Caution Regarding WSOP COVID Disqualification Rule (Latest Update)

Next month, the Rio will host the highly anticipated 2021 World Series of Poker. Recently, the organizers released their official rules for the event, and one particular rule has caught the attention of players and enthusiasts alike. Known as Rule 115, it was initially brought to light by Kevin Mathers, and it has the potential to become a significant source of frustration for participants, potentially resulting in the loss of their tournament buy-in.

Update 1: In response to player criticism, the WSOP has amended the rule via a tweet, now stating that vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic will no longer be included.

Latest Update: WSOP has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for all attendees, which means that those who have not received the vaccine will not be granted access to the playing area at WSOP. This policy applies to everyone, including employees, spectators, and vendors.

WSOP 2021 Rule 115

I want to emphasize that the decision-making power lies with the Centers for Disease Control, as per the guidelines provided. [Rio] has the authority to exclude any Participant from a WSOP Event at any given time, either before or during the event, based on health or safety concerns. These concerns may arise if a Participant, at the sole discretion of [Rio], has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been in close proximity (within 6 feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes) with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, if a Participant refuses to undergo any health and safety screening mandated by [Rio] for participation in a WSOP Event, they may also face removal from the event.

In the event that I, as a participant, am expelled from a WSOP event as per the aforementioned provisions, I must accept that I will not receive any form of compensation or remuneration, solely on the basis of this expulsion. It is important to note that any rewards or prizes that I have already received prior to being removed from the WSOP event will remain unaffected and will still be rightfully mine.

In case there is any uncertainty, let it be clear that if a participant is disqualified for any other grounds that result in penalties according to the official regulations, those penalties will be enforced. Moreover, if one or more participants are disqualified as stated in this paragraph, [Rio] retains the exclusive authority to decide whether to proceed with any WSOP Event as planned, or to delay or reschedule a WSOP Event, or even a part of it, for a later date.

Source: WSOP 2021 rules

Based on my understanding, it appears quite evident that a player can face disqualification due to circumstances outside their influence. When a participant at WSOP is seated and subsequently receives a positive test result, anyone in close proximity within a six-foot radius will be promptly removed from the tournament and disqualified. Another possible scenario is when a dealer, who regularly interacts with a hundred or more players on a daily basis, tests positive. In such cases, the player, despite bearing no responsibility, will unfortunately lose their buy-in and be forced to forfeit. However, it is worth noting that the prize pool will retain the funds, while WSOP retains the administrative fee.

I have yet to come across another poker tournament series in Las Vegas with such rules. It seems that even if a player is vaccinated, they are still at risk of encountering a potential disaster.

This appears to be a formula for calamity.

In my opinion, it's completely unfair to disqualify a player from a competition without any fault on their part. If the organizers of the tournament consider a player to be too risky to participate, that player should be entitled to a reimbursement of their investment in the event. It's only reasonable to provide some form of protection for a participant who has paid thousands of dollars to enter, especially when it comes to a decision that cannot be challenged, as stated in the "sole and absolute discretion" clause. Even if it was an employee of the WSOP who potentially infected you, the organization's stance seems to be that you're out of luck. I believe this is an attempt to shift the entire responsibility onto the customers.

Having come across this, I instantly discerned numerous possibilities for clever maneuvering. While I won't divulge any specific strategies, it is not at all challenging to conceive them, and once put forward, they would be nearly impossible to disprove. Considering my previous negative experiences with WSOP, it's extremely difficult for me to extend them any trust or allow them the benefit of the doubt.

Please consider revoking the 2021 World Series of Poker.

I comprehend the dilemma at hand. The impact of the delta variant is causing chaos throughout the nation. The WSOP strives to provide the most secure playing conditions conceivable.

In my opinion, organizing a two-month-long series with multi-day tournaments amidst a rapidly deteriorating pandemic is undoubtedly ill-advised. If the proposed solution is to disqualify players for circumstances beyond their control, it would be more reasonable to cancel the entire event. It appears inherently unjust that certain players might face defeat solely due to the seating arrangement assigned by WSOP and the subjective interpretation of data by event organizers.

With so many other poker tournament options available in Las Vegas, it appears that most poker players are not willing to take the unnecessary variance risk posed by this rule, which I imagine will greatly diminish attendance beyond the concerns of the pandemic.

Definitely not the answer is punishing customers for issues beyond their control, regardless of whatever it is. It seems possible that, assuming we can ever get control of the pandemic, there could be two WSOP events in 2022 to make up for this. The WSOP poker site has been utilized for events over the last 17 months without any health risk involved.

Updated as of August 27th, 2021 by the knowledgeable William Stevens.