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Daniel - Poker Journal

The WSOP Blockbuster News Story

01 May 2008

So if you haven't heard, the WSOP final table will occur three months after the players make the final table. The final table will take place on November 10th, it will be edited down to a two hour show, and then it will air on the 11th. The show won't look all that much different than WSOP shows in the past.

There will be no pay-per-view live feed of the final table this year. Each player who makes the final table will receive 9th place money, with the rest of the money being invested. The players would receive interest on that deposited money, not Harrah's.

The reason for the three month delay is so that the WSOP broadcast schedule can air both the preliminary events as well as the lead into the final table. That many episodes takes about three months to air. There isn't time to air all of the main event episodes leading up to the final table so that an "almost live" final table could air immediately after that. The only way to do that is to delay the final table until after the ESPN shows air.

This decision obviously will change the dynamic of the final table, but it also offers some great opportunities for poker to get some more mainstream media
attention. The nine players at the final table will become quasi celebrities, much like reality TV stars. None of the players would be obligated to do any interviews or media in general, but if they chose to, the opportunities would be there.

The way the WSOP main event airs now, the public is usually already aware of who won. The final episode plays out more like a documentary, a la, this is "how they won." That will now change. Everyone will know who is at the final table, but for three months, the question will change to "who will win" which I think is more exciting.

You can't air this thing live on ESPN. They will NOT change the structure at all or hurt the integrity of the event, and if you signed a deal to air it live, you'd have to escalate the blinds quickly if it ran long. The closest we can get to live, is "almost live" so that the crew has time to edit the show and turn it around in less than 24 hours.

The final table will end very late on the 10th, so late that the outcome will miss the morning papers and media Tuesday morning. Wednesday morning, after the show airs on ESPN, it would hit the papers. Obviously if you go online you'll be able to find out who wins, but if you prefer to watch it "live" you can choose to wait less than 24 hours and watch it Tuesday night.

What this is supposed to do (we'll see if it works) is help to create more talk around the water cooler. It's supposed to build up more interest in the final nine players and that final episode where they play for it all.

Pros:
-more media attention
-more hype and build up for pokers premiere event
-better ratings for the final episode
-makes the WSOP final table more of a sporting event rather than a documentary
-follows even more of a reality TV model that has proven to be successful in attracting fans
-endorsement opportunities for the players

Cons:
-All players will have coaches. This can be seen as a pro depending how you look at it, as the play at the final table will be much better.
-could very well change the outcome of the eventual winner.
-When play starts back up, you'll have no reliable feel or reads on players who could play completely differently three months later.
-You could have a no show for various reasons.
-More time for players to discuss side deals (the penalty for doing this could be severe, but that doesn't necessarily stop all players from considering it)


I'm sure there are more pros and cons, but that is a decent list. All in all, I think this concept has the potential to be a really good thing for poker. If not, well, then we go back to the traditional format next year.

Things change. Formats change, tournaments change, sports change. Purists hated the idea of showing your hole cards to a camera, but look at what that's done for poker. Baseball purists hate inter league play, some hockey fans don't like the new NHL with less physical play.

Even the game of hold'em changed. It used to be played with just one blind, but that changed and a two blind system was created so there would be more action.

I think the poker world should support the efforts here to try and improve the WSOP main event and understand that if it flops, it's not the end of the world. We can always change it back next year. I say, give it a chance. It's a gamble, but hey, aren't we all poker players?


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