Will the WSOP return to Las Vegas in 2021?

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 12/19/2020

Will the 2021 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas take place? Or will the coronavirus force a second straight cancellation? We all want the WSOP to happen. But, unfortunately, there are no guarantees, not with the unpredictable global health pandemic sweeping through the United States.

With that said, there are certainly some reasons to be optimistic about a 2021 WSOP in Sin City. And it appears the likelihood is high that we’ll have a summer series in about six months. Here’s why, in a nutshell: a COVID-19 vaccine is on the way. Plus, the WSOP makes Caesars Entertainment millions of dollars each year. Do you really think they aren’t going to do everything in their power to avoid a second straight cancellation?

But we all must be realistic. As much as we want to stay positive, there are no guarantees during times like this. For all we know, by the time the summer rolls around, only a small portion of the U.S. will have taken the vaccine. If that is the case, COVID-19 will still be a huge problem, and that means the WSOP operators will have some difficult decisions to make.

As Pfizer and Moderna prepare to roll out the vaccine to the masses in the coming weeks and months, many Americans have already said they have no intention of taking it. There will most certainly be numerous Donald Trump supporters who refuse to get the vaccine as they are led to believe it is harmful.

And it won’t just be Trump supporters afraid of the vaccine. The Hill recently reported a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that indicates nearly 40% of all African Americans say they won’t take the vaccine. If that’s the case, the U.S. could have a difficult time reaching the 70% immune threshold for herd immunity.

Without reaching herd immunity in the U.S. by May, it’s difficult to imagine a full live WSOP in Las Vegas will take place, even if Caesars pushes for it to happen.

Here’s the good news

Despite what the polls show, and what supporters of President Trump say right now, views on the COVID-19 vaccine may be different in a few months. Those who are skeptical now may change their minds if the initial vaccine roll out is successful.

So, if 40% of Trump supporters and African Americans refuse to take the vaccine now, that doesn’t mean they will in a few months. If there aren’t many, or any, cases of vaccinated Americans becoming severely ill or dying, perhaps the skeptical bunch will be less hesitant to take the shot.

Of course, if there are complications with the vaccine, then we’re back to square one. But let’s all hope that doesn’t happen.

It’s not just about the U.S.

The World Series of Poker takes place in the U.S. (Las Vegas). But thousands of players each summer travel to the U.S. to compete in the prestigious poker series. Without the international crowd, the WSOP would be smaller, and quite frankly, not as big or entertaining.

Due to COVID-19, there are issues traveling to and from the United States. If the virus continues to spread at alarming rates in the U.S., and the vaccine doesn’t prove as helpful as expected, you can forget about having a large foreign contingent at the 2021 WSOP.

How to make it happen

The WSOP will face many logistical issues next summer even if the vaccine rollout is successful. You can be sure that there will still be many Americans and foreign poker players who aren’t quite ready to attend large gatherings come June. That means even if the series runs, a lower-than-normal turnout is likely.

So, Ty Stewart and the rest of the WSOP staff must be ready to make some changes to ensure the series runs and is successful. One suggestion is to require face masks inside the Rio, even while playing, at all times, even if face coverings are no longer required in Nevada businesses.

We can all debate the effectiveness of face masks in stopping COVID-19 until we’re blue in the face. But that isn’t the point here. Requiring face masks will make certain poker players feel safe attending the WSOP.

The next suggestion is to mix the series up around town, spreading some events at other Caesars venues. Caesars Entertainment operates seven casinos in Las Vegas, along with a new massive convention center.

The Rio convention center is extremely crowded every day during the WSOP each summer. If they spread the events around town, and perhaps send the cash games to another venue, they won’t have to worry as much about players fearing to play in a packed casino.

Lastly, move the series start date back a month. Instead of kicking off the 2021 WSOP in late May, begin it in late June with an early August end date. The purpose of this is to buy a little more time so that the series can run without cancellation. The longer the WSOP pushes it back, the better the odds of being able to host the series. But they can’t wait too long, because there are too many logistical issues with hosting the series in the fall or winter.

Predicting the outcome

I’ve made my suggestions for the WSOP, but I’m not on the planning committee. So, my opinions likely won’t be taken into consideration. But I think I have a pretty good idea of what will happen next summer.

I’m optimistic about the vaccine, although I understand there are no guarantees. But I do predict that over 100 million Americans will be vaccinated by April. If that happens, there is a very good chance that we’ll have a summer WSOP in 2021.

So, I’m predicting the WSOP will run next summer, but it will have the lowest turnout in years. I say that because no matter how effective the vaccine is, there will still be many who aren’t quite ready for large gatherings by the summer.

I also anticipate a decline in number of bracelet events as the result of expected lower turnout. And, as I suggested, I have a sneaking suspicion the WSOP staff will opt to hold off on starting the series until at least the middle of June.

In summation, we’re going to have a 2021 World Series of Poker, in my opinion. But there will be some changes, the series will be much smaller than it has been the past decade, and I’d be surprised if face masks weren’t required at the tables.

Featured image source: Flickr