Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Was It Good for You? (On the WSOP ME Final Table Delay)

2008 World Series of Poker Main Event braceletIt was mildly tempting not to look. I did, though. And I’ll refrain today from saying who won the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event.

So those of you who want to keep up the suspense can safely read on (though don’t scroll down past today’s post, as I did talk yesterday about who made it through to heads up). Those of you who don’t know and don’t want to wait can head over to PokerNews to find out how it all played out.

As I mentioned yesterday, it will be curious to see how ESPN edits the whole sucker for tonight’s two-hour broadcast (scheduled for 9:00-11:00 p.m. Eastern time). Am definitely intrigued to see at least a couple of the hands from Sunday so as to learn hole cards. I’m also interested in just seeing how the whole spectacle was staged there in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio. And since the entire heads up match took place while I was sleeping, I want to see that as well, even if I know how it turns out.

Kind of a shame, though. From my (necessarily-compromised) perspective, this year’s final table looks as though it was probably one of the more exciting in recent memory, really. Also, from all accounts it sounds like the nine guys all conducted themselves particularly well in terms of sportsmanship and the other intangibles that make the game enjoyable to watch. Yet poker fans will only ever be able to see about one-eighth of it. Some of us followed some of the audio play-by-play, but the great majority of us didn’t see or hear much at all.

So how did the great final-table-delay experiment ultimately go? Hard to say, but from here I’m still not liking it much at all. I can think of at least three sets of criteria by which to judge the success of the delay.

There’s the “integrity of the game” question that addresses the extent to which the delay affected the actual play of the tournament. I still think artificially inserting a four-month delay into a multi-table tournament is an essentially absurd idea, ultimately destroying the notion that the WSOP ME can be considered a single coherent competition or “event.” There will be a lot of rationalizing and arguing otherwise as the idea gets revisited and reconsidered, but that side effect is never gonna change.

Then there’s the “business of the game” question that addresses the extent to which the delay benefitted Harrah’s/WSOP/ESPN and the players in their efforts to attract sponsorships and “monetize” their successes even further. Obviously the delay could’ve been exploited much, much more effectively in this area, although I think it is definitely true that the delay did help ESPN (ratings are up, reportedly) as well as the players to some degree.

Finally, there’s the “promotion of the game” question that addresses the extent to which the delay attracted new fans/players and/or added to the pleasure of those who are already fans/players. The long delay and tonight’s show might well have drawn in a few new folks, although it seems to me they would’ve probably eventually wandered over to the tables, anyway. For those of us who are already fans and/or players, I still cannot help feeling as though the delay is more bad than good. I’m thinking particularly here of how we not only had to wait four months to see our favorite tournament of the year completed, but now we aren’t even getting to see most of it.

Will they do it again next year? Again, hard to say. However, when Harrah’s Sports and Entertainment Director of Communications Seth Palansky was asked the question on the 10/30/08 episode of the Pocket Fives podcast, he made it sound as though it is very likely they will.

Delayed“I think it’s too early to answer that,” Palansky began. “We always said we’d take a look at it in totality after this year’s event concludes. So, in a few weeks, we’ll know more. If I had the sense what will happen next year, I think you will find this taking place, just from the standpoint of its providing good stories, good fodder, and a good opportunity to help grow the game of poker, and that’s what we think is in the best interests of everyone, not just the World Series of Poker. So, if I had to guess at this point, I think you’d see it again....”

I’d be surprised if they didn’t do the delay again. I suppose we’ll all just have to adapt.

Which is what poker players do, I guess. (The good ones, anyway.)

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Blogger Gadzooks64 said...

I hate the delay.

That said, I would support a much shorter delay. Say, a few days in order to line up all the technical stuff but this 4 months thing is just cruel and messes with the continuity and entire concept of a tournament.

All inertia was lost. I can't help but wonder how it would have played out had it not been delayed.

Demidov's confidence had to have been bolstered by his WSOPE finish.

11/11/2008 10:48 AM  

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