Las Vegas is back to requiring casino patrons to mask up, a move designed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. The move comes just two months before the start of the World Series of Poker at the Rio Casino-Hotel, a Caesars-owned property located just off the Strip.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, on Friday casinos in Glitter Gulch went back to requiring masks. The new mandate comes about two months after the previous mandate was lifted by the governor. While many in the country thought mask-wearing was a thing of the past for the vaccinated, the delta variant has prompted mask requirements for all, regardless of vaccination status.
The new mandate comes almost exactly two months before the World Series of Poker is expected to return to Las Vegas with live tournaments. The WSOP, which wasn’t held in-person last year, hasn’t said anything new regarding COVID-19 in the wake of the new mask mandate.
The hope is surely that the summer delta surge will subside as fall approaches. It appears a wave of the variant in the United Kingdom is slowing, which bodes well for no major interruption to the 2021 WSOP.
After surging for months because of the hypercontagious Delta variant, COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom are rapidly plummeting, raising the question of whether America’s Delta wave could also peak sooner than expected. My latest: https://t.co/Dg6PIYuFY9
— Andrew Romano (@AndrewRomano) July 29, 2021
Then again, a prominent poker room in Florida just decided to postpone its World Poker Tour-branded tournament series. It’s unclear if a staffing issue was involved in the decision.
With the resurgence of COVID-19 in our community and around the country, senior management has decided to postpone the upcoming @WPT bestbet Scramble, including all preliminary events and series satellites. bestbet will continue to operate under its normal business hours. pic.twitter.com/1NNQDZaOIF
— bestbet Jacksonville (@bestbet_jax) August 2, 2021
The live poker room at Encore Boston Harbor, one of the most prominent in the region, remains closed because of staffing shortages, the casino said. With thousands of participants, the WSOP needs hundreds of dealers, who typically come from across the country, to make its enormous tournament work.
Concerns among poker community linger
The new strain of COVID is still a fluid situation in the U.S., but some in the poker community are apparently opting to play it safe and skip the live tournaments, which will draw thousands of players into the Rio casino’s sprawling convention center a short walk from the main casino floor.
The WSOP is all in on its return this year, with a whopping 88 bracelet events and the final tournament expected to wrap up on Nov. 23. The fall schedule coincides with the NFL season, which should inject thousands of poker players into Las Vegas sportsbooks.
“Make no mistake, the 2021 WSOP will be the real deal and we’re preparing for a full house,” Ty Stewart, WSOP executive director, said in June. “Throughout the history of the WSOP, this year will be particularly memorable and we’re preparing for a poker reunion all players can celebrate. We’re beyond thrilled to offer a complete schedule of can’t-miss events, including all our flagships and the variety players deserve.”
Skipping a trip to poker’s biggest stage would be a tough pill to swallow for many, but some are already prepared to do it without waiting to see what happens with the delta surge.
Made the difficult decision to cancel my trip to Las Vegas in October. Y'all can make fun of me all you want, but I don't wanna get COVID for the second time. Those 3 weeks were a bitch. And yes, I'm fully vaccinated. @ToddWitteles @MattGlantz @Angry_Polak #COVID19
— Scott 😎🇺🇸 (@sfb45) August 1, 2021
Hey @WSOP, are you planning any changes to upcoming live LV series in Sept-Nov? I know when moved this event COVID was receding, but in light of recent developments of Delta variant, too high unvaccinated numbers and extended foreign travel bans, what are you doing?
— Adam Miller (@UnknownFromOak) July 30, 2021
Now I'm even more of that belief, and am leaning toward skipping the #WSOP again.
— Todd Witteles (@ToddWitteles) July 26, 2021
Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 WSOP Main Event champion, said as recently as late last month that he thinks it’s a coin toss whether the 2021 series takes place. That is probably one of the most pessimistic views out there in the poker world, but it’s far from crazy.
— Chris Moneymaker ⭕ (@CMONEYMAKER) July 23, 2021
True to form, some of the game’s best players are looking to take bets on whether the series will happen live, though it’s unclear if any high-stakes wagers have been placed publicly. Poker pro Matt Glantz thinks there’s a possibility that the series is scaled back, which is a plausible outcome if the U.S. delta situation doesn’t improve in the coming weeks.
WSOP 2021 Opening Lines…
Requires participants to wear masks during play. 4-1
Requires participants to show proof of vaccination. 9-1
20% of currently scheduled events cancelled or postponed. 6-1
— Matt Glantz (@MattGlantz) July 22, 2021
Image credit: Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com