The future of the 2020 World Series of Poker hangs in the air as the world is currently in lockdown while the deadly coronavirus slowly ravages countries and states one by one. Certain parts of America are more affected than others like Seattle, New York City, and New Orleans, while countries like Spain and Italy in Europe are suffering a surging mortality wave. Nevada shut down its casinos on Midnight St. Patrick's Day, which was much earlier than almost anyone predicted. I figured Las Fuckin' Vegas would be the last non-essential business to shut down during a pandemic, but Vegas casinos shuttered their doors during the early wave of shutdowns out West, that also included California.
How can you play poker during a pandemic when social distancing is the one of the main efforts to keep everyone out of harm's way? Well, you can't do it unless it's heads-up poker. But you can do it online. Heck, you don't even need to cap the size of events because online poker rooms have unlimited seating when it comes to hosting tournaments.
Obviously, it makes sense to send the WSOP online. The show must go on! So, why not host a virtual version of the 51st installment of the WSOP? How about 101 online bracelet events? Everything else is happening in the virtual world anyway, from kids going to school or having working meetings on Zoom. Why not the most prestigious tournament in the world? It's a way to keep people safe, keep people in quarantine entertained, and most importantly, it gives something to look forward to.
The only catch is that you'd have to be in New Jersey or Nevada to play. Too bad the WSOP cannot host a true WORLD Series of Poker with poker enthusiasts from all over the planet competing for bracelets and cash.
Seth Palansky told the LVRJ that the WSOP will make a decision in May. It's not like March Madness that had to make a decision on the fly, or the Kentucky Derby which had a week or so to determine it would be best to push back the annual Run for the Roses in September.
For now, all of the American sports leagues are on indefinite hiatus while everyone waits until the coronavirus peaks across the world and officials tell everyone its finally safe to leave their homes and gather in public once again.
Hey, we've all seen Contagion by now. Gwyneth Paltrow gets the virus from a chef who handled tainted pork infected by viral bat shit and then she spreads it on two continents including Macau. In one scene, you see her blowing on chips for good luck while playing baccarat.
If you've ever played poker in a casino before, then you know how nasty the chips can get. You really do not want to think about all the germs. Plus, we all know how grubby and mangy poker players can get. Some degens don't give a crap about their appearance so long as they get action. Personal hygiene is always the first level of decorum that flies out the window during any gambling bender. And for some folks at the WSOP, it could last for several weeks or up to two months of non-stop gambling action.
The WSOP does not have enough time to wash every single chip every night. I assume it would be extremely expensive plus a potential security risk to use new set of chips every day. And throw social distancing out the window. Even if you can give everyone their own personal bottle of Purell at the tables, many of them still wouldn't want to use it.
It's a tough situation any way you cut it. Plus, toss in polarized politics into the mix. There will be no shortage of players who think this is a huge nothingburger or an over-exaggeration or even an outright hoax. While many others are taking this extremely seriously. For a handful of pros, the pandemic became the moment they decided to step away from the game or pursue another career choice or alternative path in life.
I'm sure participation numbers will dip across the board if/when the WSOP resumes. But there will also be plenty of paranoid players that love the game or forced to play to pay the bills to make up lost time during the current shutdown, so they'll play but take extra precautions at every step including face masks and gloves and hazmat suits.
So, what's going to happen?
The plausible result will most likely be a postponement until late summer or early fall WSOP to accommodate a full schedule of events. Bracelets in September? Halloween at the WSOP? How about the REAL November Nine? If you started the WSOP on October 1, you could finish up the Main Event in the second week of November. As a former resident of Nevada, I could not tell you how much I'd prefer an autumn series to avoid the scorching June/July Nevada sun.
If I were running the King of Vegas and running the WSOP, I'd make the difficult yet cautious decision to postpone the WSOP until next year (following the Tokyo Olympics model which moved the 2020 summer Olympics to 2021). However, I'd still run the slate of scheduled online events and add more to the schedule. Why not have at least one every day?
As a good compromise, how about running the 2020 WSOP online bracelet events as scheduled, and then play out the rest of the live bracelet events in the fall?
Of course, the WSOP.com is only limited to players in Nevada and New Jersey. So participants would have to travel to either state and set up shop for a long weekend, a week, a month, or even the whole summer. There will be no shortage of Air BnB owners who are desperate to fill their homes and condos. Plus, there's plenty of non-gambling hotel properties with vacancies.
At any rate, it's an awesome time to be playing online poker while everyone is bored under lockdown.