ESPN’s Coverage of WSOP
I may be the only person to ever read this post but I must get it off my chest. First the premise of this article in two statements:
- ESPN’s coverage of the 2008 World Series of Poker Final Table has done nothing to advance the future of online poker.
- ESPN’s coverage of the 2008 World Series of Poker Final Table has only slightly advanced the future of brick and mortar poker.
All through September and October I watched the coverage of the main event on ESPN. The early coverage of the main event was rife with personal interviews and commentary mixed with a little bit of poker. My concern is not with this coverage, I feel the interviews build the hype for the final table by painting pictures of the final table gladiators. I also feel it gives time for the legends of the game to get face time and validity with the viewing audience, this can only help pokers chances of becoming a legitimate sport.
My primary concerns is with ESPN’s coverage of the final table. First the facts, day 1 of the final table started at 11am on Sunday and ended a little after mid-night Monday morning. Day 2 started at
10:30 PM on Monday and ended with Peter Eastgate winning at 2:30 am on Tuesday. The final table in its entirety lasted 274 hands, 169 of which were used to eliminate the field of 9 down to 2, and the final 105 hands were used to go from 2 to the final 1.
Issues with ESPN’s coverage of Day 1 of the WSOP Final Table:
- The winner of the first hand if you watched the coverage on ESPN was Ylon Schwartz after Dennis Phillips made an ill timed bluff. That was actually not the first hand, it was the 16th hand. In reality, the winner of the first hand was actually Kelly Kim the shortest stack entering the final table. For the record, Kelly Kim was on the button in Seat 8, raised to 560,000 and took down the blinds and antes. How does ESPN not show the very first hand of the final table after a 4 month wait? Nice work Kelly on finishing 8th, no one expected it.
- Then to further disgrace Kelly Kim they don’t show his elimination hand. They come back from a commercial and show him leaving the stage.
- Personal profiles were rampant, ESPN had a 1 hour lead up to the actual play full of player profiles, but that was not enough for them. As soon as the first (or 16th) hand was dealt out came the player profiles again. Anyone could have been the producer/editor for this coverage, one hand of all-in coverage, player profile and then commercial, rinse wash and repeat. Enough already, lets see some hands!
- This type of coverage severely limits the ability for the Poker Players Alliance to argue this is a game of skill. Each hand that is televised is an all in or a successful bluff, they never show the intricacies of the game or analyze the skill involved to play the game. I understand ratings and you have to keep the viewing audience involved, but showing a few folds before the flop or a showing few times when a skilled player made a move with a mediocre hand to beat an amateur with a better hand would go a long way towards the “skill” argument.
Issues with ESPN’s coverage of Day 2 of the WSOP Final Table:
- First tell us this is day 2 of the final table, the players have gone home, not slept a wink and are back here again to battle it out.
- How ESPN was able to look themselves in the mirror after taking 105 hands and only showing 2 hands of the heads up play I will never understand. Watching the event, I got the feeling it was over in a hurry, not a 3 hour back and forth 105 hand wrestling match against two soon to be Poker Pros.
- Show the winner putting on the bracelet and wrapping his arms around the cash. This is the shot everyone should see for the betterment of the game. Again as an ESPN producer, as soon as the tourney is over, cue the music, cue the voice over and off to sports center. Be sure not to lose any viewers…
Until ESPN understands we are in this together, we are slowly going to loose the race to get poker legalized in all states and online. Poker is one of the few games of skill that anyone can play with very little training (note: I did not say win). The family can come together explain the rules and everyone can be playing within 30 minutes. We need more games like this that bring average people together. The NFL is great to watch but impossible for anyone less than super human to play. Poker is the opposite, average Joe’s on any given day can play with the best in the world, but if they play for anything more than one session the pro will come out on top. The more people that play poker, the more entries into the WSOP, the more people in the WSOP the more coverage ESPN can have, the more people interested in poker the higher the ratings.
ESPN thanks but no thanks on this years coverage of the WSOP.