On August 27, the organizers of the WSOP published a new rule for participants in the September-October 2021 series: they must confirm full covid vaccination before they are allowed to play. The news caused a bombshell effect: over the past three days, on Twitter and on other sites, poker players have had time to quarrel with each other about every aspect of the new rules. In this article, we have collected for you different points of view and the argumentation associated with them.
Mandatory vaccination for participants: details
Three main vaccines are accepted as acceptable – the two-part Moderna and Pfizer and the one-part Johnson & Johnson. Full vaccination must be performed no later than two weeks before registration for the batch. For example:
- To play from the first day of the WSOP (September 30), the second component or Johnson & Johnson must be injected by September 16;
- To play the Day 1A Main Event WSOP (November 4th), the deadline is October 21st.
Participants from other countries can also get instilled with AstraZeneca, they are valid for the same period – no later than 14 days before registering for the WSOP.
Where exactly the players get vaccinated is irrelevant to the organizers of the WSOP – the main thing is that the vaccination is carried out with one of the approved vaccines on time. As confirmation of full vaccination, QR codes will be accepted – from the CLEAR application for US citizens and from the vaccination card (passport) for foreigners. This rule also applies to employees and spectators – this year the latter will be admitted in a smaller number and only over the age of 21, while they will also have to confirm full vaccination.
Also, the organizers finally obliged WSOP participants to wear masks that must cover a person’s nose and mouth at all times while in the casino and hotel.
In addition, the organizers clarified that players are asked not to attend the series if they:
- Have tested positive for COVID or have been in contact with someone COVID-positive within 14 days prior to attending the WSOP;
- Experienced symptoms of covid infection 48 hours before attending the WSOP;
- Have visited within 14 days prior to participating in the WSOP any international territory determined by the Nevada and / or US authorities as requiring a visit or quarantine report.
As explained by the executive director of the WSOP 2021 Ty Stewart (Ty Stewart), all innovations are related to local requirements in Nevada – previously it was enough to present a negative covid test to participate in the series, but due to a change in the situation in the state, this rule has been replaced by the mandatory complete vaccination:
All companies holding gaming licenses are required to follow the guidelines of the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). If we do not do this, we will lose the license. Updating the rules ensures that – in addition to providing the safest and most comfortable environment for players – there are no disqualifications.
The rest of the rules have remained unchanged so far, but may still change – you can familiarize yourself with the most unusual of them in a separate article.
Foxen and Bicknell boycott WSOP
At the forefront of the discontent were the poker world’s top anti-vaccine activists in 2021 – Alex Foxen and Kristen Bicknell.
The first one wrote emotional thread, in which he called the WSOP “another arm of pharmaceutical influence”, and the situation with compulsory vaccination “medical apartheid” (segregation):
Why is natural immunity ignored? Why is it ignored that vaccines do not induce immunity and prevent the spread of the virus? There is no doubt that in this situation they rely on emotions, and not on logic. Getting vaccinated is a lesser indicator of immunity than getting sick – why shouldn’t antibody tests be done as an exception? I am proud to boycott this attack on logic and freedom and will be disappointed if someone who supports my position finds an easy way to get around the restrictions and keep playing. I think this decision will be recognized as the biggest mistake in the history of the WSOP.
His fiancée supported the boycott, calling the organizers’ decision “a completely senseless tyranny.” Solidarity with them (including in the form of a public refusal to attend the series) was also expressed by Steven van Zadelhoff, Alexander Papazian, Tee Burt, Bruce Williams, Kevin Garoschen (who has already been fully vaccinated) and other poker players.
However, many regulars found the idea of a boycott rather strange. In particular, Tommy Nguyen and Jeff Scott reminded that you cannot boycott an event to which you were not invited or forced to attend. It is noteworthy that Foxen called this argument “psychosis”, and Bicknell only complained how disgusting she was with the lack of humanity on the part of people and the hatred that was directed at her because of her position.
Horse racing organizer and amateur poker player John Deyeso also wrote to Kristen that calling the situation “tyranny” is a mistake, because she is talking about a private business that makes profitable decisions:
If you don’t like it, go to your own business. Tyranny includes power and lack of choice, so as long as the WSOP director doesn’t show up at your home and force you to participate in the game under certain conditions, this is not a tyranny.
Bicknell responded by saying that she has been playing and living off poker for over 15 years, so she sees the WSOP as an employer. In addition, she clarified what she meant by the tyranny of the passport for vaccination, and not separately the actions of the WSOP.
Alex Hodges also resented the use of the word tyranny and the fact that poker players ignore the devastating effects of covid contamination on people’s lives, however, more anger directed at the organizers of the WSOP for the irresponsible decision to host a world series of poker in the midst of the pandemic:
The WSOP tables are filled with seniors, diabetics, heart patients and other people at risk. One super-distributor can cost tens or even hundreds of lives. It is a huge responsibility for a company to bring people together in such an environment in one place just to play Hold’em. This is not a cold or SARS – we are in an active pandemic. What the hell is a live game ?!
Idea is correct, but implementation is lame: pads opinion
Among the poker players, there were also those who generally support vaccination, but do not approve of the WSOP decision. Among them was Patrick Leonard – calling vaccination “the best solution for the public good”, he described the very rule of the WSOP as “ridiculous” – in his opinion, people should not be forced to vaccinate:
For many, poker is a way to pay bills, support a family, and the WSOP has the highest salary expectations. I myself have been living off poker for 10 years. And now, less than a month before the start of this “work”, the rules are seriously changing. It looks like compulsion to me.
Andrew Barber and Daniel Negreanu entered into a dispute with him: the first noted that the WSOP is not a place of work, and the second added that the organizers offer a service, and the players act as consumers of this service:
The WSOP is not hiring you – you are not working for the World Series! As a professional player, you are a regular customer who makes money by using the WSOP service. That’s all.
Patrick agreed with him, but still insisted that the rule was published too late:
If this rule were announced along with the schedule, I would not say a word against it. But many are now forced to cancel their reservations – some of them have been saving up for many years in order to come to the WSOP and try their luck. The streak will start in a month, people have obligations – the sudden introduction of the rule looks very bad.
Daniel did not find this answer with sympathy – he recalled that when the schedule was published, the corresponding instructions from the CDC had not yet appeared, so the protocols changed. At that time, masks were not yet mandatory, but for some reason no one is bombing them as much as because of vaccinations.
In turn, Zach Brannon pointed out that without strict control over the provision of real data, the adopted rules will not ensure anyone’s safety:
If the organizers of the WSOP do not clearly indicate that people will be excommunicated from the series for life for providing a fake vaccination card or a fake QR code, the effectiveness of this measure will be extremely low. I personally know several respected players who will surely fake anything to be able to play wherever they want.
Similar thoughts were expressed by Bart Hanson – in his opinion, regardless of whether people agree with the rules or not, everyone should be at the same time in the issue of punishing those who forge such documents:
They need to be given a lifetime ban on all events in any way related to the WSOP. Instantly disqualify from the events in which they are playing at the time of detection of a fake, and confiscate buy-ins that they have contributed to upcoming events. Only under this condition will the rules work.
Joseph Cada, in turn, considered that there should be more restrictions:
The virus is very dangerous, and we are holding an event with a high risk of spreading the virus, to which only the vaccinated are allowed. To make everything go with minimal losses, you need to set a series of weight and age restrictions for participants – this will reduce the risks.
Vanessa Cade, who publicly supports vaccination, drew the attention of her colleagues to the fact that it is obvious from the wording of the new rules that they were adopted not because they are ideal, but because the organizers have no other option:
In our environment – I’m talking about poker – hygiene has never been of paramount importance, so playing on the series and not getting infected without vaccination, in my opinion, would be simply unrealistic. This decision seems to be safer – although vaccinated people can also spread the virus, the consequences for them and other vaccinated people are much less dangerous and dire than for those who refuse to vaccinate.
At the same time, Vanessa was genuinely upset that the discussion of the rule caused an increase in hostility in the community:
You can have an established opinion about something, but still be able to see, understand, and empathize with those who think differently. Hate never changes someone’s mind. Dealing with misinformation or potentially dangerous points of view can be done without demonizing people. Many people discuss things rationally, and then more and more comments appear outside of logic that lead nowhere. It is sad.
Who supported the new rules unconditionally?
Jarod Smith – who was banned from Twitter by Kristen Bicknell and accused by Alex Foxen of stalking his fiancée online without providing any evidence – said he agreed to all the WSOP terms as long as they allowed them to play live poker safely:
They will tell me to put on a mask – I will be wearing a mask. They will say to be vaccinated – I will be vaccinated. They will say to smear with wax – I will smear. The WSOP defines its own rules, they look safe – I see no problem doing what is required.
Many shared his position – Kitty Kuo noted that she likes the new rules, including because they will reduce the fields at the WSOP:
If you don’t like this or that rule, you don’t need to play. Just skip the episode this time and don’t waste time arguing about it. The WSOP in this situation is the boss who always makes its own rules.
Matt Livingston, Darren Kennedy, Veronica Brill, Chris Moneymaker, Emily DeLane, Zachary Elwood, Matt Gowell, Andy Bloch, Tony Dunst, Alex Jacob and many others also supported the decision – if not for it, each of them would most likely have missed the streak of security considerations. David Bloomberg and Mark Ruvers called the decision “great,” hoping that other series will follow the WSOP lead.
Eric Crane shared his bewilderment over the refusal to vaccinate. Like Vanessa Cade, he remembered the general rules of “hygiene” in poker:
If you’ve ever touched poker chips at the WSOP, it shouldn’t be a problem for you to get vaccinated.
At first glance, there are far more of those who approved the new rules than those who are dissatisfied. WSOP 2021 due to them definitely promises to be very interesting – perhaps we will have unusual lineups and new stars.