3 Jun

What Canada Means to 2021 WSOP

The Importance of Canada in the World Series of Poker

The Importance of Canada in the World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker is the most prestigious poker event on the planet; the crème de la crème of card gaming. It takes place every summer in Las Vegas, attracting tens of thousands of players from all over the world. At least, it did in 2019 and every year before it, prior to travel restrictions and, in some cases, the closing of national borders.

Up until that point, Canada has played an extremely important role in the demographic diversity of the WSOP. In 2019, 420 Canadian poker players made up the second largest national demographic in the Main Event, behind Americans (6,110) of course. Those figures were very similar in 2018, with 5,758 American, and 415 Canadians representing the largest nationalities.

Demographic ratios aren’t the only reason Canada means so much to the prominence of the annual poker festival. In fact, the 2021 WSOP could be relying on Canada more than ever. That is, if border restrictions are lifted between the two countries.

Importance of Canada in World Series of Poker

Let’s face facts. If those 400+ Canadians hadn’t shown up for the WSOP in recent years, it wouldn’t exactly have spelled disaster. 8,569 entrants converged on the 2019 WSOP Main Event; a number that would have only fallen about 5% to 8,149. Influential, yes, but not pivotal, at a glance.

But let’s not forget the final table of that epic Main Event. Canada’s Alex Livingston made quite the splash at that table, cashing in for US$4 million for his 3rd place finish. Without Livingston’s domineering presence in the final days of that tournament, things could have gone much differently.

But that was two years ago. A lot has changed since then; changes that further highlight Canada and the pivotal role it will play in 2021, and likely many more years to come.

WSOP Online Bracelet Events, Outside US

In terms of online gambling regulation, the United States has evolved immensely in the last few years. More and more jurisdictions are taking advantage of the federal government’s ruling to allow legalization and regulation on a state-by-state basis. However, very few of them have taken steps to sign compacts with fellow states that allow for player pooling. For the WSOP, that means only a few states are actually eligible to host WSOP online bracelet events.

In addition, players cannot be pooled across international borders. That means a single event cannot accept players from within the US and other countries. Both American and international players are able to travel to Nevada or New Jersey to complete in these events at WSOP.com. Likewise, American and international players can log onto GGpoker.com to compete in the international events for players located outside the United States.

To clarify, only players located in Nevada and New Jersey and compete in “WSOP Online Domestic” events on WSOP.com, and only players located outside the United States can compete in “WSOP Online International” events on GGPoker. A player’s nationality has no bearing on this, only their physical location. This means that Canadians are easily eligible to enter 2021 WSOP Online International events, but that Americans are heavily restricted (i.e. domestic events can only be access in 48 of 50 states).

Will Canada Open its US Border?

The reality of the situation is that countless Americans would eagerly travel across the border into Canada to participate in WSOP Online International events, if only it were easier to do so. Hundreds of poker fans traveled south to Mexico last year to do just that, but travel to Canada was restricted due to the current border closure. Odds are, the number of online participants in the International series would be much higher, if the border were to open. Not only that, Canadian poker players would have the option to travel south into Nevada or New Jersey to participate on WSOP.com.

The border between the US and Canada has been cut off since March of 2020. Now, its seems momentum may finally be shifting towards a possible reopening. BC’s business community is calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to make changes to the current policy. New Brunswick health officials are indicated their readiness to open the border to Maine.

No doubt, it’s going to require collaboration between both countries to get the job done. The factor most likely to play a key role in their decision will be vaccination.

“We have to get Ottawa and Washington DC to get a collaborative plan to reopen the border,” said head of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Economic Region, Mark Morrison. The PNER represents a group of bi-national, non-partisan businesses and elected officials across two territories, three provinces and five states.

In an open letter this week, Morrison and co-writers appealed to political figureheads in both Canada and the US. “I think people who are vaccinated or prove they have antibodies should be free to travel,” he said, noting the imminent failure of many tourism-related businesses come this summer, lacking international travel options.

‘US Open, Canada Closed’ a More Realistic Scenario?

Dr. Laurie Trautman, Director of Western Washington University’s Borer Policy Research Institute, said this week, “Canada is exploring that” option.

“I think they’re getting pretty close to likely implementing a situation where I, as an American traveler, can upload my vaccine status through their ArriveCAN platform, which is an app that’s currently used for all entries into Canada,” explained Trautman.

However, she also notes it’s very possible for the US to implement such a policy, but not Canada. If that’s the case, its doubtful too many Canadians would take advantage of the option to cross into the US, knowing they would be required to quarantine upon return.

As elected leaders on both sides of the 49th parallel continue to debate the issue, the 2021 WSOP getting ready to kick off in just a few weeks. The first WSOP Online Bracelet events, both domestic and international, will get underway July 1, 2021.

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