Thursday, July 17, 2008

The November Nine and the WSOPE

The November Nine and the WSOPEBack in May, about a week before the WSOP began, there was an announcement regarding the WSOPE schedule. The exact number of events had yet to be determined, but the dates were then set -- September 19th through October 1st.

A couple of weeks ago, just as the WSOP Main Event had gotten underway, Harrah’s Entertainment announced a more specific schedule. There will be four bracelet events this time around:
  • Event 1: €1,500 No-Limit Hold’em, Sept. 19-22 (4-day event, 2 opening days)
  • Event 2: €2,500 H.O.R.S.E., Sept. 22-24 (3-day event)
  • Event 3: €5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha, Sept. 24-26 (3-day event)
  • Event 4: €10,000 World Championship No-Limit, Sept. 27-Oct. 1 (6-day event, 2 opening days)
  • Also as part of the 2008 WSOPE schedule will be five other, non-bracelet events taking place at a few different poker clubs in London.

    When I heard the announcement in May that the WSOPE events would take place in September-October, my first thought was that those events would be taking place before the WSOP Main Event champ was crowned in November. I wrote a short post about it at the time, pointing out that Harrah’s and ESPN would likely want to ensure that all of the “November Nine” showed up in London for the WSOPE events during the interim.

    Seemed like a no-brainer to me, as having those guys play in the WSOPE would both heighten interest in the WSOPE as well as give the players some extra exposure prior to their return in November. In fact, I had assumed that the WSOPE schedule had been a factor that had influenced those who had decided upon the plan to delay the WSOP ME final table.

    Even before I made it out to Vegas this summer to help cover the WSOP for PokerNews, I discovered that in fact the WSOPE had not figured into thinking regarding the final table delay at all. Someone in the know responded to me regarding my post, telling me that in fact the idea to send the November Nine to London had not occurred to tournament organizers. (In fact, he told me that after reading the post he had passed it along to them.)

    Now we’re on the other side, and early indications seem to suggest that while a few of those making the final table may make their way over to London in September, it is highly unlikely all of them will.

    Yesterday I listened to a couple of podcasts, the latest Two Plus Two Pokercast (7/14/08) and PokerRoad Radio (7/15/08), and the topic came up on both shows.

    On the Two Plus Two show, one of those who made the final table, David Rheem, appeared as a guest. Rheem was asked about an “orientation session” that apparently took place for the final nine players the day after play ended at the Rio. Specifically, the hosts asked Rheem what sort of obligations the players would have during these intervening months regarding accessibility, promotions, etc.

    Rheem was a bit evasive about what actually was discussed during the meeting, but it definitely sounded as though the players are not being obliged to do anything in particular between now and November. “As far as, like, what’s going to happen within the next three months, I’d rather just keep that to myself,” answered Rheem, avoiding sharing any specifics from the session. Rheem explained that he just wanted to “figure out, like, what the best interest for me is. I’m not really too worried about what Harrah’s and what ESPN want to do -- that’s their own thing. For me, I just want to try to lay low and keep a clear head and just stay focused for the final table.”

    When asked if he planned to play any poker during this interim period, he did say that he might play a couple of WSOPE events, which seemed to suggest that topic most certainly came up. But Rheem made it clear that if he were to play the WSOPE, doing so would be his own decision. “It’s not 100% what exactly, what I’m going to do,” he said. In fact, he said he didn’t want to play too much poker during these next few months, as doing so might unduly affect his “game plan for the final table.”

    Over on the PokerRoad Radio show, Courtney Harrington, Gavin Smith, and Joe Sebok also discussed whether or not the nine would be heading over to London. Said Smith, “I think what Harrah’s should have done when they decided to do this thing… I think they should have taken the interest [that will be made from the yet-to-be-awarded prize money]… and all nine of these people should have been flown over to WSOP Europe and playing in those tournaments.”

    The hosts went on to speculate further about how many actually would make the trip. While Sebok and Harrington thought all would go, Smith said he was sure at least three would skip it.

    I’m with Smith here. I think it unlikely all nine will make the trip, and in fact it could be the case that only a few even bother, particularly if they have to pay their own way. I’m recalling how in 2007 Tom Schneider won the WSOP Player of the Year, and part of the prize was an entry into the WSOPE Main Event. He decided not to make the trip, though. (I think there was some golf to be played.) One has to think the nine who made the WSOP ME final table will also find reasons not to put themselves through the stress of travelling to England, playing in poker tourneys with difficult fields, and having their efforts scrutinized much more intensely than they’ve experienced previously.

    Interesting enough fodder for us to ponder over, I suppose. Still find it unfortunate that we’re talking about marketing and not poker. That’s what the Main Event has become, though.

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    Anonymous Aces88ss said...

    Hey Shamus, I am currently making an effort to read 5 poker bloggers thoughts daily. I have to say that yours is the most consistently entertaining ad interesting. Plus, you will always get extra credit points for your podcast.

    FR WHAT IT IS WORTH< I have finally made a final decision in my mind about the November 9 delay table. Was wondering what you thought...

    In my opinion...

    As soon as 4 days ago, I was willing to give the grand experiment the broadest of benefit of doubt status, and view the delay of the WSOP final table as potentially good for poker. There were lots of possible benefits. Near as I can now tell, the problems are now going to outweigh the single remaining benefit (IMO, that being the unknown increases interest over last year's known).

    Had there been a colorful well known pro (Mike the Mouth, Scotty, Doyle, even the poker brat)...
    Had there been a female...
    Had there been a celebrity...
    Had there been 9 anonymous players without a scandal associated...
    Heck, even Had there been a clever named player like Moneymaker...

    The lazy media (both civilian and poker) would concentrate on those stories. Instead, we have 8 unknown commodities and a known criminal. Sadly, I am going to guess that the next 4 months will be filled with stories putting our hobby in a negative light. Criminals making the final table could easily have been ignored had the fellow lost somewhere in the pack of nine. But the possibility is too exciting for the media to ignore. And finding different stories in the mix would take time. Combine the UB cheating scandal, the UIGEAmouse, and now criminals potentially walking away with millions and it is difficult to imagine poker being covered in anything but a negative light. In a year when we needed a shot in the arm with good publicity, we instead will be held up to guilt by association bad light. 60 Minutes, 20/20 and the rest just had an easy story to tell. The more complicated truth about the game will be given short shrift.

    Had the WSOP powers that be left the final table to be played out, this problem could have been lessened.

    But, I have one final related IMO...

    Imagine the coverage had the WSOP powers that be, labeled the $10,000 NLHE event as the most exciting event for any amateur sportsman possible (which it is), and labeled the $50,000 HORSE tournament as the true WSOP Championship main event. That final table would have been one worth waiting for. The stories that the media could have spun about Barry Greenstein (the Robin Hood of poker), Scotty Nguyen (a true, "only in America" story), Huck Seed (I have a warm spot in my heart for anyone who survived grade school with the name Huckleberry)... This table (and game) truly reflects the year's champion. Even the laziest of journalists would have found a more honest reflection of our hobby.

    Historically, the main event of the WSOP was determined to be NLHE to weed out the much more numerous Stud specialist of the time. Historically, the idea that NLHE was so rarely played that only a player conversant in total poker theory would be able to succeed. The game of poker as played now has evolved into NLHE specialist that can (and does often) wipe the floor with the buy ins of donkeys like me, but would be totally lost on a RAZZ or O8 table. Are there poker players left that truly believe that NLHE specialists are better poker players than HORSE players?

    Again, only my opinion, none of which is fact.

    7/17/2008 2:11 PM  
    Blogger MyPokerThoughts said...

    I don't blame any of the players who decide not to make the trip over to Europe. If I were in their shoes and primed to make the big bucks at the WSOP final table, I'd probably just be focusing on that.

    7/17/2008 7:08 PM  
    Anonymous gtycoon said...

    I guess they are free to decide if they want to go play in the WSOPE or not. I wouldn't want someone telling me I have to do this or I have to do that, you should do this or you should do that.

    It could help them though if they go and play really well. Then, if they go and play really bad it could hurt.

    7/18/2008 6:01 PM  
    Anonymous kc said...

    I'm not sure how many made it over (despite the benefit of hindsight!) but from watching on pokernews some of them did.

    Ivan Demidov made the final table. I watched some (22 hour final table) of the live action on the betfair site.

    Cricket and baseball players will love live tv poker.

    10/11/2008 11:29 PM  

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