Postponements and Shutdowns Return for Australian Poker

By Matilda Karen

Bad news for Australian poker as there has been a resurgence in COVID-19 cases which has resulted in plenty of poker tournaments being postponed until further notice. There have also been a few poker rooms that have opted to close their doors to prevent the virus from spreading. There’s only so much that the industry and operators will be able to do to stop the spread of the virus. Until then, they’ll need to wait until the coast is clear before resuming operations.

Putting a Stop to the Surge

The COVID-19 development in Australia had copied the remainder of the globe, with the initial surge in cases taking place in March and April of 2020, with the second wave of cases taking place in June and July before simmering down in September. There were brief spikes in the holiday season and in April 2021; however, a new surge of cases had popped up in June. This was after medical professionals had warned the public about a new Delta variant of the virus. And despite people getting vaccinated, it’s not happening fast enough.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the latest rise in cases started in the middle of June.

  • 21 June – 55.8% increase in cases with 134
  • 28 June – 106.7% increase in cases with 277
  • 5 July – 2% increase in cases with 283
  • 12 July – 166.4% increase in cases with 754

On the plus side, deaths have been relatively uncommon since last October. This year, there have been a total of four deaths, with one in mid-April and three more during mid-July. To prevent things from escalating, the shutdowns were implemented.

Poker in New South Wales

The rise in cases had started in June which saw The Star Sydney suspending operations from 25 June, as per four provincial governments which had included Sydney. The provisional closure had forced the indefinite delay of the Sydney Champs $5K Challenge Satellite despite everyone hoping that the tournament would continue.

The Sydney Champs is a large tournament series in Australia that attracts some of the best local players. The 2019 Champs presented 18 contests and had established a Main Event award of $1.68 million. The Star was forced to abandon the 2020 tournament due to the pandemic; however, early 2021 saw the announcement of the return of the poker series. The tournament started on 21 July and was played over 2 August with satellites that have run since 1 June.

Due to current lockdown measures, the casino was forced to delay the 2021 Sydney Champs with the postponement proving to be indefinite due to the current state of the country. The Star had stated on its website that it would be contacting all contestants openly to seek deferment or to reimburse their buy-ins. Players are expected to be disappointed but The Star looks forward to welcoming them back and relaunching the tournament.

The Cube had canceled the ATP Sydney (Australian Poker Tour) in June too. They were able to complete 11 events before lockdown laws prohibited many players from visiting the city. This resulted in the ATP having to refund players that had bought into events taking place later in the tournament. The AGE (Australian Gaming Expo) organizers had also been forced to withdraw from their yearly event. Most events in Sydney are looking to resume or start in mid-August.

Poker in Queensland

The APL Million Gold Coast was scheduled for a run between 11-23 August, this would’ve been a post-pandemic comeback and the first main poker competition with Joel Williams as part of the team. Comments have been made stating the disappointment of the tour being canceled and how important it is to be safe during these times of uncertainty.

The Fluctuating Landscape

The current status of poker rooms, clubs, pubs, and casinos changes on a near-daily basis, and as frustrating as it is for players and operators, most of them understand that the situation is beyond anyone’s control. With vaccine distribution in effect, it’s not being dispensed fast enough as the virus continues to spread. We hope that eventually, poker sees a return and that all tournaments can be played as they were meant to be.

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