualified from the tournament and required to leave. And all this without any compensation.

On August 14, WSOP tweeted a clarification.

WSOP clarified that it was not trying to punish anti-vaxxers but to ensure the “health and safety of our World Series of Poker participants and Team Members” remains a top priority heading into the fall poker extravaganza.

 

What Are the COVID-19 Related Regulations Players Have to Follow?

Players must show proof of vaccination one time, upon their initial registration, to play in WSOP events, including the $10,000 No-limit Hold’em Main Event, as well as other daily tournaments, satellites, and cash games, the WSOP announced in a press release.

Players can use the free CLEAR mobile app and Health Pass feature to confirm their vaccination, then go directly to the registration cage at the Rio to sign up for events. The WSOP will also provide an on-site center to verify physical vaccination cards and state or country-specific health passes.

To be considered fully vaccinated, players need to have received their final shot 14 days before the start date of the event they have registered for. The policy also applies to the media, spectators, and vendors.

Players and employees will be required to wear masks in line with the current state mandate.

As long as they remain asymptomatic, players will not be required to leave the tournament and quarantine if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Additional information on the vaccine mandate is available here.

 

COVID-19 Rules Divides Poker Community

While the rules stated by the WSOP were welcomed by many in the poker fraternity, several others seemed to consider the mandate illogical.

Former WSOP Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker had earlier said that he would not be attending the WSOP for fear of infecting his son, who is too young to get vaccinated. Following the WSOP’s COVID-19 policy announcement, Moneymaker stated that he has reconsidered his initial stance and is contemplating attending the annual series.

Chris Moneymaker
Chris Moneymaker

Many others, too, showed their appreciation for WSOP`s vaccination mandate.

Three-time WSOP bracelet winner Kristen Bicknell said she would not play this year because of the mandate.

Her tweet raised a storm in the community, with responses ranging from reasonable discussions to downright hostile.

Besides Bicknell, others too have spoken out against WSOP’s vaccination mandate.

 

Update on Staff Vaccination Regulations

According to an article on PokerNews, the media site reached out to the WSOP to enquire if dealers and other staff will be required to be fully vaccinated. The brand responded with the following statement:

“As with all Caesars Entertainment Team Members, WSOP Team Members are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Caesars is committed to making vaccination easy and accessible for all Team Members. Additionally, the company is providing significant incentives for Team Members who choose to be vaccinated.”

On being further questioned by PokerNews on several other issues such as:

  • What will happen if a player is caught trying pass off illegitimate/forged vaccination documents? Will they be banned?
  • The Nevada governor has said masks are not required at events where everyone has been vaccinated. How come the WSOP will require masks? Could this potentially change?
  • How will the WSOP know if someone tests positive for COVID? Will the WSOP be conducting any testing?
  • Has the WSOP considered allowing unvaccinated individuals who have antibodies to attend the WSOP? Could this become a possibility?

The WSOP official responded, “For all your other questions, we recommend reviewing the FAQ and release as we won’t be responding beyond them.”

 

Keep following PokerGuru for more updates from the 2021 WSOP!

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