Breaking down Max Silver’s proposed WSOP COVID-19 guidelines

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Dave Consolazio Poker Writer Photo
Dave Consolazio
Posted on: August 12, 2021 06:09 PDT

Plenty of poker players and fans around the world have been weighing in on social media in recent weeks on how to make the World Series of Poker work amid COVID-19 concerns. Opinions range from canceling the series to requiring masks and/or vaccinations for players and dealers, to moving full steam ahead without regulations and letting players decide for themselves whether or not they want to play. Some poker players, like SnapShove founder Max Silver, have gone a bit more in-depth with their opinions on how the WSOP should handle COVID-19.

Silver laid out his thoughts in a thread of tweets. He stipulated that these were the “best and safest WSOP rules” he could come up with if you had to run the event, which he points out that you don’t. He then started with the following:

8-handed maximum (more distance between players). Mandatory masks (exclusions for eating and drinking). All breaks 30 minutes (to allow for rapid testing). All players must provide one negative rapid test every three days (five days if vaccinated) of the series, you can be tested while registering.”

It’s difficult to argue with any of these protocols from a safety perspective. Most players would appreciate the extra space and comfort of playing eight-handed as opposed to nine or ten-handed, regardless of their thoughts on COVID-19 and vaccinations. The idea of requiring masks is controversial to some, but is in line with Nevada’s current state-wide mask mandate. Rapid tests would provide an extra layer of protection.

If a player had a positive test, chips are removed from play and the buy-in is refunded, 0-100% starting stack at a linear rate rounded to nearest $100,” Silver continued. “If over 100%, $0.50 per dollar of chip value over starting stack up to a maximum of buy-in time five.”

This is perhaps the most important rule that Silver proposes. In the vague and unhelpful COVID-19 disqualification rules released by the WSOP, there is no mention at all of a refund or equity payout. The rule basically states that the WSOP has full discretion over who is disqualified, based on anything from a positive test to close proximity to someone showing symptoms. Whether they use Silver’s model or something else, players need to know how these disqualifications might affect their buy-ins and payouts.

Silver dives into some less realistic ideas

The first few rules make a lot of sense and could theoretically be rolled out in this year’s World Series of Poker events. The stated mask mandates and player reimbursement guidelines seem clear and reasonable. Unfortunately, Silver’s plans become quite a bit less realistic in his next tweet; and he even acknowledges this by wrapping up his rules with the disclaimer, “you can’t do this safely, just wait a year.”

All player seating is recording electronically to facilitate contact tracing. If a player is a close contact, the player must provide a rapid antigen test (provided). The entire table doesn't resume until this is complete, playing through into the next break to make up time.”

On paper, this all sounds great. Having a way to electronically record player locations to enable contact tracing would be fantastic. But developing, testing and flawlessly integrating this type of technology across hundreds of tables in just a few months is not feasible. Not to mention the actual logistics of tracking down all affected players, conducting tests, and playing through breaks without any hiccups or clock issues.

Next, Silver adds a couple of last-minute wishes to his list:

Oh also, dealers deal two hour downs (until break). If any dealer is feeling unwell they get a rapid test, any positive case is paid at a 120% rate until negative. Any player who voluntarily provides a positive COVID test after day 2 of a tournament receives entry into a $500k freeroll.”

Keeping dealers at one table in between breaks is actually a great idea to prevent potential transmission among rotating dealers. Having the WSOP pay dealers who are unable to deal, and putting on a big freeroll for players who turn themselves in, both sound like good ideas. But unfortunately, they're also a bit too far fetched.

The 2021 World Series of Poker is currently scheduled to run from September 30 through November 23 with 88 bracelet events. Will these events actually take place? What additional rules will be put in place to ensure the safety of the players participating? These answers will unfold in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it would be fun to see more players take a crack at their own set of protocols as Max Silver did here.

Featured Image Credit: Flickr - World Poker Tour