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Will The 2020 World Series of Poker Be Canceled Due To The Coronavirus Outbreak?

WSOP VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky Discusses How The Pandemic Might Impact The Series


Live poker tournament festivals around the globe have been postponed or canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which escalated in March. The question on many poker players’ minds since the outbreak began to impact the poker scene has been ‘how will the 2020 World Series of Poker be impacted?’

The annual WSOP is by far the largest poker tournament festival of the year. The 2019 running attracted 187,298 players to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino across its 90-event schedule, with more than $293 million paid out during the roughly eight weeks of action in the Las Vegas desert.

The WSOP has suspended and postponed a total of ten WSOP Circuit series around the globe since Mar. 13, with stops planned for as far into the future as late May being impacted. As of the day this article was released, though, no major announcements regarding postponement, cancellation, or alterations to the schedule have been made for the 2020 WSOP. This year’s series was slated to host a record 101 gold bracelet events between May 26 and July 15.

Card Player recently spoke to WSOP VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky about the upcoming series, when players can expect an announcement about whether or not the series will be postponed or altered, the factors that go into the WSOP’s decision making in the current climate, and more.

Card Player: Last week you told the Las Vegas Review Journal that WSOP officials would ‘continue to monitor developments regarding the coronavirus pandemic, but we’re still working as if the WSOP will be held as scheduled’. As of today, is that still the case?

WSOP VP of Corporate Communications Seth PalanskySeth Palansky: So far there has been no update on what we said then. Everyone’s health and safety is paramount in the decision making, and there is no need to make a decision today.

CP: Can you offer any insight about why the WSOP feels its best approach is to hold off on any announcement until closer to the series? What factors are there that go into making these decisions?

SP: There are a plethora of factors to consider, especially when you conceptualize alternatives. That said, the only factor that matters for the WSOP, for it to be held as planned, is the health and safety of guests and staff. So, if we can’t host an event like we have in the past 50 years in Las Vegas, where everyone can participate safely and without risk, we won’t. As we’ve stated previously, we’ll rely on the health experts in our government and regulatory leaders in making our decision and follow the guidelines. But coming to that decision, it’s beneficial to use the time we have to continue to gather information and use that information effectively.

CP: Is there a target date that you need to make a decision by?

SP: No definitive date. But sometime next month would be the expected earliest. The more information we have the better. So, it’s important to understand this event is eight weeks in duration from when we take over the space until we give it back. So there is no way for us to pick up and move the event and find an eight week hole in the convention center calendar. But maybe by waiting other conventions may cancel or postpone their plans and maybe a window opens up that will suffice. But maybe there will be no openings, which would be a good sign too, that life is getting back to normal for everyone. But none of this is important today, everyone should be doing their part to physically distance from each other and help our frontline workers turn the pandemic.

CP: Have there been internal discussions about what conditions would need to be met in order for the series to be ‘all systems go?’

SP: Contingency planning and discussions have been ongoing for a while now, but as we all know, every day and every hour, things are changing. So that’s why it’s important that we take the time to gather all the information and use that information effectively.

CP: On March 11th, the National Basketball Association suspended its season with a dramatic last-minute cancellation of a nationally broadcasted game. From that day forward, there were more and more announcements of cancellations and postponements of in-person events, including live poker tournament series. Just two days after that watershed moment, the WSOP was able to fast track and announce the WSOP Super Circuit Online Series, which more than tripled the series-long guarantees due to strong turnout. Can you tell me a little bit about how that all came together so quickly?

SP: Well, obviously a lot of work went in to a short amount of time, but a lot of the real credit goes to the regulatory bodies in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. Because there are timelines including one of those markets that requires 30 days advance submission and review before you can host any new events or promotions. So there’s a process to go through there. And obviously getting it turned around so quickly, we were definitely inside that 30-day window. So I think everyone understood the situation we were in and we had great leadership at the regulatory bodies. And internally the team was able to put something together quickly because we had just come off the Atlantic City live circuit and prior to that an online circuit, we had a lot of the key cogs in place to be able to duplicate and enhance the offering we held about a month earlier.

CP: There was already set to be a record amount of events held online during the 2020 WSOP, with 14 events taking place on Has there been any discussion about increasing the amount of bracelet events being held online as a possible response to the pandemic?

SP: Yes. It’s one of the things that we’ve been looking at how we can move various things online to help make up the shortfall of live poker right now. So obviously the success of the Super Circuit, that bodes well. That shows the interest and demand is there. And we’re currently exploring a bunch of options, both domestically and outside the US, to be able to bring some of the events we have planned live into the online setting.

CP: Is there any sense of which of the possible alterations to this year’s WSOP are preferred? That is to say, is there any internal ranking of the possible adaptations to be made in response to the pandemic, which includes postponement, decreasing the number of events, adding more online bracelet events?

SP: I think that’s partially a factor of what the players want, which was always the basis of the way our schedule is devised. And then what’s physically possible. For example, if we can’t run the land-based event as planned, something like Dealer’s Choice wouldn’t be viable to offer online, due to software limitations. So there’s a myriad of factors that are going to affect what ultimately happens. And the team is exploring all the potential options and results of any decisions that are made.

CP: In your opinion, is a full cancellation of this year’s World Series of Poker possible?

SP: As of today we’re still planning to hold it. I haven’t heard anyone ever utter the words ‘cancellation of the WSOP’ to me or in any of the discussions that’ve been held. So, I don’t see that as possible, no.

CP: If the 2020 WSOP in Las Vegas were to be delayed or canceled, obviously that could have a huge financial impact for the company. You said earlier in our discussion that safety is the most important thing, but the moves you make will also impact workers and players economically. Do you have any insight on how those types of considerations play into decision making?

Rio All-Suite Hotel and CasinoSP: Our greatest concern there is the people that we employ during the World Series Of Poker that have come to rely on that income. So that’s where our feelings and hope and optimism that we can pull something together stems from. Because we employ over 2,000 people at the Series. Obviously a big chunk of those are dealers the players see on the front lines there, but there’s a whole host of other people.

So ultimately, look, there are potentially huge financial ramifications, but we’re in the people business and we’ve all come to look at the WSOP as summer camp where we all get together once a year and have a good time and make memories and share in our passion and love for the game of poker. So I don’t think we’re any different than any other business that’s dealing with a lot of fall out and a lot of issues related to this pandemic. But really, anything financial is much lower down the list of importance right now to everyone’s health and safety and the first responders and the people on the front lines really fighting this pandemic. So the WSOP will do its part to ensure safety and the health and wellness of everyone as its number one priority.

CP: Is there anything else players and fans should know about?

SP: We have our Online Championships Spring Series running April 5 through May 3, with over $4 million in guarantees. We’re trying to provide outlets for people to play poker. We did announce two more postponements today. Earlier today, our [World Series of Poker Circuit] stops in Calgary, Canada and Paris, France that were scheduled for May were announced as being postponed. I mean, it’s important to understand that we’re looking at the things closest in front of us to try to address those and attempt to come up with alternatives where possible, We will try to move some of those types of events online where we can.Spade Suit



11 months ago

it WILL be cancelled and there wont be any Baseball or football with fans until at least November


10 months ago

It is already postponed/canceled, meaning it is not allowed until the "authorities" allow them to run such an event, prove me wrong...


10 months ago

I guess they tell people "no decision made yet" to increase profits from those not requesting refunds if the event does not happen.


10 months ago

Besides the interest and investing power of that money on hold