Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2008 WSOP Moves to TV Land

Watching the 2008 WSOPHave been watching ESPN’s 2008 World Series of Poker coverage the past couple of weeks. Last week they gave two hours’ worth to Event No. 1, the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event won by Nenad Medic. Last night was Event No. 2, the first (and biggest) of the “donkaments,” i.e., those $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em events.

By the way, how about that last hand of Event No. 2 in which Grant Hinkle made a horrendous blunder and got rewarded? With just a small chip advantage over James Akenhead, Hinkle raised preflop from the small blind/button with Td4d, Akenhead reraised, then Hinkle crazily pushed all in. (Actually, the heads-up battle did last two hours -- ESPN only showed two hands -- and thus there was some context for Hinkle’s play. Still, even with the context, a pretty wild shove.) Akenhead snap-called with AcKh. But the flop came 10-4-10, and the turn brought the case ten, giving Hinkle quads and the bracelet. (Read F-Train’s account of that last hand here.)

Have to say, all things considered, that finale has to be “good for poker,” as they say. Don’t you think? (How many fish will Hinkle’s move inspire?)

I don’t believe I’d even started my first shift live blogging for PokerNews until after Event No. 1 had completed. During Event No. 2’s final table I was there, positioned right outside of the little mini-stadium covering the second day of Event No. 4, the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em event. I mentioned in one of my early 2008 WSOP posts how we were somewhat affected by the spectacle of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson as we sat nearby posting about that other event. Big crowd of people that night wanting to get into that relatively small arena (only seats 90-100, I’d estimate).

Next week ESPN will be showing the Event No. 4 final table. Will definitely be watching that one closely, as I was there covering it live. I remember talking to Dr. Pauly on one of my last days in Vegas and him explaining how he tends not to watch the foreground of these ESPN telecasts but instead focuses on the periphery. Hard not to avoid doing that, I’m discovering, as I’ve already had fun spotting a number of colleagues and other familiar faces in the background these last two weeks.

The packaging of these ESPN shows is done quite well, in my opinion. I know some on the forums don’t care for certain aspects of the productions, e.g., the player profiles, the “Nuts” segments, the necessarily selective presentation of hands, etc. But they do manage to make it all fairly compelling, even for someone like me who is already very familiar with what happened.

I watched last night’s show with Vera, and she also got hooked by the various storylines ESPN created.

Early on, one player, Jeff Wiedenhoeft, apparently misread his hand and as a consequence found himself bounced in tenth place. (That was the first hand shown, and in fact was the very first hand of that final table.) ESPN continued to focus on his mistake, but did an okay job folding it into a larger narrative, I thought. They underscored his triumph (he had outlasted over 3,900 others, after all), and also did a “Nuts” segment about other poker players’ “most embarrassing moments” which made Wiedenhoeft’s miscue seem less egregious.

The Mike Ngo-Theo Tran drama that developed was curious to follow, as well. Ngo bluffed Tran out of a fairly big pot in which Tran mucked the best hand on the river (pocket aces). (This was Hand #43 of the final table.) After the hand Ngo gloated a bit, and while Tran appeared initially to take it well, he was obviously steaming afterwards. Later on, Tran outwardly roots for Ngo’s elimination. Neither player came off too terribly well there.

Tran would get pocket aces cracked again just six hands later by Aaron Coulthard. My colleague Loganmark reported both hands here. (I think ESPN might’ve shown just one of the intervening hands.) It was easy to sympathize with Tran’s predicament. Losing once with A-A is bad enough. Losing twice in such short succession -- at a WSOP final table, no less -- is simply brutal, especially when you actually had the winner on one occasion.

And the Hinkle family stuff was all entertaining, too, I thought. ESPN made a lot of the rivalry between the two Hinkle brothers, Grant and Blair, and their proud mother, Lynn. I think Vera especially liked that part of the show. After Grant won, I told Vera that Blair would go on to win a bracelet himself (in Event No. 23, the $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event), and she got a kick out of hearing that. ESPN won’t be covering Event No. 23 in full, so I thought it was okay to give that part of the story away.

Back in May I complained about ESPN’s decision to forgo showing most of the preliminary events and instead devote most of its coverage -- 20 of its scheduled 32 hours -- to the Main Event. I still would rather see some of the other events, but frankly, I wouldn’t want to sit through too many of these No-Limit Hold’em final tables.

Like I say, ESPN does well to create interest, but one can only endure so many sequences of “all in” and “call.” So if they aren’t going to show other games (just four of the 32 hours will feature non-Hold’em games), they might as well get to the ME as fast as they can.

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Blogger 2weiX said...

Last week, German DSF showed WSOP coverage as well. From 2005. PH dodging bullets, etc. Yawn.

I would LOVE to "endure" some 2008 coverage on TV.

7/30/2008 11:00 AM  
Blogger Waldo's Wild Kingdom said...

This all goes to my overarching plot of SHOW OMAHA ON TV AND GET THE FISH INTERESTED!

7/30/2008 7:13 PM  
Anonymous gtycoon said...

I think ESPN does a pretty good job. I of course would like to see more coverage than they do show, but I know they are making the show for everyone and not just the poker nuts like me.

7/30/2008 9:25 PM  
Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

Hinkle's last hand is called the "Penthouse." In any seven-card game where you are able to improve a full house (in this case, to four of a kind and a pair), we call it the "Penthouse." (It also applies to two sets of trips, and the ultimate Penthouse is quads full of trips.)

In my old weekly poker game (mostly seven-card stud), we used to have a side jackpot for whatever was voted the best seven-card hand of the night, such as a seven-card straight, a seven-card flush, or a Penthouse. (It was rare to get a seven-card hand that good though.)

7/31/2008 2:19 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thx, guys.

2weix, I think some of the 2008 coverage might be turning up online somewhere. Pokertube has the 2007 WSOP stuff up; perhaps they'll have the new eps soon?

I like yr plan there, Waldo's.

gtycoon, agreed.

Hadn't heard of the "Penthouse," B.J. I did know 10-4 was the Broderick Crawford.

By the way, I noticed yesterday over on the 2+2 sweat thread for the Event No. 2 ESPN telecast that Grant Hinkle participated in the conversation to talk about some of his plays. Pretty interesting -- you can get to that thread here. (Hinkle's 2+2 name is "drossxyu".)

7/31/2008 7:24 AM  
Blogger $mokkee said...

we used to refer to it as a "double-wide" instead of a "penthouse".

7/31/2008 5:45 PM  

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