2021 WSOP earns mask mandate exemption; players can play without masks

Dave Consolazio
Published by:
Posted on 09/07/2021

In a surprising development less than 30 days before the 2021 World Series of Poker is set to begin, the WSOP announced on Tuesday that masks would not be required when seated at the poker table.

This rule is listed in the World Series of Poker’s FAQ page. Under the question “are masks required?” the following answer is provided by the WSOP:

Within the WSOP playing areas, players will have the option to remove their mask while seated and playing at their poker table, consistent with Directive 50. However, pursuant to the Rio’s health and safety policies, players must put their mask on anytime they are moved or step away from their poker table for any reason while indoors.”

It is important to note that the exemption only applied to players that are seated and playing at the poker table. As mentioned above, any time a player is moving through the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino and the convention center, they must be wearing a mask. This includes during breaks and table changes.

The WSOP FAQ also stipulates that spectators will be allowed in the building on a limited capacity, as long as they meet the vaccination requirement to enter. Spectators will still be required to wear a mask at all times as they will not be seated at an active table.

Directive 50

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed Emergency Directive 50 in the hopes of supporting safer conventions and giving Nevada residents more incentive to get vaccinated. As a reward for conventions that required all of their attendees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, conventions that met a specific list of standards would be exempt from the state’s current mask mandate, which requires masks be worn at all time when indoors.

Even though the WSOP decided to require proof of vaccination to enter tournaments, it wasn’t originally clear whether or not it would meet the other requirements laid out in Directive 50. Namely that the series would have “fixed seating,” or be equipped to keep all unauthorized people off of the premises. There is also the issue of dealers not all requiring vaccination.

But despite these potential hiccups, the WSOP appears to have received clearance to move forward without requiring masks at the table.

Not everyone is excited about the idea of playing without masks

While some players will be thrilled to not have to wear their masks at the table, others are less enthusiastic. “I don’t want to remove my mask around unvaccinated dealers, though,” Matt Stout tweeted in response to the announcement. “Ten handed poker with unvaccinated dealers and no masks? What could go wrong?” asked ACR ambassador Jeff Boski.

Early results on a Twitter poll conducted by Poker News on whether players still intend to wear their mask at the table was virtually split right down the middle through the first 300 votes tallied.

Historically, face-covering masks have been illegal at the table during the WSOP to prevent players from hiding tells. But this rule clearly states that players will “have the option” to remove their mask, inferring that leaving it on at the table will be acceptable in 2021.

Featured Image Credit: Twitter – WSOP