MSPT Black Hawk, masks, and a mountain climber

Kat Martin Author Photo
Kat Martin
Posted on: August 05, 2021 07:07 PDT

The Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) rolled in to Black Hawk, CO yesterday. The 12-day stop began with a $360 buy-in two-day affair with four starting flights. Day 1a attracted 151 entrants, suggesting the event will comfortably meet the $150k guarantee.

At the end of the first flight, James Rodriguez had amassed an impressive chip stack of 675,000, almost double that of Daniel Sandoval in second with 374,000. The 22 survivors will reconvene with those from the other flights on Sunday to complete the tournament.

The series is taking place as concerns over yet another COVID spike mount. In the last few days we have seen the WPT August event in Jacksonville, FL canceled. This announcement followed a similar one from Talking Stick Resorts, AZ, where the Arizona State Poker Championship was cut from the August calendar.

Traveling poker series face a particular challenge at the moment, as they move from state to state facing different legal requirements and COVID profiles. Additionally, tours like the MSPT that stop at smaller markets invariably rely on traveling dealers to staff the events. reached out to a representative of Bally's Black Hawk Poker, and asked if any COVID-related restrictions were in place for the MSPT series.

"No masks or special requirements at this time," we were told. That qualifier of "at this time" has an ominous ring to it.

This decision is consistent with the letter of the law as given by current Colorado state requirements, but whether it conforms to the spirit is arguable. The fourth amended public health order requires unvaccinated people to wear masks in prisons, for example, but only encourages the practice in poker rooms:

"The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) encourages people who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks in all other public indoor spaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19."

A photograph tweeted by MSPT suggests that either poker players in Colorado have a surprisingly-high vaccination rate, or they are choosing to ignore the recommendations of this public health order:

With the countdown to the 2021 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas well underway, tournament cancellations such as those in Florida and Arizona are naturally raising concerns. There has been no official announcement from WSOP on any COVID measures, such as players providing proof of vaccination, or restrictions on the numbers of players in the playing areas.

The fundamental issue in much of the U.S. is a widespread antipathy to vaccination and the wearing of masks. In Nevada, for example, vaccines have been readily available to all adults since early April, and yet less than half the state's population is fully vaccinated as of August 4th.

Masks are again mandatory in public indoor places in Nevada; a decision that also splits community sentiment. Some are more upset than others, as noted in a tweet by the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

"A rock climber scaled the exterior of the Aria in protest of the state’s latest COVID-19 mask mandates for indoor public areas."

It appears that those who wish to see sensible public health measures in Las Vegas and beyond still have a mountain to climb.

Featured image source: Twitter