Thursday, June 14, 2007

2007 WSOP, Day 14: The Partial Information Game

The Partial Information GameA slower night, relatively speaking, at the WSOP yesterday. Only one new event began (Event No. 22, $5,000 No Limit Hold ’em), and the other three all completed their final tables before midnight Vegas time. Today two more events get cranked up -- the $1,500 pot limit Omaha (Event No. 23) and the $3,000 Stud Hi-Lo (Event No. 24).

Wanted to say a word here about a couple of issues that have arisen at the WSOP, both concerning media coverage of the event. The first has to do with the exclusive rights issue I’ve discussed a little bit previously. The other concerns the so-called “Bluff Tent” or sequestered area where selected final tables are being staged.

Live Blogging and Exclusive Rights

Read an interesting article in yesterday’s USA Today about a reporter getting ejected from an NCAA baseball tourney game for live blogging from the press box at the event. According to an NCAA spokesman, “live coverage online is a long-standing ‘protected right’ that is bought and sold.” Bloggers can report on things like “atmosphere” or other items that do not directly refer to “game action,” but when it comes to telling what is happening on the field, that’s strictly forbidden. The article goes on to explain how similar restrictions are in place at other major sporting events, including the NBA playoffs and the U.S. Open.

The article made me think, of course, about the arrangments that have been made between Harrah’s, Bluff Magazine, and PokerNews for reporting on the WSOP. In a post last week, I shared some thoughts about the arrangement, one which I personally see as necessitated logistically by the way poker tournaments are currently run. In that post I quoted Adam Schwartz (of Rounders) complaining that by naming an “exclusive content provider” for digital publishing, “the World Series isn’t taking themselves seriously like an NHL, a NASCAR, or an NFL.”

As I said there, I do understand Schwartz’s point about how a private organization like Bluff Magazine whose sponsors have certain interests in the poker world might well show certain biases in their coverage of the WSOP. My sense is that Bluff has not taken advantage of that potentiality to the degree that CardPlayer did last year, though I’m willing to hear objections to that thesis.

What I’m reading in the story about the blogging reporter at the NCAA game, however, seems to run counter to what Schwartz is saying here when he tries to compare the WSOP to other major sports leagues. In opposition to Schwartz’s claim, one might argue that by granting exclusive rights with regard to the coverage of the WSOP, Harrah’s is, in fact, operating very much like other professional sports leagues when it comes to managing the online coverage of their product.

Whether or not doing so means “taking themselves seriously” is a matter of conjecture, I suppose. But I do think there’s an attempt being made here by Jeffrey Pollack and Harrah’s to package and market the WSOP according to the professional sports league model.

Poker in a Vacuum

Speaking of reporting . . . today Dr. Pauly reports how some pros have been critical of the so-called “Bluff Tent” -- that sectioned-off area where some final tables are being staged and broadcast sort-of live as part of the pay-package the World Series of Poker has going over on its site.

Mike “the Mouth” Matusow certainly doesn’t care for the tent. In Event No. 19, Mike Matusow busted out in 11th place, and so didn’t make it to that final table which had been scheduled to take place in the sequestered area. (WSOP officials made a switch last night and decided to stage the final table of Event No. 21 -- the one featuring Daniel Negreanu and Erick Lindgren -- in the tent instead.) According to a PokerNews report, Matusow was overheard saying “I might not get to tomorrow. And if I do get there, I'm not going in the box.”

Matusow’s quote was discussed over on PokerWire Radio yesterday. Host Joe Stapleton expressed surprise that more players weren’t “taking that stance” against playing in the sequestered area, but Gavin Smith pointed out that all of the players have signed an agreement to play in the tent if asked to do so (or forfeit their final table seat). “Yes, he would go in the box, if they decided he was going into the box,” was Joe Sebok’s answer to Matusow’s boast.

As Dr. Pauly goes on to point out, the reporters don’t care much for the tent either. (He calls it the “Black Hole.”) Those reporting from sequestered final tables cannot release any information until an hour after it occurs so their live reports won’t precede the delayed webcast. So there’s a kind of weirdly detached artificiality surrounding those final tables -- no audience, delayed broadcasts/reports, and busted players being forced to stick around until the table completes. Officials may tinker with the formula here over the next few weeks, but it looks like for this year, anyway, they’re stuck with the “Black Hole.”

Objections to the tent probably (mostly) stem from that same dislike of “exclusivity” that fuels opposition to Bluff’s status as an “exclusive content provider.” We all hate that sort of stuff, instinctively protesting any sort of restrictions on free speech and/or restraints on our access to information that do not seem immediately necessary to us.

Such is the world, alas. We don’t always get see, hear, or say everything we want.

Even so, there’s a lot to be had by heading over to PokerNews for them there live reports.



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