** The Aussie Millions has a serious case of ESPN-itis. I counted the segments for half of a middle episode this year: they showed 5 hands, 6 bleeding chunks (where they flit around the room to show the end of big hands), and 6 non-poker segments. On an hourly basis that's 10, 12, and 12, which is pretty close to ESPN's low water mark: the first episode of the 2007 Main Event had 8 hands, 11 bleeding chunks, and 16 non-poker segments. The non-poker segments here are generally better than ESPN's, however (except for the recurring Down Under Dictionary, which is neither about poker nor the players). I wouldn't mind the occasional capsule bio of a player, but the closest most shows come to that is anecdotal human-interest stories. The flitting, on the other hand, has no redeeming virtue: please just show me more hands at the featured table.
Showing us pictures of players folding preflop, without showing us their hole cards, is ridiculous. Are preflop decisions unimportant? Why do I keep on seeing shows that don't show all the hole cards? That is about as basic an error as one can make when producing a poker show.
Conveying the action is another basic that too many shows don't get right. This show is a mixed bag there: normally I'd say that the lack of onscreen graphics showing the action is unacceptable, but competent play-by-play by Barry Tompkins alleviates much of the problem. He's paired with analyst Michael Konik. Konik has a lot of detractors, but I'm not among them. I think he does a workmanlike, real, and honest job. I wouldn't put him in the top class of analysts, but I'd put him above Nejad and Van Patten, and in about the same league as Mike Sexton. Overall, I think the announcing team is pretty good.
One nice feature of this show is the periodic graphics showing the chip leaders, average stack, and number of players remaining. They need to add the blinds and antes, however, for us to make sense of the chip stack information. Like most shows, the onscreen graphics don't stay up long enough for us to absorb them. Another flaw they have in common with most shows is that they don't show the players' positions.
There are a few oddities about this tournament that I don't like. The featured table is physically removed from the rest of the tournament. They showed one of the players at the featured table asking if the bubble had burst yet, something he would have known if he'd been on the casino floor with the rest of the players. Also, handedness changes twice in this tournament: at 36 players they move to six-handed tables, then they go to eight-handed for the final table.
The main problem with this show is that they don't follow the story of the featured table, instead flitting around the casino to show the ends of big hands or non-poker segments. At least I wasn't bored with this show, however, which puts it above recent shows like the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and the WSOP Europe. I considered ratings in the ** (below average) to *** (average) range for this show. I won't reward a show this badly made with an average rating, however, so it gets **.
See also the review of last year's show.