PokerStars Postpones EPT Prague Per Covid Rules
It was so close to happening. PokerStars and poker players around the world were looking forward to heading to Prague for the first major European Poker Tour stop since the pandemic forced so many EPT cancellations.
There had been an EPT Sochi, one that just wrapped in October, and PokerStars ran the EPT Online during the worst of the pandemic. But nearly everyone had been missing the live action, the festivals that comprised a major EPT stop, the excitement that comes with live tournament poker.
As 2021 ran its course, the pandemic seemed to be doing the same. Vaccines became more readily available, and many events and venues implemented health protocols that often involved vaccine and Covid-19 testing mandates. The World Series of Poker appeared ready to handle whatever could happen in Las Vegas and for WSOPE in the Czech Republid.
So, in September, PokerStars announced that the EPT Prague would return. They set the schedule for December 8-19 and reserved King’s Casino Prague at the Hilton Prague. It consisted of 59 tournaments from €130 buy-in qualifiers to High Roller events with buy-ins as high as €50K. It was going to be a big post-pandemic comeback.
— PokerStars LIVE (@PokerStarsLIVE) September 30, 2021
Just as everyone thought they saw the end of strict regulations pertaining to Covid-19, another surge began. In the Czech Republic, cases went from a low of fewer than 100 new cases per day at the end of August to a surge that began in mid-October. November saw the situation worsening, practically by the day. By November 19, there were more than 13,000 new cases, and six days later, that number exceeded 18,000. By November 27, it was more than 20,000.
Hospitals began to fill. A new variant of the coronavirus seemed to be traveling from South Africa to Europe. And with less than 60% of Czechs fully vaccinated, the government decided to act. They implemented new restrictions, one of which capped public sporting events and gatherings to 1,000 people.
Not only is that limitation a potential problem for the European Poker Tour, the new travel bans and other increased protective measures around Europe might make it difficult for players to get to Prague in December…again.
That prompted a message from PokerStars on November 26.
EPT Prague postponed. More details here. https://t.co/L7naor9Zaz
— PokerStars Blog (@PokerStarsBlog) November 26, 2021
The message on the PokerStars blog to EPT players was brief and clearly full of frustration on the part of tournament organizers.
“Following the recent government restrictions put in place in the Czech Republic, we have had to make the unfortunate decision to postpone EPT Prague. We understand that this will be disappointing news to our players, but we must follow the government guidance given to us. The health and safety of our staff and players is a top priority, and we will look to run EPT Prague at a later date when we are safe and able to do so.”
There is little that PokerStars can do except to wait for the pandemic to allow things to change.