The 2021 World Series of Poker is just a week away, and it promises to be unlike any WSOP we’ve ever seen before. For the first time, the series will be held in the fall instead of the summer, and with the WSOP requiring proof of vaccinations to play, it is truly a mystery how big or small this unique series will be.
One person who plans to be there for at least part of the series is recent Las Vegas resident, David “ODB” Baker. The two-time bracelet winner enjoyed some big success in football betting last year, winning the Westgate Super Contest, and finishing tied for second in the Circa Sports Millions contest. His team earned nearly $800,000, but according to Baker, it wasn’t one of the reasons for the recent move.
“My wife Nicole and I had been living in Tucson, AZ because her daughter was in high school and we couldn’t move. She is now at college and we were free to move anywhere. We chose Vegas over LA due to the traffic and extremely high cost of living and taxes. We wanted to live somewhere where we could easily access poker but we have more close friends in Vegas so the decision really was an easy one. We’re very happy here so far,” Baker explained.
COVID-19 protocols have been changing everywhere throughout the last few months, and Las Vegas is no different. Live poker has been booming in Las Vegas all summer long, and as a result, Baker originally thought the WSOP would be historically big. However, as the start of the series approaches, Baker is not as optimistic now.
“I was very optimistic at a big WSOP a few months ago when restrictions were lowered and the cases were declining. With the increased COVID protocols in Vegas, I’m less optimistic but also hopeful. It wouldn’t surprise me if the series really was a big success but also wouldn’t surprise me if it kinda flopped. I don’t think we can know what to expect still, even a week out,” said Baker.
Baker did have some thoughts on the vaccine mandate, and also voiced his support for masks not being mandatory, as he would be far less likely to play the tournaments if he was required to wear one.
“It’s time for our country to take care of each other. In order to move forward with some sense of normalcy, we need to eradicate the virus the best way we can. The vaccine is proven to slow down the spread and almost eliminate deaths from COVID. I’m glad as a society, and at the WSOP, we are starting to move towards a vaccine-only requirement.
“You have the freedom to not get it but then we have the freedom to shun you for your decision,” Baker continued. “As for masks, I couldn’t play a whole or even partial schedule with a full mask mandate. I may wear it if I feel people around me look at all sick but I will be without a mask as much as possible.”
COVID regulations aren’t the only thing that makes this series unique. College and NFL football dominate the Las Vegas sportsbooks during the fall, and for the first time, the WSOP will have that competition on the weekends. Baker is one of several big NFL bettors who will be at the World Series of Poker and says that while he doesn’t think football will have a big factor for most of the series, it will certainly be a factor for him.
“I don’t think the season of football will have a big impact on turnout. The other factors are bigger. It will impact my schedule somewhat. I won’t be playing Saturday events unless it’s a can’t-miss event. I definitely won’t play early Sunday events. May late reg the Sunday afternoon event if it is something I really want to play,” said Baker.
The last few years, Baker and his wife have run a popular fantasy league tied to the prices set in the $25,000 Daniel Negreanu Fantasy league. However, with that league not running this year, Baker has decided that he, too, will not run his league. Given all the uncertainty, he is simply looking forward to focusing on poker this series.
“As of now I am planning on playing but I won’t have side bets like normal. I think there are just too many unanswered questions as to how it will be run. If they have someone sanitizing the empty seats when people bust and they have the kiosk registration and things then I am more likely to play. If they aren’t doing things to better protect us and I’m not having fun I will play [fewer tournaments] and just play cash,” he said.
“I’m excited, yet not the same way I have in the past. Just been a weird couple of years. I will be there for the 25k H.O.R.S.E. and see where we go from there.”