US travel restrictions won’t stop international poker players from taking part in the 2021 WSOP Main Event, but they won’t have much time to ante up either.
President Joe Biden teased the easing of US travel restrictions in September, but refused to lock in a firm date. We now know that date will be Nov. 8.
According to the White House, fully vaccinated people from Schengen countries (a group of 26 European nations), the UK, Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, and South Africa will be able to fly into the US as of Nov. 8.
A long time coming
Travelers from the aforementioned regions have been banned from entering the US since March 2020 (travelers from China have been banned since January 2020), though there have been some exceptions and workarounds.
US citizens were allowed to return home if they passed various COVID-19 tests. International travelers needing the enter the US for certain business reasons were also allowed to enter in line with COVID testing policies.
CardsChat also outlined a workaround, as explained by travel expert Simon Calder. Although testing protocols were in place at the Mexican border, travelers could fly there, stay for 14 days and then enter the US, providing they had negative COVID tests. Despite it being theoretically possible for foreigners to enter the US, most options remained unfeasible for poker players wanting to attend the WSOP.
Now, however, anyone who’s been fully vaccinated will be able to enter.
Which vaccines are acceptable?
US travel restrictions state that a “fully vaccinated” individual is someone who has had the required number of recommended doses of a vaccine. This is two doses in most cases.
The major vaccines recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or that have been given emergency exemptions by WHO, are:
- Pfizer (Comirnaty)
- Johnson & Johnson
People who meet the above criteria will be able to enter the US for the first time in more than a year, and can do so without having to isolate on arrival.
Anyone wishing to visit the US will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of traveling. Assuming the test comes back negative, a face mask for the flight and proof of vaccination is all that’s required to land on US soil.
WSOP beckons for anyone wanting to travel
That’s great news for poker players who have been unable to use the Mexico workaround. The bad news, however, is that the travel ban doesn’t end until the latter part of the WSOP.
Moreover, by the time people touch down in Las Vegas, the Main Event will be well underway. But don’t despair, because the WSOP’s organizers have reacted accordingly, giving late arrivals just enough time to register for the $10,000 Main Event.
Day 1E gets underway at 11am local time on Nov. 8, and Day 1F starts on Nov. 9 at 12pm local time. So, although there won’t be much time to settle in, international travelers won’t miss the 2021 WSOP Main Event.
What’s more, there will be 21 other tournaments left on the schedule, including the Little One for One Drop, the $888 Crazy Eights event, and the Mixed Big Bet event.
CardsChat spoke to English pro Stuart Rutter who had previously been sidelined due to US travel restrictions. He told us that he’s eagerly awaiting Nov. 8. “I booked my flights the minute it was announced that US travel restrictions were being lifted,” Rutter told CardsChat.
He also went on to say that, although it’s frustrating to miss out on certain events, he’s happy to be going to Las Vegas this year.
“It’s great that the WSOP has extended Main Event to accommodate international travelers. I’ll definitely be playing that, as well as the $10,000 Stud, the Razz event, and all the mixed games,” Rutter continued.
The lifting of US travel restrictions could have come earlier. However, given the uncertainty of life right now, something is better than nothing. International travelers won’t be able to enjoy the WSOP in full, but they will at least have the opportunity to play for bracelet in 2021.