The 2021 World Series of Poker begins in one week, but Caesars Entertainment announced that poker rooms at two of their Las Vegas Strip properties will be dark during the WSOP to assist with staffing shortages at the Rio. Bally's and the Flamingo will not spread live poker between September 26 and November 26. Both rooms expect to re-open at the end of November, but in the era of COVID and consolidation, you never know.
Just a heads up if you're headed to Sin City during the World Series of Poker because due to staffing shortages, especially at the upcoming WSOP, a couple of poker rooms on the Strip will be shut down for two months in order to keep the WSOP full staffed.
The Flamingo and Bally's, both owned by Caesars Entertainment, will not spread cash games or tournaments for two months starting on September 26. These were popular spots due to their location smack dab in the middle of the Strip. Caesars, with 18 tables, is now the only poker room on the Strip that they own which will be in business. Bally's had approximately 14 tables and Flamingo had 11 tables. But it's been a while since these rooms were packed with action at every table.
Some locals preferred lesser-known rooms like Flamingo and Bally's where they could play against random tourists that wanted to play a little poker. Bally's was particularly juicy during conventions, whereas the Flamingo had a fun and wild late-night tournament with no shortage of drunks and eclectic locals.
When I lived in Vegas, it was fun to sometimes check out other rooms on the Strip, especially if any friends happened to be staying at those hotels. That list included Excalibur, Monte Carlo, Flamingo, Bally's, Treasure Island, and Mandalay Bay. Of course, several of those poker rooms are shuttered for good, but Flamingo and Bally's were still going strong even in the post-pandemic version of Sin City.
The WSOP typically had problems with staffing poker dealers since their move to the Rio. The true veteran dealers knew they were getting hosed on pay, or knew it was going to be a long slog during the summer, so they avoided the running of the donks at the Rio. Poker traffic also peaked during the WSOP, so there was also a need for dealers at other casinos within the Caesars corporate umbrella and not affiliated with the WSOP. So, a veteran poker dealer could get away with not slinging cards at the Rio to earn a living.
However, in the post-COVID era, it's been challenging to maintain a full roster of workers in the service industry. There's a labor shortage across the board in the USA. This especially applies to the gambling biz. Several old friends in the biz decided to find new avenues of work away from casinos. This included floor people, pit bosses, and poker dealers that decided they needed to find a different line of work in the era of COVID.
The WSOP is requiring all players to show proof of vaccination if they want to play poker at the Rio -- either cash games, bracelet events, satellites, or tournaments. There is not a strict vax policy for dealers though mainly because they're having staffing issues.
Even during a smooth year at the WSOP, it's tough to find a slew of great dealers. There's always a stretch when they run short on dealers. That means staffing inexperienced dealers, dealers fresh out of dealing school, or washed-up dealers that struggled to maintain employment at other casinos across the board. You can only imagine what it will be like this year. This is why Caesars is making the bold decision to shut down the Flamingo and Bally's poker rooms to make sure the Rio is fully staffed 24/7 between now and Turkey Day.
The 2021 WSOP begins on September 30 and runs through November 23. There will be 99 total bracelet events with 11 added online events, which were recently announced.