Earlier this year, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) announced it was returning to a traditional in-person poker tournament, taking place once again at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The tournament is still on schedule to take place from Sept. 30 to Nov. 23.
A funny thing happened on the way to the world’s largest poker tournament. COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. Organizers of WSOP are taking steps that should reduce the potential spread of the virus while still allowing players to enjoy playing a large-scale poker event.
WSOP is requiring all participants in the 2021 WSOP tournament and the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em World Championship (AKA “The Main Event”) to show proof that they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine.
WSOP players will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination
Proof of vaccination is the only way to participate in World Series of Poker this year. A negative COVID-19 test will not suffice.
Once participants are inside the casino, the poker tournament will also require that all players wear a mask. The same requirement goes for anyone visiting a Las Vegas casino right now.
“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, executive director of the WSOP.
He continued to explain:
“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.”
Two-step WSOP COVID-19 policy for players
Players, media, spectators and vendors at the WSOP will need to take two steps in order to enjoy the WSOP in person this year:
- Must provide a physical vaccination card or use a state or country-specific digital health pass
- Must wear a face covering
That seems simple enough. Well, it is for some but not all. A person becomes “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 after receiving their final vaccine dose 14 days prior to the start date of the tournament.
The WSOP begins Sept. 30, which only gives unvaccinated participants a couple of weeks to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Finding a vaccination site nearby shouldn’t be too difficult with the mass distribution of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Interested parties can locate the nearest location here.
Guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines
A single dose of Johnson & Johnson or a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna must be received by Thursday, September 16. The timeline to get a vaccine and participate in early WSOP tournaments is tight.
Here are the current CDC guidelines for dosing each of the three vaccines and when participants can start their 2021 WSOP adventures.
- Johnson & Johnson: This is a single shot so the deadline for this is Sept. 16.
- Pfizer: Vaccine doses should occur 3 weeks (21 days) apart. These players will miss the first two-week deadline by six days if they’re vaccinated today (Sept. 1).
- Moderna: Vaccine doses should be given 1 month (28 days) apart. These players will miss the first deadline by 13 days if they’re vaccinated today (Sept. 1).
Those participating in only the Main Event have a bit more time. Players entering Day 1a of the Main Event on Nov. 4 must receive the single dose of Johnson & Johnson or second dose of Pfizer or Moderna by October 21.
US participants can use the free Clear Health Pass app. Setting this up takes a couple of minutes and requires photos of a COVID-19 vaccination card and both sides of a driver’s license. Once registered, players just need to choose WSOP as the event they’re attending.
COVID-19 protocols in Las Vegas
Recommendations for COVID-19 protocols continue to change in Las Vegas. Today, all visitors inside of a casino must wear a face-covering unless eating, drinking or smoking. Proof of vaccination is not necessary to gamble or stay inside of a hotel.
Certain venues and events in Las Vegas require proof of vaccination for attending. However, there is no individual mandate for every location or event. This can be slightly confusing.
For example, visitors to Allegiant Stadium must show proof of vaccination to enter a Las Vegas Raiders game. Vaccinated fans will not have to wear a mask once inside the stadium. The rest of the events at Allegiant Stadium are different. Right now, anyone — vaccinated or not — may attend other events. Everyone in attendance for these events must wear a mask.
Some conferences this year and next will require proof of vaccination for those attending.
- AAPEX (SEMA has not announced yet)
Concert venues like House of Blues at Mandalay Bay and Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq require vaccinations for entry. Most other venues, including others at Mandalay Bay and The Linq, aren’t requiring proof of vaccinations.
COVID-19 remains a fluid situation and policies can change at any time. Always check with a venue before making solid plans.