Monday, April 07, 2008

WSOP to Create “Sequel” for Main Event Final Table?

Nobody likes sequels. Not really. Unless we’re talking The Godfather or Dawn of the Dead, sequels just about always disappoint.

Besides failing to live up to whatever made us like the originals, sequels also tend to change the nature of the relationship between creator and audience. I say that because usually sequels make much more explicit the commercial side of the exchange. That’s not to say, for instance, in the case of movies, making money wasn’t part of what was going on before. However, when we buy the ticket to a sequel, we enter the theater with a more conscious acknowledgement of our “consumer” status.

You’ve no doubt heard by now about the apparent plan to delay the final table of this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event until October in order to air it live (or sort of live) on ESPN. If we fans of poker weren’t sure we were mostly regarded as consumers before, we are being reminded of that pretty loudly today.

Tried not to rush to judgment on this one. But I keep thinking what is happening here is a commercially-motivated manufacturing of a weird sort of “sequel” to this year’s WSOP. And while I appreciate the earnestness of those arguing in favor of the idea, I just can’t bring myself to buy it.

I’d seen that brief bit on Michael Craig’s blog last October about such an idea, but frankly dismissed it at the time as one of those sorta-interesting-but-hopelessly-flawed schemes that might sound nice in theory but would never work in practice. Craig had been at the WSOPE talking to officials like Ty Stewart, and on October 16th Craig went ahead and shared Stewart’s having told him about the idea “to play down to the final table and then adjourn the Series” for a couple of months in order to make arrangements to air the FT live.

Craig came back the next day to relate (somewhat sheepishly) that Stewart hadn’t been too crazy about his having publicized the plan. Craig neverthless added a few more details in his second post, including some info from an email Stewart sent to him expressing a belief that he did “not believe that ESPN will dedicate more than a three hour window to the stunt” or “that a mainstream audience will have interest watching for a period longer than that anyway.”

Stewart needn’t have worried too much about Craig letting the cat out of the bag, as the whole issue essentially disappeared from public consciousness until late last week when the story again popped up in a few different places. Then Dan “Scoop” Michalski (of Pokerati) gave us all some further specifics about what might happen. In a post Saturday morning, Dan made it sound as though it were pretty much a done deal, saying that “on the big pro-con list, the left side of the board has it all but locked up.”

Says Dan, the idea will be to play down to the final nine as planned (the current schedule has that happening by July 14th), then shut ’er down for 90 days while ESPN gears up for a two-day, “plausibly live” presentation of the finale. They’ll play from nine down to two the first day, then handle heads-up the next. Officials won’t let ESPN monkey around with blind/ante structures (they say), although according to Dan, “Timing will be carefully coordinated so most people will be watching to see who will win, not how one wins (the Olympics broadcast model).”

A smart, lengthy discussion going on in the comments to that Pokerati post. They’re also buzzing about it on Two Plus Two, Pocket Fives, Card Clubs, and elsewhere. Noticed one poster on Card Clubs liken the idea to NASCAR’s season-ending, ten-race “chase” instituted a few years back. “Big sell out but huge for ratings,” he said.

You can check out them links for various arguments for and against this sucker (ain’t gonna rehearse ’em all here just now). I continue to hold out hope that despite Dan’s report, this idea ain’t gonna actually happen. As for my objections to the idea, they mostly resemble those same complaints whenever producers decide to pump out a sequel to the movie you thought was pretty damn good as it was . . .

It mucks with yr memory and/or enjoyment of the original.

It’s anticlimactic.

And it’s all about the money.

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Blogger WillWonka said...

Wow, I can't say how much I hate that idea. I don't know, it's like playing a football game until the 2:00 minute warning and then coming back next week for the ending.

Part of the deal is that they have been playing for 12+ hours a day culminating in the final table.

You just can't recreate that and anytime that amount of money is being considered, strange things can happen.

And oh... love the Rocky sequels; but I'm strange like that.

4/07/2008 10:21 AM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

It's a lucrative idea to generate money for the parties involved (ESPN, Harrah's, etc). I think it takes away from the magic of the WSOP main event. As reporter who has been at the WSOP for the last three... it's gonna suck to have to bust your ass for seven weeks and get an anti-climatic ending several months later.

4/07/2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Waldo's Wild Kingdom said...

But, the final tablists (sp?) will be promoted madly, get huge endorsement deals, become pseudo-sports celebs (all things that are good for the game, like it or not)and "real sponsors" can view this as something the really book. Seriously, The Beast is not the best we can do for a sponsor.

Yeah, its all about the money, but apparently poker needs the money. At least something to infuse cash back to the players. Will that happen? Meh, history tells you we get screwed.

PS -- Lethal Weapon got better as it went along. Rocky was only great up till 3.

4/07/2008 1:41 PM  
Blogger Littleacornman said...

My first instinct was that it's a terrible idea for the same reasons as Pauly.

Then the poker player in me wondered if it would attract a large audience and new fish to the tables...

4/07/2008 6:17 PM  

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