When will the World Series of Poker return to the Rio?


Last year, the World Series of Poker cancelled the biggest live poker festival in the world late. In fact, if you’re judging on the specifics, it was very late. Some players had booked months in Las Vegas before finding out in May that the entire WSOP was cancelled. From the fabled Main Event to the Colossus, it was in the bin.


Or rather, it wasn’t, because the WSOP Online Series came along, promising to be the efinitive way to search for World Series bracelet winners during a global pandemic. If the poker mountain couldn’t be travelled to by the MMT poker player, then the mountain would come into players hoes via the internet. GGPoker and WSOP.com welcomed thousands of players to their online lobbies. Guarantees were met, winners received their bracelets via FedEx, some winners bounced off car park WiFi. It was a hoot.

Then the World Series reappeared like a reanimated zombie at the close of the year. That summer event online wasn’t the World Series of Poker Main Event, this hybrid version was instead, they told players. Cue confusion, a lower top prize than the $5,000 single re-entry Main Event and an angry Bulgarian in Stoyan Madanzhiev.

Well, after the turn-of-the-year win was sealed by Argentina’s Damian Salas for a total prize of $2.5 million (Madanzhiev won $3.9m back in the summer and he got a certificate too), the World Series has been distinctly quiet on whether or when the World Series of Poker Main Event and thus the festival itself will be back.

With the WSOP instead promising a Circuit Series Event will take place online in each month during 2021, many players fear that a World Series of Poker may not take place at all during 2021. Let’s take a look at a few of the options and how likely each one is to happen. 

A World Series of Poker Kicks Off in May 

By far an outsider to happen, the possibility of a WSOP beginning in May and ending in July like players dream of is most likely to remain just that – a dream. 

The inauguration of Joe Biden might not be crucial to the series starting before summer actually kicks off, but there’s no question that his ascendancy to President is potentially good for poker, both live and online.

With the death of Sheldon Adelson meaning stumbling blocks to the Wipe Act repeal are falling, Biden may press Online Poker back into action. If so, the kick-start to live poker will be obvious. It’s the vaccination of players – or the mother of all infrastructure changes to the cavernous Rio that would need to take place – that could be the main blockage to the path to poker heaven.

If COVID cases continue at their current rate, there’s simply no way that the World Series of Poker goes ahead as previously planned in late May.

A World Series of Poker Begins in October

One month that keeps cropping up with regard to a later series than summer is October. Positioned nine months from the current date, it’s a period that has been looked at several times outside poker by commentators on the deadly Coronavirus.

When the Coronavirus first inflicted its opening peak on the Western world back in March 2020, it was widely expected that the situation might be rectified ‘by the end of the year’. That was the narrative, that we’d all look back on 2020 as the year (single not plural) that COVID-19 wreaked its havoc on the world, including the poker community.

It’s clear that is not the case, but where do we draw the line of hope now? October is nine months away, but it may be a lot more realistic in operational terms to May. If COVID-19 is banished – or vaccinated against – then the major structural changes to the Rio won’t need to happen.

No World Series Takes Place in 2021

It’s hard to say, but easier to imagine. There’s a real possibility that the Rio and/or King’s Casino in Rozvadov can only accommodate one table of players, leading to speculation that a World Series worthy of the name won’t actually take place in 2021.

While it’s not a situation any of us want to contemplate, there’s a chance that all the action is online other than the two final tables in another ‘hybrid’ WSOP Main Event similar to that which took place at the tail-end of 2020.

Given the delays in scheduling that hybrid event last year – it bled in 2021, let’s not forget – we’d suggest if that happens, the WSOP put it in place a few weeks early to head off any travel or scheduling issues later in the event(s).

Will the World Series take place in Las Vegas in 2021? It’s the biggest question in poker, mostly because a definitive answer is so hard to nail down.