If further confirmation was needed that life and, therefore poker, is returning to normal, we only need to look to Australia.
With COVID-19 infections almost nonexistent Down Under in recent months, live tournaments have resumed in earnest.
We first saw mask-less players anteing up at Star Gold Coast in mid-December. Now, two months later, the WPT is hosting a full festival without any obvious restrictions.
No mask mandate for WPT League event
The WPT League Quarterly Poker Championship has been running at Queensland’s Gold Coast Turf Club and Event Center since Feb. 24.
There are 22 tournaments on offer until Feb. 28, and the overall guarantee is AU$550,000. Shining brightest in the Gold Coast series is the AU$175 Main Event.
We can see that the tournament’s AU$200,000 guarantee brought out the masses thanks to images from WPT host Lynn Gilmartin. In addition to the fully packed poker room, you’ll notice that there’s not a mask or Perspex divider in sight.
As expected, the reaction from people on Instagram on Twitter is a mix of happiness and envy. Poker player and former reporter Kristy Arnett tweeted from her LA home that she’s “soooo jealous.”
Speedpokertm on Instagram said the pictures of a normal poker tournament were the “greatest thing” to come of Australia in a long time. Granted, it’s not a WPT main event. The images of self-dealt tables show that it’s a series aimed more toward recreational players.
However, a $200,000 guarantee is far from chicken feed. What’s more, the WPT League event is an example of what players in other countries can, hopefully, look forward to in the coming months.
Tournaments remain worlds apart, but COVID restrictions are easing
In contrast, the WPT is currently hosting an event in Russia where things look very different. Although Russia’s rules have been fairly relaxed in recent months, Casino Sochi isn’t taking any chances this week.
Very busy @WPT Russia at @sochicasino – no guarantees could be new @partypokerlive business model ! On serious note- looks like @partypoker can defo support events here despite COVID 💪 pic.twitter.com/Czm53Aeoz2
— Rob Yong (@rob_yong_) February 25, 2021
Images and videos coming out of WPT Russia show players across the poker room wearing masks. The good news, however, is that things will eventually change.
Although the threat of COVID-19 still looms large, national leaders are in the process of lifting restrictions. The UK is the latest country to announce a roadmap out of COVID. While the dates are fluid, it’s expected that casinos will reopen in May and, if all goes well, all major restrictions will be lifted on June 21.
When that happens, poker tournaments like the one happening in Queensland will, hopefully, become the norm again.
After a year of lockdowns, restrictions, and a lack of live tournaments, that’s certainly something to smile about.