Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh Yeah, I Think the World Series of Poker is On

The 2009 WSOP Main Event continues on ESPNFound myself last night sitting before the crystal receiver, having dialed up ESPN. Was watching the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event. You remember that, don’t you?

Haven’t really been following the coverage on ESPN too closely, I have to admit. Was super tired last night, having essentially lost most of a night’s sleep the night before after staying up to cover another late running WCOOP event on PokerStars. Had enough mental capacity, however, to pay attention to the show, which presented on Day 3 of the Main Event. Or parts of it, anyway. As usual, the show primarily focused on just a couple of tables, plus a few other players scattered here and there.

Vera Valmore was watching with me. As I’ve recounted before, Vera isn’t a poker player. She knows how to play Texas hold’em, (and can even follow -- and patiently endure -- my tales of pot-limit Omaha hands). She can also get genuinely interested in poker TV now and then, depending on the personalities and storylines that get presented.

At one point during the show there was a brief scene showing Jennifer Harman busting out of the event, and Vera commented that she liked Harman. I recalled to Vera how I’d covered one of her events this summer, during which Harman had come over to me to ask how her husband, Marco Traniello, was faring in another event. Harman was playing in (and I was covering) Event No. 42, the $2,500 Mixed Game event (eventually won by Jerrod Ankenman). We were in the Brasilia. Meanwhile, over in the Amazon, Traniello was working his way through Event No. 41, the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout event. Actually, Harman was in that one, too, and had won her table already. She was looking for a report on how Traniello was doing at his.

I did a quick check and saw he’d made it to heads up. Sent an IM to our guy covering that event to keep me updated, and told Harman I’d keep her informed. Alas, soon after Traniello got knocked out. I told Vera how I’d stood up from my laptop and caught Harman’s eye, giving her a thumbs down signal while voicing a sympathetic, soundless “sorry.” Vera and I chuckled over my disappointment at having to deliver bad news like that.

Vera also responded to the hands that were shown involving Jean-Robert Bellande, referring to having seen him before -- not on Survivor, but on that 2005 WSOP Circuit event (played at the Rio and aired on ESPN) in which Bellande finished third, Harman second, and the victor was Doug Lee (of the infamous and neverending “toolbox” thread on 2+2).

Now that I think about it, that two-hour broadcast of the 2005 WSOP Circuit final table was one of the more engaging presentations of a final table I remember seeing on ESPN -- a good example, actually, of a poker TV show that captured Vera’s attention and kept us both fairly riveted to the end. Partly was due to the personalities -- if I recall, Phil Ivey and Gabe Thaler were also at that final table -- but there were some intriguing hands in there, too.

Shamus watches the WSOPMaybe it was my fatigue, but I found it very difficult to connect with the show last night. A few semi-interesting moments here and there, such as when Phil Hellmuth was shown taking a seat next to formerly-unknown-but-soon-to-be-poker-forum-hero Lauchlin McKinnon, and McKinnon was shown refusing to shake the Poker Brat’s hand. And I’m as affected as the next guy over the story of Kent Senter, whose participation in this year’s WSOP Main Event defied the odds given the advanced state of his cancer.

But overall it was difficult to really care all that much about the various stories being plotted for us during the two hours.

I might specifically point to the particular personalities and hands as affecting my response -- i.e., more excitement would have created more interest. But I think there are a couple of broader reasons why I’m not getting into the coverage, and indeed, why some weeks I’m not even getting around to turning it on.

I realize that ESPN’s decision to devote so many hours to the Main Event has made me much less motivated to sit down and watch every minute. If there were half as many hours being shown, I’d probably never miss a show. But with 24 hours’ worth of shows leading up to the final table, I’m thinking I can just pick this sucker up somewhere down the line. Or not.

Also, I’m still vaguely aware of the fact that this plot has no conclusion as yet. I know that’s supposed to make it more intriguing -- the fact that we’re all waiting until November to see how it turns out -- but something about that disconnect is making watching in September less enjoyable to me. Sorry if I’m not articulating that very well -- am still behind on sleep -- but I’m thinking I’d rather just see the damn final table already than spend all of these weeks watching players who didn’t even make the top 648 (the money) fight with each other over pots.

At least it’s still fun to watch the background, to see if I can spot anyone I know. Spotted a few of my PokerNews buds lingering around the outer tables last night. Makes me think of watching a rerun of an old television show and getting excited over noticing what were once non-essential details -- like, say, Andy Griffith suddenly reaching over and lighting up a cigarette -- which “read” differently today.

A strange way to watch, I know. But, hey, sitting around watching people play cards on TV is pretty strange, too, eh?

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Anonymous CADmunkey said...

Interesting post Shamus - I'm guessing that with you being in the midst of the real live action, that watching 're-runs' on TV probably isn't as attractive to you as it once was.
With poker coverage being so poor on U.K. television I have to admit to being pretty enthusiastic over seeing the ESPN coverage, even if it's web based ;-)

9/16/2009 11:26 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Yeah, that's definitely part of what's going on here with me, too -- having been there (and it having been the second summer for me) has taken some of the suspense away, for sure.

9/16/2009 12:00 PM  
Blogger Melody said...

Nice read but I totally agree. The 24 hours of coverage is a bit of an over kill. I watched the first few events with excitement but now I am just really waiting to the main event, the 24 hours has become background noise when I cook or something. Enjoyable but I dont feel I need to see it all.

I'm going to try your method and watch the background next time. Just to see what happens :)

9/16/2009 7:25 PM  

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