On August 27 it was announced by the WSOP that all of the 2021 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas attendees are required to provide proof of complete vaccination against COVID-19. This applies to all of the players, media, spectators, and staff. 

As a small recap, WSOP has previously announced its controversial Rule 115. It stated that anyone who gets a positive COVID-19 test result or is in close contact with a person who tests positive (for example, sits at the same table) will be disqualified. Not only that, but WSOP has also announced that these players will not be compensated if they are kicked out due to COVID-19, meaning that you can lose your buy-in. The WSOP then went on to clarify this confusing rule by saying that vaccinated participants will not be removed. However, now that everyone will have to be vaccinated, it is likely that Rule 115 won’t come into play so much. 

“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,” said Ty Stewart, WSOP Executive Director “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.”

WSOP’s press release also adds that everyone who attends must wear masks as well, saying that it is in “accordance with current CDC guidelines and state mandates”. However, certain events in Nevada are going to be held without mandatory masks, as announced by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Such events will include Raiders NFL games at Allegiant Stadium and the Life Is Beautiful music festival. 

How Will It Work?

Without the required proof of vaccination, players will not be able to compete in WSOP events, including bracelet events, deep stack tournaments, satellites, and live-action games. All players must be fully vaccinated, meaning that both doses were received. 

When entering the casino, players will have to show their proof of vaccination once. This way, people won’t have to constantly show their vaccine cards over and over again. To make the process swifter, WSOP will use CLEAR’s free mobile app and Health Pass feature. This way, players can quickly upload their vaccine cards. Attendees that verify their vaccination through CLEAR will be able to directly go to the registration cage tellers at the Rio All-suite Hotel & Casino Convention Center. Given that the CLEAR mobile app is only available for US residents, WSOP will also have on-site centers where you can present your proof of vaccination with an alternate document at the Belize room before registration. For example a physical vaccination card or a country-specific health pass.

There is still plenty of time even if you are still not vaccinated but want to participate in the WSOP events. The 2021 World Series of Poker will begin on September 30, so there is still a chance to get a jab and be fully vaccinated by the time it starts. Keep in mind that per CDC guidelines all attendees must be fully vaccinated, meaning that 14 days need to pass since your second jab. The situation is less clear when it comes to face masks regulations. As of right now, all Nevada businesses are required to practice mandatory masks, so unless these rules change, all Rio attendees will have to wear a face mask. Furthermore, we would like to remind you that under the new regulation, fully vaccinated WSOP participants who were exposed to a person who tested positive will not be compelled to leave the event and quarantine provided they have been asymptomatic from the time of exposure.

Exceptions to COVID-19 Vaccine

Exceptions to the COVID-19 vaccine rule will be rare if any. WSOP has officially stated that the main purpose behind such a strict rule is “the need to minimize interruptions” to events and the broadcast schedule rather than preventing positive tests. WSOP may provide some accommodations, but you should not hope for much, as they are likely to be very limited in scope. 

“Only a request for an accommodation pursuant to state and federal law may be submitted and will be evaluated individually and in context of the then-applicable public health situation, through an interactive process,” the WSOP website reads.

Participants should also keep in mind that considerations of requests for accommodations will take a significant amount of time, therefore it is better to submit them well before WSOP 2021 starts. The vaccine requirements will apply to everyone who attends the WSOP 2021. Meaning that reporters and other media personnel covering the event will have to be vaccinated. The same goes for spectators and vendors. 

Public Response

The news about mandatory vaccinations has caused some mixed reactions in the poker community. The 2003 WSOP Main Event Champion, Chris Moneymaker said “Thank You @WSOP”. Chris had previously stated that he will not participate in the WSOP 2021, as he is concerned about getting the virus and passing it to his son, who is not old enough to get a vaccine. However, with new vaccination requirements, Chris Moneymaker is once again considering playing this year.

A completely opposite response was presented by Kristen Bicknell, a three-time WSOP tournament winner. She said that she will not play this year saying this on her Twitter: 

“I am boycotting this utterly illogical tyranny. I’m tired of playing along with rules and mandates that don’t make sense.”

The event begins on Thursday, September 30, therefore competitors must receive their second dose by September 16 in order to compete in person. The World Series of Poker will be held from November 4 to November 23, with the Main Event beginning on November 4. The live event in the United States is being held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. More information can be found on WSOP.com/2021

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