PokerStarsLIVE’s special COVID-19 rules begin garnering public notice

Haley Hintze
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Posted on December 21, 2021 2:38 am EST

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing little sign of ending soon, an increasing number of players are asking whether live tournament venues should install rules governing what happens when a player tests positive. Given that a newly positive COVID-19 test result generally results in a player’s disqualification or removal from an event, it’s become an ongoing concern, particularly in higher-stakes events. Should venues and operators install such rules? It turns out that one operator, PokerStarsLIVE, already has.

PokerStars’ forward thinking on the topic didn’t draw much attention at first. Yet it was on players’ minds all along. Such thinking was evident just a month ago at the 2021 World Series of Poker, when a large majority of players in the $250,000 Super High Roller event agreed to a unique “Covid Contract” that offered a buy-in save for any player who made Day 2 but then tested positive overnight. The contract concept grew support after several well-known high-stakes players tested positive during the later stages of the WSOP, including one would-be participant in the $250K event, Chris Brewer.

Roughly two dozen players voluntarily signed the contract, which represented all but a couple of the event’s Day 2 survivors. None of them tested positive, to the good fortune of all. And, since they played into the money that day, a repeat of the contract for Day 3 wasn’t needed.

PokerStarsLIVE already had COVID rules in place

One of several players who entered the $250K Super High Roller, Justin Bonomo, has continued applying social-media pressure as to whether events should have formalized COVID-related refund or save rules in place. That’s when PokerStarsLIVE’s Customer Engagement Manager, Willie Elliot, pointed Bonomo and his followers to the rules PokerStarsLIVE already has in place. The rules can be found at https://www.pokerstarslive.com/poker/rules/. The rules set describes the conditions under which full or partial refunds will be awarded, or what happens when a player tests positive after already making into the money. In the latter case, the player is considered eliminated at that juncture and his stack is blinded off. (Note: The rules, as published by PokerStars, may not be directly viewable in all jurisdictions. However, they can be accessed via a VPN or proxy browser.)

According to PokerStarsLIVE, the rules apply to all Stars-sponsored tours and events. That’s quite a list, led by the European Poker Tour (EPT), Stars’ oldest and largest offering. Stars-sponsored events and tours literally span the globe. The rules also cover some special circumstances, including provisions when government mandates might supersede the PokerStarsLive rules, or when in-the-money players might choose to make a deal benefiting a stricken player.

Despite being the first major poker-event organizer to formulate a series of COVID-19 rules, however, PokerStarsLIVE didn’t really promote the COVID rules being enacted. Elliot’s mention may be the first such by a PokerStars official. A check of the Internet Wayback Machine shows that the COVID-19 rules have been posted on the PokerStarsLIVE tourney rules page for fully two months, since at least October 20, 2021.

Whether other operators will follow PokerStars’ formal lead on the topic is unknown. The latest wave, Omicron, has shown high infectivity rates, if not higher hospitalization and mortality rates. Given that the pandemic was expected to surge in the winter months even before Omicron’s appearance, COVID-19 issues will almost certainly have an impact on live poker events for several more months.

Featured image source: PokerStarsLIVE Macau / Twitter