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We’re three months into 2021, and there is already a strong buzz surrounding the world’s most extravagant live poker tournament series, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), and the possibility of the marquee series returning for its annual stop in Las Vegas this year.
According to GGPoker Ambassador and six-time bracelet champion Daniel Negreanu, a live WSOP stop will be held this year. Negreanu touched upon the topic in this week`s DAT Poker Podcast and dropped a strong hint that the annual WSOP series will likely return around the year-end.
He said: “I know exactly what’s going to happen. I know everything. I do. I will tell you guys this. Expect the World Series of Poker this year – live. Some online as well. Expect no live during the normal slot of June or July, as we are typically used to. But expect a slot may be in the realm of what you said, and before that, maybe have some online or whatever.”
Negreanu also indicated that the WSOP might return with a full-blown schedule packed with 90 bracelet events. However, it will have to be pushed back from its summer schedule, given the pandemic situation. “I think we’re going to have a pretty normal World Series of Poker,” Negreanu said. “I just think … pushing it back makes sense because June is really pushing it,” he added.
The WSOP was eyeing to host the live series in the fall last year, but the raging COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all plans. However, an aggressive global vaccination drive and the gradual lifting of travel restrictions have opened up possibilities for a full-blown WSOP stop to occur later in the year.
Last month, Caesars Entertainment started a new sweepstake for U.S. residents, offering the winner free airfare, and stay in Las Vegas and a seat into the 2021 Main Event. If that was a strong indication towards the series making a comeback this year, Kevin Mathers, professional poker player and Information Coordinator at Poker Atlas also tweeted that a live WSOP edition was very much on the cards for 2021.
Mathers, on March 2, tweeted that he had spoken to a reliable WSOP executive who confirmed that a live WSOP edition would take place this year, though the series may not make its usual summer run and instead take place around the year-end.
Spoke with a high-ranking WSOP executive last night
To answer two frequently asked questions*:
A LIVE edition of the WSOP will happen in 2021
The dates of the live WSOP will NOT be during the usual timeframe (late May-mid July)
*Assuming conditions continue improving
— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) March 2, 2021
Is a Fall WSOP Possible?!
2020 was an unprecedented year for the poker industry, especially live poker. All live stops across the world had to either be called off or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Caesars Entertainment called off the series that was slated to run from May 25 till July 15, stating that players would get to play the live edition in the fall if the health emergency improved.
The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened as the year progressed, forcing WSOP to move the annual stop online. The WSOP ran the online series on WSOP.com (July 1 – 31) and GGPoker (July 19- September 8).
As hopes of a live stop dimmed, WSOP rolled out the WSOP $10K NLHE World Championship – an online-live hybrid tourney – to name the 2020 World Poker Champion. The event made two parallel runs on GGPoker and WSOP, with the winner of each leg clashing in a Heads-up Finale in Las Vegas. On January 3, GGPoker-leg champion, Damian Salas, beat WSOP-edition winner Joseph Hebert to become the 51st WSOP Main Event champion.
In another significant development with a strong bearing on the WSOP returning in 2021, Las Nevada is well on its way to lift the COVID restrictions after Governor Steve Sisolak permitted poker rooms and businesses to increase their gathering gradually till May 1. This means that a summer festival may still be overly ambitious, but live poker may get back to full flow by the latter part of the year.
That said, things are still very fluid as far as the pandemic situation is concerned. A tournament series of the scale of WSOP will be challenging to manage with stringent restrictions.
Negreanu sounded optimistic about a fall WSOP edition. He underlined that the aggressive vaccination drive adopted in the U.S. gave rise to the optimism that poker rooms would see the regular footfalls by fall without extra safety precautions like plexiglass barriers on the tables. “There’s plenty of time. I don’t think there’s going to be any roadblocks, I imagine, by then. If you need the plexiglass at the World Series of Poker, that won’t work. It would be too much to plexiglass every table.”
While Mathers and Negreanu have sent the poker town talking about a 2021 WSOP edition, the WSOP has not let out any official word on this yet. Ty Stewart, Executive Director – WSOP, reacting to Mathers’ claim, stated that it was still early for them to make any official comment. He emphasized – “Everyone is trying to predict when broad vaccination will occur, and many feel comfortable that is toward the back half of the year. Safety and comfort of our players will be the primary determination for 2021.”
From the looks of it, while a live WSOP series in 2021 is within the realm of possibilities, an official announcement from the brand will likely take a few more months coming.