Tournament & Cash Games

Casino Sochi is preparing for two months of tournament action thanks to the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour.

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

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

Partypoker will jointly host the 14-event festival, which will take place from February 19-28 at Casino Sochi. Once the WPT train has departed, PokerStars will be rolling into town on March 19th.

WPT Russia offers 14 COVID safe tournaments

A $ 3,337 main event will highlight WPT Russia, but those who can attend can expect a lot more from the festival. WPT CEO Adam Pliska promises a busy schedule full of side events and activities that are not updated.

What these activities will look like in the current climate is unclear. Although Casino Sochi is open for business, there are still COVID-19 restrictions in place.

As per WPT tournament guidelines, the following security protocols will be used throughout the series:

  • The players must wear masks at the table
  • All players are checked for their temperature upon entering the casino
  • Chips and tables are disinfected during every break
  • A special cleaning team is used for the entire series
  • The tables are eight hands

In addition to the WPT measures, Casino Sochi tests all employees on a daily basis.

PokerStars will be closely monitoring the WPT event

Given the lack of live poker in 2020, the security measures are likely to be viewed as only a minor inconvenience. Additionally, the WPT wants to ensure that their first major European event in 2021 goes smoothly.

PokerStars will also be keeping an eye on WPT Russia. It is planned to host EPT Sochi in the same location from March 19-28, building on the event in October 2020.

Like its counterpart, PokerStars will have a number of rules regarding masks, physical distancing and disinfection. Again, a minor logistical nightmare is the low price to pay for the return of live poker tournaments in Europe.

While it’s good news that WPT Russia and EPT Sochi will be held in the next two months, that doesn’t mean the industry is going back to full strength.

Who can visit Sochi Casino?

Although everyone involved has COVID-screened their events as best they can, the players are still at the mercy of local governments.

UK poker players are likely to be victims of persistent travel restrictions. To date, flights from the UK to Russia have been banned. Despite the lifting of restrictions, the UK is still in the midst of a national lockdown, the end of which is not in sight. This means that no one is allowed to travel unless there is a significant business reason.

For those in countries where travel is allowed, there are still two entry restrictions in Russia:

  • Incoming travelers must have a negative COVID-19 test performed 72 hours prior to arrival
  • In the absence of a test or after a positive test on arrival (temperature controls are carried out at Russian airports), visitors must be quarantined for two weeks

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

Additionally, the desire to travel at many major online events may not be there for some in the coming weeks.

Regardless of whether the start of 2021 is slower than expected, the wheels are turning again. Live poker may not be back in full force in Europe, but the next two months could mean a strong second half of the year.

Written by

Daniel Smyth

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

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