Australia’s World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Joe Hachem, says he would be surprised if this year’s WSOP – tentatively planned for October – goes ahead at all as the United States continues to struggle in its fight against COVID-19.
And he has cast similar doubts over the short-term future of poker in Australia, despite hints that casinos nationwide may start to reopen to the general public in the coming weeks.
Speaking exclusively with the PokerMedia Australia team on the latest PMA Podcast (watch the full podcast below), Hachem – who famously won the 2005 WSOP Main Event – said the decision by Caesars Entertainment to postpone this year’s series was inevitable but questioned whether a WSOP in 2020 is feasible at all.
“The fact that they held out for so long before they actually announced [the original postponement] was ridiculous,” Hachem said.
“I would bet that it’s not going to take place in October, and if it does I would bet that almost zero international players will be there.
“If you have been watching the news, one part of the United States is stabilizing in numbers, the rest is going the other way. And we’re almost in July. A lot of the states haven’t peaked yet. They haven’t taken it seriously enough.”
Asked for his thoughts on the likelihood of any Australian events taking place this year, Hachem replied, “At the moment, I don’t see how they can introduce poker. The casinos will probably be re-opening in two weeks but how are they going to introduce poker back into the real world? Playing 5-handed? Maybe, I don’t know.”
Among the Australian series already postponed or cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic are the Crown Poker Championships, WPTDeepStacks Gold Coast and Marconi Cup Carnival, while the Sydney Poker Championships and Melbourne Poker Championships, originally scheduled for July and August respectively, also appear in extreme doubt.
“It’s above my pay grade how they are going to do this but I can’t see it,” Hachem continued. “Maybe all events will be 6-handed but that’s still breaking the 1.5-metre rule. The Aussie Millions? Perhaps but there won’t be any internationals playing.”
More likely, says Hachem, is a return to poker for Australians only with WSOP Sydney, planned to kick off in late November, potentially far enough away to survive the nation’s COVID restrictions. WSOP Sydney could also see the Australian Poker Hall of Famer himself take part for the first time.
“That’s more likely to happen than me being at the Five Diamond this year,” said Hachem, eluding to the WPT Five Diamond Poker Classic at the Bellagio that he won in 2006.
“I normally don’t go to Sydney because I’m at the Five Diamond but most likely I won’t be overseas and we’ll be having a WSOP Sydney just for Australians.”