The World Series of Poker has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 51st running of the WSOP had been set for May 26 to July 15 at the Rio Convention Center. The WSOP said in a release Monday that it hoped to hold the event in the fall, but no dates had been set.
The WSOP brings thousands of players from around the world to Las Vegas each summer, culminating in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event that is televised by ESPN. Last year, Germany’s Hossein Ensan topped a field of 8,569 to claim the $10 million first-place prize.
“We are committed to running the World Series of Poker this year, but need additional time to proceed on our traditional scale while prioritizing guest and staff well-being,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said in a statement.
Prominent professional poker player Daniel Negreanu, a six-time WSOP bracelet winner, said the postponement was inevitable.
“At this point, it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when,” he said. “There’s no social distancing in poker. You’re using the same cards and chips, sitting around a table for 10, 12 hours a day.”
Negreanu said he thinks live poker likely won’t be viable until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. Experts have said it will take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to be widely available.
The WSOP is planning to offer more online events in the interim this summer, including “official WSOP competitions,” Stewart said. Several online bracelet events were already on the WSOP calendar in conjunction with the flagship WSOP at the Rio. A revised online schedule has not been finalized.
WSOP.com, the major legal online poker room in Nevada, is holding an expanded tournament series now with a total of more than $4 million in guarantees. Those events are limited to players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, where online poker is legal in the U.S.
The WSOP also recently announced a partnership with GGPoker on a WSOP Super Circuit Online Series in May. Those events welcome players from around the world but exclude U.S. players.
Negreanu, a sponsored ambassador for GGPoker, said he welcomed expanded online tournament series with the WSOP postponed, but with U.S. players and those around the world unable to play on the same site because of legal issues, he said he didn’t want to see an online-only World Series of Poker.
“I think it would be sort of illegitimate if they did it that way,” he said. “I can’t imagine having bracelets that are only available to Nevada residents.”
This year’s WSOP at the Rio had been set for 87 events. Officials said changes to that schedule were anticipated.
The Global Casino Championship, an invitation-only WSOP event, remains scheduled for Aug. 11 to 13 in Cherokee, North Carolina. WSOP Europe, hosted at King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, is also still scheduled to be held in the fall at dates to be announced.