Only vaccinated players will be able to play in this year’s World Series of Poker. That announcement was made today following ongoing uncertainty regarding the WSOP’s COVID-19 Rule 115.
WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said the decision to make vaccinations a condition of entry wasn’t “taken lightly.” He also stressed that it wasn’t part of a hidden agenda to prevent certain people from attending the series. The decision to require proof of vaccination was made purely on safety grounds due to the “unique” dynamics of poker as a “televised gaming event.”
WSOP attendees must be fully vaccinated
Anyone attending the 2021 WSOP will have to show digital proof that they’ve had a COVID-19 jab before they register for an event. This is a one-time process and can be done in a variety of ways.
The WSOP says that using the CLEAR app and its Health Pass feature is the easiest way to prove your vaccination status. For those that don’t have the app, there will be members of staff at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on standby to verify other forms of proof.
The requirement to show proof of vaccination also extends to spectators. Although there will only be a limited number of spaces on the rail, anyone wanting to watch will also have to show their documents. The WSOP also says that players, spectators, and staff will have to wear masks. Players who come into contact with another person who’s COVID positive won’t have to leave the tournament if they’re asymptomatic.
What does fully vaccinated mean?
The WSOP is following CDC guidelines with regards to defining a “fully vaccinated” individual. Specifically, it means someone has received the recommended number of vaccine doses at least 14 days before attending the WSOP. The recommended number of doses varies between vaccines.
The following vaccines are listed within the WSOP’s approved list:
- Pfizer (a two-shot vaccine)
- Moderna (a two-shot vaccine)
- Johnson & Johnson (a one-shot vaccine)
The FDA granted full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine earlier this week. The German-made drug is the predominant vaccine used in Europe and the UK. This opens the door to vaccinated Europeans and Brits to play in the WSOP, if they can get around the current travel restrictions.
A sign of things to come
Opinions on the WSOP’s COVID stance have been mixed ever since it published the rules for this year’s series. Certain players weren’t happy with Rule 115, which gave staff the power to remove anyone from an event. Others didn’t think the rule went far enough and called for a vaccine mandate.
Those voices have been heard but the organizers aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary.
“The way the rules were phrased, it was already going to be max gamble to play without. In our environment where hygiene is notoriously not paramount, I think it would’ve been near-impossible to play the series and not get sick without a vaccine, so this seems like a safe play,” Vanessa Kade tweeted.
Major events in the US and other parts of the world are now asking for proof of vaccination. Entertainment company AEG Presents confirmed this month that concertgoers will be required to show their vaccination status in order to attend shows. This means anyone attending festivals such as Coachella must be fully vaccinated. The same goes for nightclubs in the US and, starting in September, the UK.
While I applaud the decision, I can’t help but point out there seems to be a huge oversight in not requiring negative results and/or providing a means for on-site testing to go along with proof of vaccination.
You can still get COVID-19 and spread it despite being vaccinated
— John Liu (@JohnChenjun) August 27, 2021
Casinos in Europe have already implemented vaccine mandates. Poker players in France and the Czech Republic have to show they’ve been vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID test before they can sit in cash games or play in tournaments. That means King’s Casino Rozvadov will have a similar policy when it hosts the WSOPE in November.