In other news, the hole-card cam is going to ruin the game of poker... oh, sorry: I had a flashback to 2002.
None of these things could happen with the current delay, of course (the Main Event normally has a day off before the final table). The extra 115 days are different... right? No, they're not, actually: final tables with delays of a month or more have happened before, and I've never heard of the problems above happening. I'm sure people will argue that the larger amount of money is what makes this case special, but people will always find a reason to believe what they want to believe. In November we'll know for sure whether there are problems or not, and whether it's a boost to poker or not. I know which side I'm laying my bets on.
That's not to say that I'm thrilled with everything about the delayed final table. The four-month delay is extreme. I've never even liked the two week delay for the Super Bowl, but you could argue that the Main Event would benefit from more than a week's delay because most of the players will be unknowns when the publicity machine starts to work. I'd prefer to see the final table played and aired after a week or two delay, but still during the WSOP festival. The Main Event was scheduled to take up 13 of the 47 days of the festival. Surely they could add a week or two to those 13 days, run everything during the WSOP, and find a time that ESPN could air it.
I like their idea of emulating the "Olympic model," where events are edited the same day to be shown at prime time in the US. The problem with the WSOP implementation, though, is that they're shooting the final table in two pieces (schedule), from Sunday, November 9 through Tuesday, November 11, for airing on Tuesday night. One of the potential benefits of the idea is that we wouldn't know the winner when we watched. I may well be able to avoid hearing about the heads-up match on Tuesday, but, as a poker fan, it's going to be awfully hard for me to avoid hearing the fate of the first seven players to bust out of the final table. I'd like to see the entire final table filmed within 36 hours of broadcast (or less: the last final table took about 16 hours, though it was a particularly long one).
Airing the heads-up portion of the match live was apparently considered, but it couldn't fit into the two hour time slot they've devoted to the final table. It's a real disappointment that only two hours are being devoted to the final table of the most important event in poker. Every World Poker Tour TV table gets two to four hours, and they show less than 20% of the hands... and they only show the final six players, while the Main Event final table has nine players. The Main Event final table deserves at least three, perhaps four hours.
It's upsetting that ESPN is devoting only two of the 20 hours of Main Event broadcast time (see the broadcast schedule) to the final table. I'd love to see them televise only the final two tables, but do a good job on them. That would give them less room to butcher the broadcast in all the ways they do, like flitting from table to table to show bustouts and the ends of big hands.
Another disappointment is that there will be no live video stream of the final table this year. I've watched part or all of two Main Event final tables on the web. It's an amazing experience: you get to watch history being made, and it's the only way to get a true sense of what happened at the final table. Having seen it both ways, I guarantee you that seeing a few percent of the hands on ESPN does not give you a sense of how it actually went down. You'll still be able to follow text updates of the final table on the web this year if you want, but I've never followed a tournament closely that way and I doubt I'll start now.
We probably won't be able to watch live broadcasts of the other WSOP events either. WSOP Live won't be covering them. There's talk of ESPN 360 streaming them on the web, but the only way to get that is through an ISP, and most ISPs don't choose to pay ESPN to give access to their customers.
I'm happy to see that every televised final table will have two hours devoted to it this year (see the schedule): some only got one hour last year. Some will be disappointed that the $50,000 HORSE event only gets two hours of coverage this year, down from six, but I realize that most people don't play or understand all of the games. If a game other than NL Hold'em has the potential to go mainstream, I'd say it's pot-limit Omaha, and we do have one of those events on the TV schedule this year.
Delaying the final table for TV has generated a lot of controversy. If you want to read some of the opinions, I recommend:
- the opinions of some well-known pros at The Hendon Mob; and
- Roy Winston's brief summary of the arguments people have made to him, and his point of view, at CardPlayer.
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