WSOP’s new statement does little to clarify its COVID-19 disqualification rule

Dave Consolazio
Published by:
Posted on 08/14/2021

The World Series of Poker received universally negative feedback for its original COVID-19 disqualification rules. Rule 115 stated that the Rio would “reserve the right to remove any participant from any WSOP Event at any time” at their sole discretion. The rule went on to say that players could be disqualified not only for receiving a positive test result for COVID-19 but also for being in close proximity to a player that had tested positive or for refusing to undergo health and safety screenings.

None of this sounded particularly easy to enforce fairly across all unique situations. The WSOP tournament rule also shockingly stated that participants removed from an event “shall not be entitled to any compensation or remuneration of any type other than what the participant had already been awarded prior to being removed from the WSOP event.”

Taken at face value, this could mean that theoretically, a fully vaccinated player showing no symptoms of COVID-19 could be removed from the 2021 WSOP Main Event and have their buy-in of $10,000 forfeited because a player at the same table as them tested positive for COVID-19. Players were understandably upset by this rule that offers little clarity and gives the WSOP overwhelming power with “sole discretion” to eliminate a player without compensation.

The WSOP put out a tweet on Friday night looking to clarify this controversial rule.

Asymptomatic vaccinated players will be protected

Unfortunately, the new statement put out by the World Series of Poker did little to address the many concerns that poker players have about the upcoming festival. It did, however, close the theoretical loophole mentioned above.

“Consistent with current CDC guidelines, WSOP participants who are known to be exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be required to leave the tournament and quarantine if they are fully vaccinated within the appropriate timing parameters and remain asymptomatic since the time of exposure,” the WSOP stated in its tweet.

This is a good clarification to add. But it does little to address the questions and concerns that poker players still have. The fact that vaccinated players are mentioned specifically here suggests that asymptomatic players who have not been vaccinated can still be removed from tournaments simply for being at the same table as a player who tests positive. Further, they can be removed even without receiving a test of their own to confirm that they are COVID-19 positive.

And what constitutes asymptomatic? Can a vaccinated player with a back spasm be removed from the tournament for muscle soreness? What about a vaccinated player who is sweating from running back to his seat before the break ends? Or one experiencing fatigue from a late night at the craps tables?

Millions of dollars will be at stake if the WSOP proceeds as planned. Tournament disqualifications should not come at the whim of WSOP tournament directors. The WSOP needs to take the guesswork out of this rule with clear COVID-19 safety protocols and elimination guidelines laid out before the series begins. To be clear, the WSOP “needs” to do so from an ethical perspective; so far it looks like the tournament operators might be okay with just winging it.

Featured Image Source: Flickr – World Poker Tour