World Series of Poker Announces Hybrid Format for 2020 Main Event

Posted on: November 14, 2020, 11:40h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2020, 10:56h.

The World Series of Poker Main Event will take place in 2020. But like most major events this year, COVID-19 is forcing organizers to make some major changes.

WSOP Main Event
This year’s Main Event won’t look like last year’s or anything from previous years thanks to COVID-19. (Image: John Locher/Associated Press)

For starters, there will be two tournaments, one American and one International. Both will run online up until the final tables in each. The International Main Event leg will hold its final table at King’s Casino in the Czech Republic, while the US final nine will gather at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

The International and American winners will then face off in a head-to-head showdown that’s currently scheduled for Dec. 30 at the Rio.

“There must be a World Champion in 2020,” said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the World Series of Poker. “Poker’s history is too important.  It’s a unique format for the Main Event, but this is a unique year. We want to keep players’ health and safety top of mind and still deliver a great televised showcase for the game we love.”

Despite nearly all the Main Event action taking place online, ESPN will mark its 18th year covering poker’s most prestigious event.

The final head-to-head contest features a $1 million prize that would be in addition to prize money won in the US or International events. And, of course, the winner walks off with the coveted bracelet and the title of 2020 world champion.

While taking place in a hybrid format, it will still be a $10,000 No-Limit Hold ‘Em event. While the international and US events will run at different times, it will still be just a single-entry event, meaning no one will be able to play in the US and International tournaments.

Organizers announced back in the spring that the 2020 Main Event would be rescheduled because of the COVID-19 crisis,  limiting travel and forcing other restrictions on businesses, including casinos.

Who’s the Main Event Winner?

For this event, the World Series of Poker is teaming up with to draw an international crowd. However, the news created some confusion on social media. That’s because GGPoker held an event earlier this year many believed to be this year’s version of the Main Event, which was part of an online series of tournaments that took place over the summer.

That Main Event was held in September, with Bulgarian Stoyan Madanzhiev, who outlasted more than 5,800 competitors in a $5,000 No-Limit Hold ‘Em main event, to win $3.9 million. Madanzhiev also earned a bracelet with his win.

Even the champion was confused, as he posted on Twitter Saturday.

US Online Limited to NJ, Nevada

While the US event is online, it’s only available in New Jersey and Nevada. That means players must physicially be in either state in order to compete. Players will be able to register for accounts, if necessary, from their home location before the tournament begins.

Currently, New Jersey requires visitors from 45 states and territories to complete an online survey regarding their trip and adhere to a voluntary 14-day self-quarantine once they arrive in the Garden State. That quarantine can take place at a hotel, under state guidelines. However, it urges people to only leave the premises to get food, medical treatment, or essential items.

The full list of affected states can be found here.

Nevada currently does not have any travel restrictions.

Caesars Entertainment will offer special rates for rooms at its properties in both states. Players will also be able to deposit money into or withdraw from their WSOP account at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno.

Similar to Main Events of the past, satellite tournaments will be held at the World Series and GGPoker website, allowing people to qualify for a seat. Weekly free-roll events will also take place.

COVID May Still Derail WSOP Plans

The International tournament will start on Sunday, Nov. 29, which will serve as one of three first-round days. The other first days will take place following weekend, Dec. 5-6. Those surviving from those rounds will continue play on Dec. 7, until nine competitors remain.

At that point, the final table is slated to play on Dec. 15 at the King’s Casino. However, that’s still subject to local approval. Also, organizers may elect to reschedule or move the final table to online if COVID-19 creates travel restrictions, or forces the casino to close.

In the US, the tournament begins on Dec. 13 and will continue the following day until the field is whittled down to nine. Those individuals will then gather at the Rio on Dec. 28 for the final table. Similar to the International event, should COVID cause travel restrictions or casino closures in the US, the WSOP may choose to reschedule a live table or continue to play online.

The new WSOP main event is a logistical nightmare, but it’s better than nothing!” tweeted 2013 Main Event winner Ryan Riess. “If you don’t want to play, don’t play. If you want to play, I’ll see you on the felt!”

The US winner would then face the International winner for the extra $1 million and bracelet. However, organizers may move the event out of Nevada should the International winner not meet Nevada’s 21-year-old age requirement.