World Series of Poker becomes the latest high-profile sports event to fall victim to the pandemic Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · April 21, 2020 at 6:56 am COVID-19 has forced the postponement of the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, with organizers saying Monday that the 51st annual tournament – the country’s single largest live poker event, originally scheduled to run from May 26 to July 15 – will instead take place sometime in the fall. The World Series of Poker joins a list of iconic sports events, including the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, the Kentucky Derby, and The Masters golf classic, that have been canceled or postponed as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Besides its size, the WSOP is also one of the most lucrative annual poker events. Last year’s World Series of Poker – the golden anniversary of the event – drew a record 187,298 entries from 118 countries and awarded a record $293.2 million in prize money. The postponement had been speculated for the last month, after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of casinos nationwide. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the state’s casino industry closed on March 18 in an effort to slow the viral spread. It continues to be unclear when Nevada’s casinos, including the Rio in Las Vegas – the tournament’s home since 2004 – will reopen. “We are committed to running the World Series of Poker this year, but need additional time to proceed on our traditional scale while prioritizing guest and staff well-being,” World Series of Poker Executive Director Ty Stewart said in a statement. Stewart said organizers hope to move the tournament to the fall, with exact dates and events to be determined. In the interim, Stewart said World Series of Poker events will be played online through the WSOP.com site during the summer. Details of an expanded series of tournaments, he said, will be announced. WSOP.com is only available in four states – Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Stewart said the 2020 World Series of Poker schedule will be revised due to the postponement, and changes are anticipated. The tournament, initially planned to feature more than 70 events, is expected to be reduced somewhat in size. When the tournament takes place, it will include poker’s world championship, the $10,000 buy-in Main Event championship. Last year’s WSOP gold bracelet events had an average prize pool of $3.3 million. Last year’s Main Event drew 8,569 players – the second-largest field of all time – and a prize pool of $80.5 million. Germany’s Hossein Ensan, the winner, took home $10 million. Courtesy of the WSOP Last run at the Rio? The question earlier this year was whether the 2020 tournament would be the last at the Rio. The event utilizes 500 poker tables and covers 200,000 square feet of ballroom space inside the Rio’s convention center, taking over the entire facility for seven weeks. In December, Caesars sold the Rio for $516.3 million in a sale/leaseback to New York-based Dreamscape Companies. Caesars will continue to operate the Rio for at least the next two years. Caesars Entertainment, which owns the World Series of Poker, is in the process of being sold to Eldorado Resorts in a $17.3 billion merger. Last June, when the transaction was announced, Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg twice referred to the World Series of Poker “an iconic brand” on a conference call with analysts. Seth Palansky, vice president of communications for Caesars Interactive, which oversees the WSOP brand, said the Rio will continue to be the home of the tournament. “The Rio is our home for now and continues to be a very good situation for us,” he said. The sheer size of the WSOP tournament, however, will make it challenging to find it a new home, should it be forced to leave the Rio at some point. Caesars is constructing the $375 million Caesars Forum, a 550,000-square-foot conference center behind the company’s Linq Promenade on the Strip, a shopping, dining, and entertainment district. The Linq includes the 550-foot High Roller, currently the world’s largest observation wheel. The facility is adjacent to the Caesars-owned Linq Hotel and Flamingo Las Vegas. Many of the World Series of Poker’s circuit events in the U.S. are held at non-Caesars properties, as is the World Series of Poker Europe, so the tournament could conceivably be moved to a Las Vegas resort not owned by Caesars. Caesars said Monday the next live event on the WSOP calendar is the Global Casino Championship, which is still scheduled for August 11-13 at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. The invitation-only event is open to those who have qualified. WSOP Europe, hosted at King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, remains on the calendar for the fall. All announced dates, times and events are subject to change. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.