The world would like to forget 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused chaos. Businesses across the world were impacted but some were impacted more than others. The entertainment business was one such business that was devastated.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of casinos and poker clubs in the United States. Due to this, all live poker events had to either be cancelled or moved online.
Live Poker Scene Slowly Reopens, But Major Festivals Still Unlikely
A number of casinos and poker venues across the world have welcomed back customers as early as June 2020 after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since reopening, some of these venues have already ran tournaments though still at reduced capacity.
The US live poker scene in particular is slowly getting back to normal with the country’s top casinos now back in operation.
In December, the final table of the American leg of the 2020 hybrid World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event was held at the Rio, and again in early January 2021, the tournament’s two remaining finalists, Joseph Hebert and Damian Salas, met at the same venue to compete for the title.
Damian Salas, the US leg winner, ended up being crowned as the official 2020 WSOP Main Event champion.
The hybrid WSOP Main Event is already in the books, and now all eyes are on the upcoming summer, the traditional schedule of the world’s most prestigious and longest-running poker festival. The one question that everyone in the poker community wants an answer to is this: Will there be a 2021 WSOP in Vegas?
But first, let’s look at the current coronavirus situation, as it will directly affect any decision in relation to the running of a live event this year, not to mention a gathering as huge as the WSOP. Will the development of vaccines remove the threat of the virus altogether? Have the infection rates slowed down or are the numbers still on the rise? The news is not very good as of now!
Second Lockdown
New mutant strains of the coronavirus are emerging. A new COVID-19 variant, first detected in the UK, is causing so much concern right now. Researchers and health experts say the new strain is more transmissible than the one that caused the 2020 pandemic, though there is no evidence yet that it is more deadly.
Regardless, these new developments indicate that the threat is still here, and it remains to be seen whether the developed vaccines can effectively combat this new strain. Travel bans are once again imposed in different countries. Localized lockdowns have also been enforced in multiple parts of the world.
Positive cases are continuing to rise in certain jurisdictions, and if things get worse in the next few months, there’s a high chance some businesses, including casinos, might be forced to close again as a precautionary measure. We could be heading back to the home quarantine period that was in place during 2020.
No WSOP in 2021
What all of this means is that a 2021 WSOP in Vegas is not likely. First, holding a massive live event at this stage would require a lot of processes. For example, major changes would need to be made at the festival’s official venue, the Rio before a major gathering could even be held there. Also, players would need to get vaccinated first before they could take part in the event.
The US is currently experiencing vaccine supply shortages; daily inoculation rates are lagging, and some Americans are refusing to get the shots. If the WSOP had to follow the process, there won’t be enough time for them to complete everything so that the summer schedule pushes through.
Chances are also slim that a WSOP festival will take place later in the year.
The only hope left for players is another online festival, much like the 2020 WSOP Online Bracelet Series where they can still compete for the prestigious bracelets though only virtually. Organizers already announced plans to hold an online Circuit Series throughout the year, so an online version of the WSOP festival is also possible.

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