Tournaments & Cash Games
PokerStars has drawn up the first set of comprehensive rules regarding tournament refunds for players in live events who test positive for COVID.
With live poker currently in flux across many parts of the world, PokerStars is working to bring a semblance of certainty to proceedings. As such, their new COVID refund policy was created and refined following a Twitter discussion involving a number of prominent tournament pros.
A pro-driven policy
The game’s all-time money winner, Justin Bonomo, started the conversation and tagged a number of poker operators in his tweet, including PokerStars. Willie Elliot, the customer engagement manager for PokerStars Live events, was the first to respond.
Something every poker tournament absolutely needs right now:
Do the responsible thing please 🙏
— Bonologic (@JustinBonomo) December 17, 2021
PokerStars’ live tournament COVID rules
- If the event hasn’t started and a player tests positive, they’re entitled to a full refund
- If an event has started and is not in the money, a COVID-positive player with at least a full starting stack will get their full buy-in (and registration fee) refunded, and their chips will be removed from play
- If an event has started and is not in the money, a player with less than their starting stack will get a refund proportionate to their stack size/buy-in (e.g., if the player has 50% of their starting stack, they’ll receive 50% of their buy-in, plus their full registration fee back)
- If an event has started and is in the money, the player who tests positive won’t be able to return; their stack will remain in play until it blinds out; once the stack has been eliminated, the player receives a payout based on their finishing position
The final rule listed above rule will apply at any final table, however, the remaining players will have the right to make a deal with the player who’s been sidelined due to COVID-19. If the agreement suits all parties, including PokerStars and the tournament director, it will take precedence over the standard rule.
The rules may not be perfect but, given the current nature of COVID, accounting for every eventuality is tricky. Therefore, it’s the best solution PokerStars has right now to help make its live events feasible in light of ongoing uncertainty.
Poker organizers adapting to constantly changing dynamics
PokerStars also has the benefit of seeing how other tournament festivals have handled COVID-19. For example, numerous players were sidelined during the WSOP in Las Vegas due to a COVID outbreak at the Rio.
The WSOP was charting unknown waters this year and, as such, any player who tested positive for COVID while in an event wasn’t entitled to a refund, and only received a payout if their stack made it into the money.
“If a participant is removed from a WSOP Event [due to COVID-19], and for no other reason, the participant 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,” read the WSOP’s official rules.
The WSOP tried to mitigate the risk of players losing money by implementing a mask mandate, and only people who could prove they’d been fully vaccinated were allowed to play.
Given that vaccines have proven not to stop transmission of COVID, a few cases slipped through the net. PokerStars is aiming to counter this with its new rules and get back to hosting a full schedule of international live events in 2022.