The World Series of Poker is slated to return to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in September. The greatest poker festival on the planet prepares to welcome live players back to the felt.

Could it be the start of a second poker boom, or will numbers fall short of those expected by the poker playing public and demanded by those in charge? Of course we all love a little gamble and folks are already placing bets on how big the crowds will be come September 30, the first day of the WSOP.

Now that the full 2021 WSOP schedule has been released, we’ve practiced a little White Magic and have put together a list of our top 10 bold predictions for what’s to come when the world descends on Sin City for eight weeks this autumn.

WSOP

1. The Main Event Will Welcome 10,000 players

The hardest prediction most years is exactly how many players will take part in the Main Event, but while the eyes of the world will be on the best tournament of the year between November 4-17, there are plenty more events on offer. We think that will make it a very busy year in Las Vegas.

As WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart has said, “In 2021, the theme is ‘Get vaccinated and get back to Vegas’.” It may sound ambitious to officially lock in a statement that 10,000 players will play in the Main Event at the Rio, but poker players have really missed the live game, which leads us neatly into our second prediction.

2. Online Poker Players Will Reign Supreme

It’s no secret that staying up to date with the techniques of playing poker for a living are vital to any success. This year’s collection of live players will likely have played less poker than in many other years before they arrive in Vegas looking to win a much-coveted WSOP bracelet.

By contrast, online poker players have of course had a year at the virtual felt like no other. With a plethora of festivals moving online — including an expanded slates of WSOP online bracelet events, too — this enforced dedication through perceived value will only have honed their skills. By comparison, ‘live only’ players may have taken a step backwards, so anyone who isn’t rusty will be ready to take advantage once the cards are in the air.

3. Over 1,000 Women Will Play in the Main Event

It figures that plenty of female poker players will be playing at the World Series of Poker if it is well attended. But while female players typically account for around 5% of the field in most events, we think a lot more ladies will be playing events in Vegas this autumn.

The line for the female restroom is always a lot shorter than that of the ‘Gents’, but this year, we think it’ll be a lot fuller with female players looking to bag themselves a bracelet. It’s a been a great year for the development of the game and plenty of female winners in Vegas would help poker work towards the equality it needs to grow the game even more.

Ladies Event
WSOP Ladies Event. Credit: pokergrump.blogspot.com

From a brief survey of the numerous popular ladies poker groups on Facebook and other social media platforms, women’s excitement to get out there and play is through the roof. We expect (and hope!) that they’ll comprise close to 10% of this year’s Main Event field and that there’s a chance we’ll see at least one woman at every table in play on each Day 1 flight.

4. The Autumn Move Will Go Permanent

This is our stand-out prediction for this year’s series. The least sweltering WSOP ever will be held in autumn at the famously icy Rio, but the coolest decision of all would be to permanently move the World Series of Poker to the October/November time slot.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense to structure the World Series at this time of year. An Online Series in the heat of summer when those who love the sun can sit out in it while they grind followed by an autumnal affair for the live stop in Vegas before an excursion to Europe to celebrate the last big World Series winner of the year before Christmas. Player feedback will be critical with this one, but for our money, we’d love to see it.

5. Big Names Will Bag Bracelets

It could almost go without saying, but we’re talking the really big hitters. Looking at four of the biggest names, it’s been too long since Poker Hall of Famers Phil Ivey (2014), Daniel Negreanu (2013) and Erik Seidel (2007), and future Poker Hall of Famer Antonio Esfandiari (2012), have bagged World Series gold.

With all four men looking likely to take part, each of them would appear to be due a victory. Who would bet against at least one of that ‘Fab Four’ winning big yet again?

There’s also one more really big name we want to throw in the mix, and we’ve got a special prediction for him below.

6. Masks Will Unite, But Dividers Divide

Many players will not be looking forward to wearing a face mask when they arrive at the poker felt, purely down to the lack of personal comfort. But in an age where poker tells have never been more important, the fact that many face masks cover 60% of even the biggest-headed poker player’s face, could help some players. Plenty of the close-ups during the all-new CBS Sports WSOP coverage will prove that, in 2021, the eyes have it.

While masks will likely be optional, the plexiglass dividers spotted in Vegas casinos of late will likely be gone by the time the Rio opens its doors. The Wynn was the first to “tear down those walls”, with 90% of their staff vaccinated. Other casinos have followed suit due to player pressure and increased numbers of vaccinated staff and patrons, and we’d expect the Rio to be no different.

7. Phil Hellmuth Will Win the Seniors Event

How do you write any WSOP-related article without mentioning the ‘Poker Brat’? The 15-time WSOP bracelet winner will be turning 57 this summer and looking to boost his all-time career leading numbers ever further. So why couldn’t that come in the annual Seniors Event? There are fewer events on the schedule this year and if Hellmuth whiffs the WSOP Online Series then he’s going to bring his A-Game throughout the live series in order to grab gold before the action in Vegas wraps.

If you think about it, Hellmuth winning the Seniors Event just makes total sense. It’s logical yet left-field, unexpected right now but completely believable once it happens. Plus, it’s a new achievement and the “Apex Predator” hardly has any of them left.

READ MORE: Interview with Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth 15th bracelet
Hellmuth winning his 15th WSOP bracelet | Image credit wsop.com

8. There Will Be No British Bracelet Winners

One of the great anomalies of recent years is the lack of British talent that has gone far in World Series of Poker events. For many years, it pleased this writer to no end to see fellow Brits hailed as some of the best players in the world and pound-for-pound, we’d like to believe that’s still true.

Sadly, over the last decade, the number of British players playing WSOP events seems to have dwindled and the natural result of that has been a distinct lack of winners. British players have won 56 WSOP bracelets among them, a number only bettered by Canada (66) and U.S.A. (1,169), but could you name the most recent five? Until international travel restrictions are fully lifted, we’d expect this recent trend to continue.

9. Shaun Deeb Will Win Player of the Year

Over the past few years, there have been few more enjoyable battles to witness than Shaun Deeb trying to win the WSOP Player of the Year. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always certain, Deeb is the anti-hero fan’s choice at the WSOP.

In his frequent feuds with Daniel Negreanu, he’s been highly entertaining, coming desperately close to winning the 2019 POTY title. We can see Shaun Deeb getting a new banner up on the wall of the Rio. Or will he…?

10. It’ll be the Final WSOP at the Rio

The World Series of Poker has enjoyed its home being the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino for many years now, but could this be the ‘last hurrah’ for the gargantuan venue? Next year, the newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center will be available and could add a new and exciting chapter to the long and illustrious history of the WSOP.

Deeb may have to wait for his flag to be flapping in slightly less wintry air conditioning at a new venue in 2022. You heard it here first. The World Series of Poker could take place anywhere. From Binion’s Horseshoe to the Rio the WSOP has come a long way, but its home will always be wherever the players are. They’re what hold the magic of the World Series of Poker together, and we can’t wait to follow their journeys this Autumn here at Cardplayer Lifestyle.