Recreational marijuana became legal in Nevada today but smoking pot at the World Series of Poker can still have serious consequences.
Weed's always been pretty common at the WSOP. Whether it's outside, in the hallways or at the tables, it's unusual to go a full day at the Rio Hotel and Casino without smelling it somewhere.
Now with marijuana available in Las Vegas for anyone of legal age, odds are we'll be smelling it even more. But smoking and vaping weed at the World Series isn't the safest activity if you value being allowed on the Rio property.
What is the Official Marijuana Policy at the WSOP?
Officially they have a zero-tolerance policy that involves having anyone using drugs on the premises arrested by the police and possibly banned from not just this property, but all Caesars properties.
It's happened before but considering the number of people discreetly partaking, it's not really that common. Shane Schleger is a poker pro whose first WSOP cash was in 2005, a $131k score for making a final table in a $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event.
Schleger says he's been smoking weed in varying amounts the entire time he's played at the WSOP.
“I've run the gamut of styles,” said Schleger. “I’ve definitely done my normal wake-and-bake and play WSOP events over the years but that's not necessarily how I am geared right now.
“This current trip I've played four prelims and abstained until dinner break.”
Schleger's never had a problem with security but he said he has a friend that was caught with a vape pen at another Caesars property and banned from the World Series of Poker altogether.
Over the last 15 years there have been many stories of players getting kicked off properties all over the US for smoking pot, some while still playing in a tournament.
Schleger's position is that while it is clear the WSOP's parent company Caesars must have rules like a no-drugs policy, potentially being banned from setting foot inside the World Series of Poker is disproportionate to the offense.
Many poker players are earning a living at the WSOP, some people have medical marijuana prescriptions and others have traveled from around the world to play here.
The unspoken consensus, though, is that if you're discreet and respectful when you're smoking weed, chances are you'll be okay.
“I don’t look at the problem in terms of Smokers vs Caesars,” he explained.
“I'm not under any reasonable expectation that a huge corporation will condone drug use on its property. That's why I find the unspoken accommodation of this popular activity to be a reasonable middle ground.
“I think more people get barred from these properties for being drunk or unruly or challenging the authority of a security guard, which usually happens when someone is drunk.
“So on the spectrum of things you can do to piss off the guards, discreetly smoking some cannabis in a wide open desert seems less foolhardy than, say, walking around the Linq drunk and acting like an asshole.”
Don't Expect Weed in Vegas Casinos Anytime Soon
The current guidelines around marijuana being sold and consumed in casinos was outlined in a 2014 memo to gaming licensees written by Gaming Control Board member Terry Johnson and the board decided there would be no changes to those guidelines as a result of weed's eventual legalization by the State of Nevada.
A police vehicle parked outside the entrance to the WSOP.
The memo essentially said that since the possession and sale of marijuana are federal crimes, casinos wouldn't be allowed to invest or operate marijuana facilities regardless of changing state laws.
The same concept applies to smoking weed at the WSOP now that the state says it's legal for recreational use.
“We have local law enforcement on property, in our parking lots, and people get arrested with regularity if they're caught smoking on Rio grounds,” said WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communication Seth Palansky.
"Look, we don't have a special task force set up to go after these people or anything but if there's illegal activity happening on property we'll do what we have to do make this a safe and comfortable environment for people.
“It's like if I decide to drive 35 in a 25 zone, I'm risking getting a ticket so you have to know the risks before you make a decision.”
But if you're deep in a WSOP event with serious money on the line, the potential risk of smoking a joint in the parking lot is much higher than a speeding ticket.
When it comes to lifetime or long-term bans, however, Palansky explained that those are much more commonly given for offenses like unruly or violent behavior and security risks compared to getting caught smoking pot.