Earlier this week, the poker community got perhaps the clearest sign that the 2021 World Series of Poker could be more a more “normal” WSOP. The buzz was spearheaded from a Tweet from poker info aficionado Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers, stating that he had spoken to a WSOP rep who said a live edition will happen if COVID conditions continue to be move in the right direction.
The WSOP did not have an official comment on the report.
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
In order for a full WSOP to get the go-ahead, Nevada would have to continue to ease restrictions on social distancing. The state recently increased capacity in casinos to 35%, up from 25%. By mid-month, it will increase to 50%.
A slightly delayed WSOP?
With COVID-19 cases dwindling and more people on track to receive vaccines in the coming weeks and months, optimism has spread across the globe — including for live poker tournaments — that events could open. Some have estimated that most people could have access to a vaccine by the summer.
Given the timetable of vaccine rollouts, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 2021 WSOP delayed slightly if it meant that a full schedule of events could be held.
Mathers noted that the BCA Pool League World Championship has been scheduled for early September at the Rio, a sign where momentum is going.
The 2020 WSOP was unprecendented
Should things continue to go in the right direction for the running of the 2021 WSOP, it would mark a huge departure from last year.
The live portion of the 2020 WSOP was postponed and ultimately canceled. In its place, the WSOP held 31 online events on WSOP.com, but participation was limited due to the fact that events were only available to players in Nevada and New Jersey. Furthermore, travel restrictions and COVID-19 concerns tempered participation from players that would have otherwise flown in.
From there, the series moved to GG Poker for the international portion of the WSOP, where non-US players from many countries could play and compete for a bracelet. It was during that series that Stoyan Madanzhiev took down the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event, believed at the time to crown the 2020 Champion.
In November, it was announced that an official Main Event would be held in late November, December and early January, with events split between WSOP.com and GG Poker. Once each tournament was down to a final table, play moved to be moved to a live table.
The winner of each of those final tables then met up for the Heads-up Championship in early January. Damian Salas, the international winner, along with Joseph Hebert, the US winner, played for a $1 million winner-take-all prize in the tournament.
Salas was ultimately victorious, taking down the $1 million prize in addition to his first-place prize won during the international tournament.