Coronavirus Leads to Casino Closings, Tournament Cancellations; Players Move Online

March 16, 2020
Coronavirus Leads to Casino Closings, Tournament Cancellations; Players Move Online

The fate of numerous major poker events continued to take shape over the weekend in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Tours and properties canceled events and series around the world.

Series like the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and numerous others have altered plans in reaction. Online operators have quickly added new series to meet customer demand at a time when many players will be home.

Closing and postponing numerous poker tournaments

Postponements and cancellations came quickly last week as more victims of the COVID-19 virus were announced. The WPT postponed a slate of events on its Main Tour and DeepStacks schedules, including in Barcelona, at the Venetian in Las Vegas, and Seminole Hard Rock in Florida.

Three WPT final tables are set to be filmed March 31-April 2 at HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor. Those remained in place. However, that could change after MGM Resorts announced it would temporarily close operations in Las Vegas beginning Tuesday.

The Luxor is an MGM property and the company wouldn’t be taking reservations prior to May 1. This came after HyperX announced it would be closing for two weeks.

“Despite our commitment to dedicating additional resources for cleaning and promoting good health, while making difficult decisions to close certain aspects of our operations, it is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression,” MGM CEO Jim Murren said in a news release.

“This is a time of uncertainty across our country and the globe and we must all do our part to curtail the spread of this virus.”

WSOP takes action with circuit events

On Friday, the WSOP also made some adjustments. Caesars Entertainment announced that several events had been canceled or postponed, including stops at:

  • Harrah’s Atlantic City
  • Bally’s Las Vegas
  • King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic
  • Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles
  • Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina
  • Casino Barriere Le Croisette in Cannes, France

The summer WSOP is scheduled to continue as of now, but organizers will monitor the situation.

“As it relates to the summer WSOP in Las Vegas, we are monitoring COVID-19 developments very carefully and it is scheduled to be held as planned,” Caesars Interactive Entertainment Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky said in a news release

Other properties also shutting down, the situation continues to change

While the WSOP may be scheduled to continue, what that may look like is anyone’s guess. With travel bans currently underway from Europe and China, attendance will be an open question.

Will guarantees be adjusted and expectations lowered because of the pandemic? Will the number of events be reduced to adjust to lower demand and player pools?

Could the series be canceled entirely? Those are some questions that will be answered in the coming months.

Other tournament series and properties will also be affected. The RunGood Poker Series canceled its upcoming series in Bossier City, LA.

The Wynn and Encore casinos in Las Vegas announced on Monday that they would be closing temporarily. The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos in Connecticut are also closing.

PokerStars has canceled several Road to PokerStars Players Championship events in Germany, France and Spain. The Brazilian Series of Poker São Paulo and Monte-Carlo EPT events have been postponed.

However, the company announced that the PSPC set for Barcelona in August would go forward as planned. That could change depending on how the pandemic continues to play out.

Beyond major tournament series, casino closings leave many cash game players also shut out. With casinos closing down, many may look to online games. In the US, legal options include:

Sweepstakes poker sites like Global Poker might also see increased traffic with players practicing self-quarantine and social distancing.

Players react and deal with coronavirus crisis

Many players have generally supported closing poker rooms and shutting down tournament series. Daniel Negreanu was one of those leading the charge last week.


Others offered support for the movement to postpone and cancel events. Expressions of sympathy for those fighting the virus and encouragement to stay home followed.


Pandemic hits close to home

For poker pro Jessica Dawley, the virus had made an impact on her family. The winner of the 2018 WSOP Ladies Championship detailed her own family’s concerns on Twitter on Sunday.

Her brother Shawn Dawley and his wife have been quarantined on an Italian cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea since Feb. 24. Shawn is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel with experience in crisis management during Hurricane Katrina. He also flew missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

“They personally are doing fine because of my brother’s training,” Dawley told USPoker. “He’s good in these situations. Others on the ship are freaking out a bit.”

Dawley said Shawn’s been helping other Americans with logistics and contacting government officials. They’re trying to figure out when they can get home.

Online poker rooms step up with events

While safety certainly takes precedence over poker, many online operators have announced a new series to meet player demand.

Partypoker was one of the first and has teamed with the WPT after many of the tour’s events were postponed. The WPT Online Series offers players a chance to join the tour’s Champions Club.

The series runs May 10-26 and will feature $30 million in guarantees, including $15 million across 10 headline events. The highlight will be a $3,200 WPT Online Championship with a $5 million guarantee, set to begin May 10.

Other operators followed suit, including, which is available in New Jersey and Nevada. The series kicked off its Online Super Circuit over the weekend.

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, PokerStars was expected to offer players its Summer Series sooner than expected.


Like many poker pros, Dawley finds herself in an unexpected situation. She lives in Florida, but the tournament postponements have left her considering a cross-country trip.

“It’s been OK, thus far,” she said. “However I contemplated going to Nevada and quarantining there so I could play online. It’s unfortunate that the government made playing online illegal in 2011. It’s a huge slap in the face to those of us who could use a revenue stream from home right now. I’m hoping the US government eventually realizes their major misstep with this situation.”

Online operators might add more events in the coming weeks. Check back for USPoker and PokerScout for schedules and added events

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