WSOP Main Event Player Tests Positive for COVID-19. $1 Million Head-to-Head Possibly Delayed

This year has thrown some “unprecedented” twists at the legendary WSOP $10,000 Main Event, held live in Las Vegas this year. Just hours before the US leg of the series was set to launch, Upeshka De Silva was out, due to a positive COVID-19 test. Sadly, the eighth-place finisher online fell to ninth-place, due to the test, but was awarded $98,813. Rest up, Upeshka, that bankroll will buy a lot of masks.

The international half of the WSOP Main Event played out with a live, and uneventful, final table at King’s Casino in the Czech Republic.

The news was just one more thing out of left field. The 2020 Main Event already adjusted to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions by offering a unique online to live hybrid event. 


Out of the US WSOP Main Event 

De Silva was one of the most experienced poker players coming into the final table. He has more than $3 million in live tournament winnings and has won three coveted WSOP bracelets.

Poker streamer and podcaster Joey Ingram broke the news after being contacted by De Silva.

On December 26, De Silva reported he tested negative with a PCR nasal swab test. But on December 27, at the Rio in Las Vegas, the official mouth swab PCR test came back positive. He did say that he’d been taking precautions and before the event, had been in quarantine. 


The Problem of False Positive PCR Tests 

One study performed by the University of Birmingham in the UK used the only officially approved lateral flow COVID-19 antigen test, the Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test. It was sent by the government to the university to test students.

Early results from the student testing at the University of Birmingham and other universities in the UK found that the PCR tests had a sensitivity of only 3% and that 58% of positive test results were actually false.


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Sad Ending for De Silva

Finishing in ninth-place undoubtedly is a huge disappointment for De Silva. The final table offered a chance at winning the WSOP Main Event and a bracelet, the equivalent of a gold medal at what equates to poker’s Olympics. De Silva also missed out on a chance for a $1.55 million payout. However, he did take home $98,813 for his time.


WSOP Main Event Awards More than $1 Million

Players that make it to the US WSOP Main Event earn the chance at a heads-up duel with the international champion for an additional $1 million. That winner has also been crowned the WSOP Main Event champion.

The international half of the WSOP at King’s Casino also only featured eight players. Peiyuan Sun of China could not travel for the final table. However, he did win $75,360 as the ninth-place winner. 

The heads-up portion of the Main Event in Las Vegas could also be affected by COVID-related fallout. Codigo Poker, a Latin American poker news site, reported that Damian Salas of Argentina was denied an exception to travel to Las Vegas.

That possibly moved the heads-up match to January 2, adding to the intrigue surrounding the Main Event. However, WSOP officials noted beforehand that plans could change unexpectedly, due to the labyrinth of pandemic restrictions. Tournament rules noted those who could not play would receive a ninth-place payout. 


More COVID Bad Luck for De Silva 

In March, De Silva qualified for the final table in the World Poker Tour’s LA Poker Classic. That final table was to be streamed at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas. But, that event along with the Gardens Poker Championship and the Borgata Winter Poker Open was delayed.

Poker players and fans took to Twitter to offer the operators possible solutions to De Silva’s dilemma. Some thought the other eight players should refuse to play until De Silva could compete. Joey Ingram thought that the final table should be played online or until De Silva busts.

The WSOP heads-up duel remains up in the air. ESPN will be shooting the events for a broadcast later on the network.