Better late than … what we had last year.
As was widely expected throughout the gambling industry, the World Series of Poker is moving its annual festival at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas back from its usual summer schedule to the fall, organizers announced via press release on Thursday.
The tournament series will begin Thursday, Sept. 30, and finish up Tuesday, Nov. 23, provided the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t worsen between now and then in a way that makes it unsafe to proceed as planned.
This is very much welcome news for the poker world. In 2020, the virus reduced what is typically a schedule of about 80 in-person tournaments to zero wholly in-person events, with the WSOP electing instead to beef up its online schedule and run a version of the Main Event that began online and concluded with 16 players competing live at two separate “final” (more like “semi-final,” in this case) tables.
A world champion was crowned, keeping alive a streak dating back to 1970. But the event was limited in its availability, drew a total of 1,379 entries (compared to 8,569 the year before), and made for a poorly reviewed TV product.
In 2021, with vaccine distribution greatly diminishing the likelihood of an outbreak when crowding thousands of poker players into a single convention center, the WSOP can potentially look somewhat like a WSOP again, even if it’s going to happen some four months later than usual.
This isn't an April Fools jokes: the WSOP is back. We couldn’t wait another day to share the good news :
– WSOP back in-person from Sept. 30 to Nov. 23 at @RioVegas
– Summer to see the return of WSOP Online
– WSOP Europe @PokerroomKings to round out 2021https://t.co/kOacLy6PaE pic.twitter.com/lFXNRiN7E6
— WSOP (@WSOP) April 1, 2021
November Nine … thousand or so
The $10,000 buy-in Main Event is scheduled to run from Nov. 4-17, putting it in the same time frame in which it used to conclude during the nine-year run of the “November Nine” experiment. There will be four starting days, from Nov. 4-7.
The only other specific tournaments announced so far are a charity event to benefit frontline health care workers, a $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament, and a no-limit hold’em tournament billed as “The Reunion” with a $5 million guarantee.
Safety protocols have not yet been spelled out. But the WSOP intends to do whatever is required on that front to make sure the series happens.
“This year, more than ever, we embrace our role at the WSOP to deliver memorable experiences and bring this community of poker lovers back together,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart stated in the press release. “In 2021, the theme is, get vaccinated and get back to Vegas.”
Online, Europe also on the calendar
During the summer, when the World Series would typically be running, organizers plan to fill the void with another slate of bracelet-awarding online poker events. Full details are coming April 15, but for now, we know the domestic side of the online series will begin July 1 and conclude with a $1,000 buy-in “championship” event.
WSOP Europe is also returning live in 2021, scheduled to run from Nov. 19-Dec. 8 at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, featuring 15 bracelet events.
Unfortunately, poker players still have to brace for the possibility of a one-outer on the river busting up these plans. The WSOP press release concludes as follows:
“Please note: The ability to hold a live, in-person event will be subject to the state of the public health emergency due to COVID-19 and all applicable health, safety, and regulatory approvals, guidelines, and restrictions. WSOP reserves the right to make appropriate modifications to this plan and to the policies and procedures under which the tournament series may be held.”
Assuming everything goes off as planned, the WSOP will overlap directly with the NFL season (not to mention MLB playoffs). That could make this a more action-packed Series than ever before.
If the Rio doesn’t put a full service sportsbook in the convention center this fall, I’m going to assume they just hate money.
— Lance Bradley (@Lance_Bradley) April 1, 2021
Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com