Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2008 Aussie Millions Review

** 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.

4 comments:

  1. Agree with your analysis: MORE poker, less ESPN-type nonsense. I also agree that this announcing team is very good, possibly the best. I actually think Tompkins does his job without getting in the way of the action and Konik is pretty funny and quite knowlegable without acting all superior. Just tells it like it is. I actually would prefer to watch Konik and Mr. Tompkins than any other announce team on TV. That said, they're better when they do live events with plenty of hands instead of this kind of packaged stuff. I hope the Aussie Millions will show more hands from start-to-finish.

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  2. Last I heard, the 2009 tournament doesn't have sponsorship for a Fox Sports Net airing, so this may not return to TV.

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  3. The 2009 Aussie Millions tournament was a pretty good broadcast actually, much better than previous ones. Showing just the final table is one way to cure ESPN-itis (since there simply aren't as many other things to show, they show more poker). This was a far better broadcast than ESPN's WSOP broadcasts, and it may even have a nicer feel to it than the WPT. Certainly I prefer this announcing team to the WPT. Bart Hanson and Barry Tompkins do their business in a workmanlike fashion, while Mike and Vince are putting on a show to a great extent. This will probably deserve the award for most improved show this year.

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  4. The 2009 Aussie Millions cash games were clearly outstanding. It was the first time we've seen a PLO cash game on TV. Many people have been eagerly awaiting that day, and hopefully we'll see more PLO on TV. Seeing high-stakes heads-up action was also a first. Bart Hanson's excellent commentary also added to the show. With a game that not many people understand, like PLO, good commentary is particularly important. The primary weaknesses of the cash games were the embarrassing sound effects and that they didn't show all the hole cards.

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