WSOP 2011 – is live broadcasting poker's next big thing? [Editorial]

WSOP 2011 – is live broadcasting poker's next big thing? [Editorial]

Friday, 15 July 2011

Last night saw the remaining 1,864 survivors that had battled through an opening flight and a second day return to The Rio for Day 3 – actually the seventh day of the Main Event after the six it took to narrow down a field of 6,865. Now just 852 remain in contention and with the money bubble bursting at 693 players we can expect to see that happen within the next twenty-four hours.

We’ve still got some big names making runs for the money – Sami “LarsLuzak” Kelopuro, EPT back-to-back final tablist and general luckboxen Max Heinzelmann, Adam Junglen, Daniel Negreanu and Kristy Gazes all made it through Day 3. And they were all at one table, that naturally became the feature table. Honestly, if I didn’t know any better I’d say they rig the table draws for TV.

And what a masterful segue, because speaking of TV, last night’s WSOP action was the first of its kind. It was broadcast live, albeit with a half-hour delay which is as close to live as poker can ever get, on ESPN2 and ESPN3. This is something that a lot of people in the media and poker in general were getting pretty excited over. Some are putting it up there with the hole-card cam in terms of its ability to revolutionise the game.

I think poker has been moving in this direction for a while, as PokerStars proved with a very successful live stream of the European Poker Tour events in their past season; in addition to the regular television programming that comes with it. Hell, when the November Nine concept was introduced it was to sync in the final table with the ESPN broadcasts of the rest of the event and give a more “live” feel. I think in a few years’ time we’ll be saying: “wow, can you believe back in 2011 we used to watch poker tournaments that were six months old?”

I would reply: “no, I didn’t watch tournament poker back then”. I don’t, it’s true. I have very little interest in seeing hours of pre-flop coinflips and flop check-raises with 25BB average stacks for the same reason I have very little interest in watching Deal or No Deal. Of course, this could all be changing now and I may well do a total 180 on watching televised tournament poker.

I can’t access ESPN3 without busting my bank account so I didn’t watch the streaming but unedited coverage of every decision, street by street, rather than cameras rushing over to catch the player with A-K calling against the player with 8-8 and wow they’re flipping coins how exciting oh king on the river wow amazing. The idea of unedited coverage, showing post-flop play and the general flow of the game, is going to be enjoyable for the everyman and also for poker geeks like me.

I will be watching the scheduled ESPN coverage of the WSOP Main Event this year, however. Mori Eskandani and his wonderful team of people from Poker PROductions have taken over control of ESPN’s broadcast and that’s gotta be good. If you don’t know the name Mori Eskandani, you’ve certainly seen his work – he is the man behind High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark and numerous other successful poker TV shows.

This year they’re going for more post-flop play and less big coinflips; more focus on how the November Nine made their journey to the final table and less focus on the sob stories that Americans insist on cramming into anything they put on the tellybox. In addition, Phil Hellmuth will be helping out with announcing duties (and after this WSOP we all like Phil again) though that’s on the basis that he doesn’t make a deep run in the Main Event. He probably will, though. That’s what he does.

In short, I think this is a bloody good idea. I can’t wait to see what they do with the non-live coverage in the lead-up to the November Nine and the live stream seems to have been really well-received on Twitter. That said, most of the people I follow on Twitter are playing in the event and probably appreciated a chance to see their opponents’ cards.

Tags: WSOP 2011, Matt Perry, Editorial, TV poker, Phil Hellmuth,