WSOP 2021: The ‘other’ rules changes

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on 08/14/2021

This week’s release of the official tournament rules governing the 2021 World Series of Poker generated considerable controversy over its inclusion of a coronavirus-related rule concerning disqualifications of players who test positive for the virus. That rule drew immediate attention, but it is not the only changed rule in what is now a 31-page rulebook governing all matters at the 2021 WSOP.

Other changes are sprinkled throughout the updated rules, which cover tournament operations, rules of play, player conduct, and more. If there’s a general theme to the non-Covid changes, it’s a continuing effort by the WSOP to remove ambiguities. The updates cover the proper methods for declaring raises to handling mistaken wagers, underbets, overbets, fouled decks and more.

Full-ring final tables combine at 10

Perhaps the single most important change other than the pandemic-related notices involves final-table bubbles. In 2019, in full-ring, nine-handed events, the final table combined at nine players. In 2021, in Rule 68, final tables in nine-players-per-table events will now combine to an unofficial 10-player final. This now parallels what happens in short-handed (six players per table) events, which combine to an unofficial final when seven players remain.

Here’s the full rule (Rule 68) regarding final-table seating:

Number of Participants at the Final Table (This rule does not apply to heads-up Events):
a. 9-handed event – combine to Final Table with 10 participants remaining.
b. 8-handed event – combine to Final Table with 9 participants remaining.
c. 7-handed event – combine to Final Table with 7 participants remaining.
d. 6-handed event – combine to Final Table with 7 participants remaining.

Oddly, a possible discrepancy still exists regarding seven-handed events. The 2021 WSOP contains no seven-handed no-limit hold’em events, meaning the only seven-handed offering is a “Big O’ (five-card Omaha hi/low) event. Yet the rule governing Big O specifically states that that event combines to a final when eight players remain.

Wagering ambiguities addressed

Every year, the WSOP adjusts and adds to its considerable subset of rules regarding player errors in wagering, since every year, players find new ways to act that aren’t specifically covered in earlier rules. Modifications for 2021 include an expansion of a former rule on “Verbal Declarations”. It’s now just one part of a more comprehensive rule, “Methods of Betting: Verbal and Chips”.

Verbal declarations have always been considered binding, and the new language enforces that stance. “Bets are by verbal declaration and/or pushing out chips,” the expanded rule reads. “If a player does both, whichever is first defines the bet. If simultaneous, a clear and reasonable verbal declaration takes precedence, otherwise the chips play. In unclear situations or where verbal and chips are contradictory, the TD will determine the bet based on the circumstances.”

A related rule decalres the WSOP’s floor staff may mete out penalties in the case of significant underbetting, especially in the absence of any verbal declaration. “Silently betting a chip amount that is tiny relative to the bet faced is non-standard, strongly discouraged, subject to penalty, and will be interpreted at the Event Tournament Director’s discretion.” the expanded Rule 93 now states. Floor staff may declare such an underbet a full call or allow the offending player a chance to forfeit the underbet, depending on the circumstances.

Other altered rules include removing one form of announcing a raise as a favored method. Players will now be discouraged from announcing “Raise” and then making that raise in two parts — first by putting out chips to call the current bet, and then by pushing forward a second chip stack in the amount of the raise’s overage. The rule modification makes clear the WSOP prefers an all-in-one raise rather than a two-part process.

Yet another expanded rule dictates that chips found on the floor that cannot be traced to a given player shall be declared “lost in transit”. These chips will be removed from play and returned to inventory. This rule had been the standard practice anyway, but the clarification codifies the practice.

Featured image source: WSOP.com