Latest COVID-19 resurgence strikes professional poker community

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on 12/27/2021

As 2021 draws to a close, the latest outbreak of a COVID-19 variant has left its mark across the poker community. Several prominent pros and industry members have reported being stricken and/or testing positive in recent days. Based on U.S. nationwide coronavirus, most of the poker people who’ve caught the virus recently have likely caught the highly contagious “Omicron” variant, though most of those who’ve publicly acknowledged catching COVID haven’t posted specifics about which variant they’ve contracted.

Xuan Liu, one of the just-appointed members of Poker Power’s new advisory board, issued a general warning on Twitter about COVID-19’s rapid return. Liu’s role for the growing Poker Power group, which represents women’s issues and rights in poker, keeps her in frequent contact with large numbers of poker pros and industry people. Liu noted the outbreak within the poker community yesterday:

Matt Stout — and a couple of days later, his wife Brittney — both came down with the bug several days before Christmas. Stout had played a World Poker Tour event at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and chose social media to help notify those with whom he might’ve been in close contact:

Breakthrough cases, second COVID-19 tours occurring

Worse is that some of the people may be experiencing a COVID-19 illness for the second time. Take Brandon Shack-Harris, for example. Shack-Harris, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner, sat out the last portion of the WSOP in mid-November after testing positive. He reported mild symptoms, and in less than two weeks he’d returned to full health. Now, in an apparent breakthrough case, he’s been hit a second time:

Prominent poker photographer Antonio Abrego is another person who’s come down with what appears to be the latest variant. Abrego offered this in response to Shack-Harris’s update:

Today, Abrego offered an update. “This is Day 5 with Covid-19. I think my worst symptom is that it has heightened my restlessness. I’ve slept twice in the past 5 days… the brain fog and fever isn’t helping. Covid can suck it. I appreciate everyone that offered to bring food and medicine.”

Latest surge could endanger near-future events

It’s a certainty that poker rooms across the U.S. and the rest of the world are monitoring the situation closely. No one wants a return to the complete shutdown that occurred in early 2020, though the Omicron variant is reported as being the most contagious coronavirus variant yet. No major events have been cancelled as yet, though the possibility can’t be denied in the face of the surge.

The tradeoff regarding infectivity is the increasing statistical evidence that Omicron, on average, is less severe. However, if infection rates rise dramatically, some large numbers of deaths and serious illnesses would likely occur. Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials and other epidemiologists long ago predicted that a so-called “third wave” of COVID-19 was likely to occur during the 2021-22 winter season. That aligned naturally with the current Omicron surge, which has displaced the Delta variant as the most commonly diagnosed COVID variant worldwide.

Featured image source: cdc.gov