Wednesday, May 07, 2008

ESPN’s 2008 WSOP Schedule -- The Main Event (Mainly)

ESPN's 2008 WSOP Schedule -- The Main Event (Mainly)B.J. Nemeth has posted a smart “Comprehensive Look at the WSOP Final Table Delay” in two parts over on PokerNews (Part 1 & Part 2). The experienced tourney reporter does a nice job explaining some of the rationale behind the decision, as well as expounding upon some of the details of what is being planned for the “November Nine” (a phrase coined by a Harrah’s source to describe the final tablists).

You’ve read several editorials on the matter by now, and while Nemeth does opine a bit in the articles he is really more interested in providing clarity. After discussing the ME schedule in full and speculating about what life will likely be like for the “November Nine” between July 14th and November 9th, Nemeth outlines how officials plan to address potential problems (e.g., collusion, a player not being able to appear, etc.) and explains the logistics behind the “plausibly live” presentation of the final table planned for November 11th.

Nemeth smartly concludes with a discussion of how “the Main Event is not what it once was,” having forever changed following Moneymaker’s 2003 triumph. His point here isn’t that far from the one I was making on Monday about the ME having evolved into something very different from what it had been when Benny Binion first invited his high-stakes playing buddies to the Horseshoe back in the early 1970s.

Yes, the hole card cameras and ESPN’s newly-extended coverage helped turn the ME into a different kind of spectacle. But it was the increase in entrants (a by-product of the increased coverage, of course) that more than anything turned the ME into something far different from the sort of competition it had been from 1970-2003. As Nemeth points out, since 2004 “the fish have outnumbered the sharks by about 10-to-1,” thereby making it especially “unlikely that the winner of the Main Event will ever again be respected as the best player in the world.”

ESPN’s 2008 WSOP Schedule

Shortly after festivities wrap up on July 14th, we’ll all go back home and for the rest of the summer and early fall spend our Tuesday nights watching ESPN air the following:
  • July 22, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 1: $10,000 pot-limit hold ’em
  • July 29, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 2: $1,500 no-limit hold ’em
  • Aug. 5, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 3: $1,500 pot-limit hold ’em or Event 4: $5,000 mixed hold ’em
  • Aug. 12, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 5: $1,000 no-limit hold ’em with rebuys
  • Aug. 19, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 45: $50,000 H.O.R.S.E.
  • Aug. 26, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 50: $10,000 pot-limit Omaha
  • Sept. 2 to Oct. 28, 8:00-10:00 p.m. -- Event 54: $10,000 no-limit hold ’em main event
  • Nov. 4, 10:00-11:00 p.m. -- Event 54: WSOP main event final table preview show
  • Nov. 11, 9:00-11:00 p.m. -- Event 54: WSOP main event final table
  • Heavy on the hold ’em (we non-HE folks all immediately notice). Has to be that way, I suppose. Am glad the PLO “World Championship” got left in there, of course. What stands out the most, though, is that the Main Event has become the primary focus of ESPN’s coverage, taking up 21 of the 33 hours of total coverage.

    Think about it. Twenty-one hours on the Main Event alone. How does that compare to what we’ve seen previously?

    WSOP Coverage, 1970-2007

    For the first 33 years of the WSOP, televised coverage of the ME event consisted of either one hour or nothing at all.

    Then in 2003, ESPN gave us seven one-hour shows, all devoted to the Main Event.

    In 2004, ESPN produced 13 one-hour shows documenting various preliminary events (including Stud, PLO, 2-7 Draw, and even Razz), then nine one-hour shows on the ME. A total of 22 hours of coverage.

    In 2005, ESPN started out showing six hours’ worth of WSOP Circuit events, then showed one-hour shows from 14 different preliminary events, most of which were hold ’em events (two PLOs and one Stud). Then there were 12 one-hour shows covering the Main Event. A total of 32 hours of coverage.

    In 2006, ESPN again started out showing various WSOP Circuit events, providing 10 one-hour shows. They then aired their Main Event coverage first, with 12 one-hour shows. That was followed by 10 one-hour shows documenting 10 different preliminary events, all hold ’em except for one PLO show and one on the new $50K H.O.R.S.E. event. A total of 32 hours of coverage. (This was also the first year of the pay per view broadcast of the final table.)

    In 2007, ESPN decided not to cover any WSOP Circuit events. They began their presentation of preliminary events even before the Main Event had concluded in July. They aired 10 one-hour shows covering eight different preliminary events, then devoted 16 one-hour shows to the ME, then followed that with six more one-hour shows on the H.O.R.S.E. event. Again, a total of 32 hours of coverage. (There was a PPV broadcast of the ME FT last year as well.)

    Just looking at the last three years (and ahead to 2008), ESPN has aired/will air 32 or 33 hours’ worth of WSOP-related shows each year, with coverage of the Main Event increasing from 9 to 12 to 16 to 21 hours of that total.

    While some have speculated the move to delay the final table might actually prevent a certain number of players from entering the event, I have to think the increased TV coverage is going to attract a lot of players -- especially the pros -- to stick around for the Main Event. Whether one makes it to the “November Nine” or not, seems like this year that playing in the ME is going to be the best opportunity for players to get any face time.

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    4 Comments:

    Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

    Shamus -- I didn't read your Monday entry (about the historical changes to the Main Event) until after I finished my PokerNews article, but I think we're both thinking along the same lines. The WSOP Main Event is not what it once was, forced to change by the post-Moneymaker influx of players and the new dynamics of television coverage.

    Excellent write-up on Monday, with a deep and accurate historical perspective.

    5/07/2008 3:19 PM  
    Anonymous gtycoon said...

    I think the players that will get most of the "Face Time" will be the well known poker pros and players that go up against them in key hands.

    I can guarantee we'll see a Hellmuth blowup at some point. Maybe a Matusow blowup too.

    The only thing I like about the final table delay is I won't know who wins until a few days before it airs. What sucks is I'll still know who won before it airs.

    5/20/2008 1:43 AM  
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