Back to Shutdowns And Postponements For Aussie Poker

A resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a postponement of several poker tournament series. Some poker rooms and venues have shut their doors – again and temporarily – to prevent another spread of the virus.

Stopping a Surge

The coronavirus trend in Australia mimicked much of the rest of the world. The first surge of cases happened in March-April of 2020, with a second one in June-July, only settling down through September. There were little blips after the holidays and in April 2021, but the number of positive Covid-19 cases rose quickly in late June. As doctors warned of the new coronavirus variant, people are getting vaccinated but not fast enough.

Per the World Health Organization (WHO), the most recent surge began in mid-June.

  • 21 June: 134 confirmed cases, up 55.8%
  • 28 June: 277 confirmed cases, up 106.7%
  • 5 July: 283 confirmed cases, up 2%
  • 12 July: 754 confirmed cases, up 166.4%

Deaths have also been rare since October of last year. This year, there was death in mid-April attributed to Covid-19, and then three people died during the week of 12 July.

As a preventative measure, the shutdowns began.

Poker in NSW

It started happening in mid-June. The Star Sydney suspended operations beginning on 25 June, per four local governments including Sydney. The temporary closure forced the postponement of the Sydney Champs $5K Challenge Satellite, but everyone hoped the series would still happen.

The Sydney Champs is a big tournament series. The 2019 Champs offered 18 tournaments and created a Main Event prize pool of $1.68M. The Star had to cancel the 2020 series altogether for obvious reasons. But earlier this year, the casino announced the series’ return. They set it to start on 21 July and run through 2 August, 2021. Satellites had been running since 1 June.

Current lockdown orders forced the casino to postpone the 2021 Sydney Champs, too. The postponement is indefinite. “The Star will contact all entrants directly to advise of rescheduling or to refund buy-ins,” The Star wrote on its website. “We understand players’ disappointment but look forward to welcoming you back and relaunching the Sydney Champs tournament in the near future, when it is safe to do so.”

The Cube had to cancel the Australian Poker Tour (APT) Sydney in late June as well. They were able to play 11 events, but lockdown ensued and kept a lot of visiting players in Sydney afterward. Meanwhile, the APT had to refund players who bought into later events.

Australasian Gaming Expo (AGE) organizers also cancelled their annual event, which had been set for Sydney. At this point, the organization may host its events 9-14 August, if possible. The situation remains fluid, though, so anything can change.

Poker in Queensland

The Star Gold Coast responded to the NSW closings by announcing a cancellation of its own. The APL Million Gold Coast was set for an 11-23 August run. Not only was it going to mark a celebratory post-pandemic return, it would have marked the first major tournament with Joel Williams on board. In early 2021, he left Crown Melbourne to join the Australian Poker League (APL) as its Major Events Director and breathe new life into the tour.

Williams commented, “We are devastated to be in a position where making this decision is necessary. The APL Million has always been an inclusive event, and there is simply too much uncertainty at present that may result in a large portion of the poker community missing out.”

Poker in South Australia

Positive Covid cases also became more prevalent in the south in the past week, with South Australia imposing Level 4 restrictions again. SkyCity Adelaide was in the gaming category, obviously, and had to shut its doors.

Matchroom Poker remained open, and its plans are unclear. Just days ago, the APL Poker Tour Adelaide played its Main Event at Matchroom Poker and finished its series this week. And the Check Raise Poker Super Series braced itself for a cancellation but was able to move forward with the series.

Fast-Changing Landscape

The status of poker rooms, casinos, pubs and clubs changes almost daily. While some poker tour operators proactively postponed their activities, others are trying to play as much as possible. The only way to know for certain is to call the venue the day before you plan to arrive.

Vaccine distribution is moving forward as they become available. Currently, only 11.3% of Australians are fully vaccinated, according to The Guardian. Those who have received only one dose of a two-dose vaccine total 17.4%. The Australian government claims to be distributing vaccines as soon as they receive them from several manufacturers.

Widespread acceptance of vaccines will eventually bring poker back to a normal pace that allows for tournament series and reliable poker room hours.


Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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