Casino Sochi is getting ready for two months’ worth of tournament action thanks to the World Poker Tour (WPT) and the European Poker Tour (EPT).

Casino Sochi

WPT Russia will take place inside Casino Sochi this month and pave the way for PokerStars’ EPT in March. (Image: Partypoker Live)

Despite COVID-19 restrictions across much of Europe, the WPT has confirmed that it will return to Russia this month.

Partypoker will co-host the 14-event festival set to take place inside Casino Sochi from February 19 to 28. Once the WPT’s bandwagon has departed, PokerStars will roll into town on March 19.

WPT Russia to Offer 14 COVID Safe Tournaments

A $3,337 main event will be the highlight of WPT Russia, but those able to attend can expect a lot more besides. Adam Pliska, CEO of the WPT, has promised a packed schedule full of side events and “off the felt” activities.

What those “off the felt” activities will be in the current climate is unclear. Although Casino Sochi is open for business, there are still COVID-19 restrictions in place.

As per the WPT’s tournament guidelines, the following safety protocols will be used throughout the series:

  • Players must wear masks at the table.
  • All players will have their temperature checked upon entering the casino.
  • Chips and tables will be sanitized during each break.
  • There will be a dedicated cleaning team in place for the entire series.
  • Tables will be eight-handed.

In addition to the WPT’s measures, Casino Sochi tests all members of staff on a daily basis.

PokerStars to Have One Eye on WPT Event

Given the lack of live poker in 2020, the safety measures will be seen as a minor inconvenience. What’s more, the WPT will want to ensure that its first major European event of 2021 goes off without a hitch.

PokerStars will also have an eye on WPT Russia. It plans to host EPT Sochi from March 19 to 28 in the same venue, building on the event it held there in October 2020.

Like its counterpart, PokerStars will have a series of rules in place with regards to masks, physical distancing, and sanitization.

Again, a minor logistical nightmare is a small price to pay for the return of live poker tournaments in Europe.

But, while it’s good news that WPT Russia and EPT Sochi will be taking place over the next two months, it doesn’t mean the industry is back to full strength.

Who Can Visit Casino Sochi?

Even though all concerned have COVID-proofed their events, players are still at the mercy of local governments.

British poker players are likely to be casualties of ongoing travel restrictions. Until today, flights into Russia from the UK were banned.

Even with the restrictions lifted, the UK is still in the midst of a national lockdown with no end in sight. That means no one is allowed to travel unless its for essential business.

For those in countries where travel is permitted, Russia still has two entry restrictions in place:

  • Incoming travelers must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours prior to arrival.
  • In the absence of a test or following a positive test on arrival (temperature checks are in place at Russian airports), visitors must quarantine for two weeks.

It may be impossible or impractical for certain players to jump through these hoops. In which case, attendance figures for WPT Russia and EPT Sochi could be lower than usual.

What’s more, with plenty of major online events in the coming weeks, the desire to travel may not be there for some.

Regardless of whether it’s a slower than expected start to 2021, the wheels are turning again. Live poker may not be back to full strength in Europe, but the next two months could set up a strong second half of the year.

Daniel Smyth

Written by

Daniel Smyth

Dan Smyth is a poker media journeyman who politely reminds CardsChat readers that poker is played all around the world, not just America.

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