My cable company, Comcast, took my order for the pay per view, but the broadcast never appeared. I called customer service and they told me it was unavailable in my area. I ended up watching the web stream instead, missing about the first hour of it. The show was both grueling and thrilling. Watching anything for 16 hours straight is hard, but it was thrilling to watch history being made live.
The quality of the stream was poor, with graphics so small that you had to guess at what they said. Much of the room was also too dark (though the the poker table and broadcast booth were fine). The European Poker Tour live broadcasts have shown me how good streaming quality can be, and this broadcast didn't come close.
There were no hole card graphics. Many of the other World Series of Poker events were broadcast with hole card cams and a delay this year, so hopefully next year the final table live broadcast will also have hole-card cams. Listening to Phil Gordon trying to put the players on hands without the benefit of knowing the hole cards has its own merit though.
I've always liked Phil Gordon's opinionated, highly-critical commentary. I don't think this was his best work, but Phil Gordon on a bad day is still one of the best poker commentators in the world. I'm not a fan of Ali Nejad, on the other hand. He always seems better when he's paired with Gordon, however: I think he makes a good foil for Gordon and asks some good questions. Ideally, however, I'd like to see Gordon paired with another analyst, using good onscreen graphics to handle the play-by-play. Two analysts' differing opinions on the hands and players might expose weaknesses in each others' analyses, providing even greater insight.
16 hours may be too much for any commentator, however. Gordon seemed tired and less talkative eventually, and Nejad made a major mistake at one point. Perhaps they'd do better to switch teams after 6 or 8 hours next year.
One weakness of the show is that the announcers sometimes ignore the action when they're interviewing someone in the booth. At least they broke away from the interviews when something significant happened. I wouldn't mind them doing interviews so much if they kept the camera on the table most of the time and provided good onscreen graphics to follow the action.
One great strength of this show is that it's real poker, altered little, if at all, for television. The World Poker Tour alters the structure of the television table and shows less than 20% of hands. High Stakes Poker is an invitiational, shows very few hands, and occasionally scripts bits (e.g. Daniel Negreanu leaving the table to "replace Gable Kaplan in the booth"). The final table show, however, is real, not made for TV: it's an open tournament that anyone can play, and they show every hand.
If ESPN were to issue the final table live broadcast on DVDs, with the hole cards added and more readable onscreen graphics, this would be one of the best poker shows ever. Gordon and Nejad could also add a director's commentary-style narration, to see how their opinions changed with time and knowledge of the hole cards (the original commentary should still be the default however).
I know most people won't ever watch a 16-hour poker broadcast, but for me this will be one of the best poker shows of the year, earning ****.