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At this time in 2020, we were all wondering whether the world would get back to normal in time for there to be a World Series of Poker. One year later, and we’ve found ourselves asking the same question. This time, at least, we seem to have an answer.
WSOP announced today that the usual live series will be back this year, but in the fall instead of summer. Some online events will be held over the summer instead. All of this is pending final approval from the state of Nevada, however.
If all goes as WSOP hopes, the series will run from Sep. 30 to Nov. 23. In a typical year, the series would run over a similar range of time, but starting at the end of May. Pushing things back means more people will have been vaccinated before the series begins, but there’s also the risk that cooler fall weather will mean a fourth wave of COVID is underway.
The Main Event will begin on Nov. 4 and have four starting flights rather than three. The extra flight may be to help with social distancing, or perhaps to boost the prize pool with what may be lower-than-normal attendance.
Last year’s series was likewise postponed from summer until fall, but ultimately never happened at all. There was a WSOP Online Bracelet Series over the summer instead. The closest we came to having a live WSOP was an online Main Event at the end of the year with two live final tables, one for Americans and the other for international players. The winners of each half, Joseph Hebert and Damian Salas, met early this year to duel for the title of world champion. Salas came out on top of that encounter, making his total winnings for the event $2.55 million.
WSOP’s announcement was light on details. It says it won’t be able to release the full schedule until this summer. This is presumably because of the need to assess the situation and get regulatory approval.
It did, however, include some tentative plans for the opening weekend. Most significantly, there will be a $5 million guaranteed event called The Reunion. The name is, of course a nod at last year’s cancelled series.
There’s no mention of the buy-in for The Reunion, nor how many starting flights it will include. However, 2019’s series included a $500 buy-in event called The BIG 50 on opening weekend. Despite the small price tag, this generated a $13.5 million prize pool over four starting flights. We can probably expect then that The Reunion will be similarly affordable.
Opening weekend will also include a $25,000 HORSE event for the pros, and a charity event of some sort. No specifics are available for the latter, but it will be to benefit front-line healthcare workers.
The series will take place at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino again this year, perhaps for the last time. The property is soon to become a Hyatt hotel, and Caesars will be seeking a new home for the WSOP.
There will also be be a WSOP Europe at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. Ordinarily, the two series would be separated by a few months, but this year the European series will begin on Nov. 19, while the final events of the US series are still running. Fortunately, the US Main Event concludes on Nov. 17, so European players participating in that can still fly back in time for their own series.
As disappointing as it was not to have a proper WSOP last year, the online version was a smash success. There were two parts to it, one taking place on WSOP’s US network, and the other on GGPoker for international players.
The US portion blew all sorts of domestic records out of the water, and the GGPoker Main Event produced the largest online prize pool in world history, at $27.5 million. Unsurprisingly, WSOP will attempt to repeat that success this year.
This second online bracelet series will take place over the summer, around the same time that the live series would normally happen. That should soften the blow for anyone disappointed by the later-than-usual dates for the main series.
Here too, there is little in the way of specificity. We’ll find out more about the online series sooner than we will for the main series, however. WSOP says it expects to release a full schedule later this month. There’s no mention of whether we’ll see another international series on GGPoker or elsewhere. However, the press release does refer to “the domestic series,” implying that an international one is at least a possibility.
The main series will likely involve some online bracelet events as well. These have been a part of it since 2015, and WSOP has been steadily growing that portion of the series.
WSOP 2019 saw unprecedented expansion of this online component to nine events. Prior to its cancellation, the 2020 schedule was set to add another five. With a fully online summer series this year, however, we’re unlikely to see the online component of the main series grow this year. WSOP may even decide to scale it back.
Once again this year, WSOP’s online events will be available to players in both Nevada and New Jersey. Although Delaware is also on WSOP’s network, state regulations prevent players from participating in the bracelet events.
Unfortunately, the odds are close to zero that either Michigan or Pennsylvania will join the interstate poker pool before this year’s series. The Michigan Gaming Control Board says it is working on such an agreement with the New Jersey regulator, but last mentioned “end of 2021” as its estimated timeline. Pennsylvania is even further off, as it’s waiting for the Wire Act case to be well and truly dead before proceeding.
Fortunately, it’s looking much more likely that the 2022 WSOP will feature online events for players in three, four or perhaps even more states.