The Big Debate: Did the World Series of Poker Main Event final table delay work?
Robert Williamson III, US poker legend
On balance, I believe that the controversial decision to delay the World Series of Poker Main Event final table was a big success. Broadcaster ESPN and WSOP owner Harrah’s took a huge risk by making that decision, but it paid handsome dividends for them – the ratings for the broadcasts reached levels not seen since 2004, which is way back when the poker boom started.
I do believe that there are a few areas that could be improved upon for this year though. For starters, I would like to see the November Nine get even more media attention – it will be great for the individual players that make up the November Nine, and I believe it would be a big step in promoting the game that we all love so much.
Another area that I believe will be improved on for 2009 is the broadcast itself. The final table coverage down to two players seemed to be very thorough, but the epic battle that took place heads-up was unfortunately overlooked.
In summary, after looking at all the positives and negatives of delaying the final table, I can honestly say that I am very excited about the future of the WSOP Main Event coverage and can only hope I’m lucky enough to be a member of the November Nine for 2009 – or any future year for that matter!
Padraig Parkinson, Irish poker legend
You don’t queue for Wimbledon tickets expecting to have to return in December to see the final. It’s the World Championship – you’re supposed to see a world champion crowned, and it takes a huge amount away from the event. Who wants it that way? If you follow the money, then ESPN, Harrah’s and a non-elected players committee all think it’s great. ESPN has done nothing for poker except create the culture of the complete arsehole, Harrah’s rakes the shit out of it, and some of the players on the committee may be operating in the best interests of the game, but a lot of them are there to maintain their status and try to stop people breaking into their little clique.
One of the great performances at the World Series was in 2006, when Boston Billy, who was dying, made back-to-back final tables. If he had to wait until November to play the finals, he’d have been dead. It’s not like it was years ago when poker was this wonderful game full of characters, desperados and free spirits, and it’d be almost guaranteed that three or four of the guys at the final table would be characters.
If you gave them a few months, they could give a very positive image for the game. Now, though, it’s full of internet nerds and guys who’ve learnt how to play the way ESPN shows it. You can’t teach people personality; you can hide it in two days but you can’t teach it in four months.
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