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WSOP to require COVID vaccination for participants

Updated August 27, 2021 - 2:16 pm

The World Series of Poker will require players to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to play this year.

Players must show proof of vaccination one time, upon their initial registration, to play in WSOP events, including the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em Main Event, as well as other daily tournaments, satellites and cash games, the WSOP announced in a release Friday.

The WSOP is returning to a live, in-person format at the Rio from Sept. 30 to Nov. 23 after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly — it is made with no agenda beyond protecting player eligibility and the operations of a unique televised gaming event,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said in a statement.

“The nature of poker is to be in close proximity with your opponents for extended periods of time, and a seat at the World Series of Poker is a commitment for both our company and the participants. We want players to be excited for their return to the WSOP, while offering the greatest level of protection and limiting complications during the tournament this fall.”

The news prompted a range of reactions among poker players, from relief to disdain.

Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 WSOP Main Event champion, said on Twitter: “Thank You @WSOP.”

Moneymaker had previously said he would not play this year because of concern about passing the virus to his son, who is not old enough to be vaccinated. He said he was now considering playing this year.

Kristen Bicknell, a three-time WSOP tournament winner, said she would not play this year because of the mandate.

“I am boycotting this utterly illogical tyranny,” she said on Twitter. “I’m tired of playing along with rules and mandates that don’t make sense.”

Players can use the free CLEAR mobile app and Health Pass feature to confirm their vaccination, then go directly to the registration cage at the Rio to sign up for events. The WSOP will also provide an on-site center to verify physical vaccination cards and state or country-specific health passes.

To be considered fully vaccinated, players must have received their final shot 14 days before their initial event. The policy also applies to the media, spectators and vendors.

Players and employees will also be required to wear masks, in line with the current state mandate.

As long as they remain asymptomatic, players will not be required to leave the tournament and quarantine if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Additional information on the vaccine mandate is available at WSOP.com/2021.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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