Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 WSOP, Day 48: Access

Start of Day 6 of the 2011 WSOP Main EventA wild one yesterday at Day 6 of the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event. Field shrunk from 142 to just 57 over the course of four two-hour levels, which I think will possibly mean a shorter day today as the schedule calls for the tournament to be stopped once they get down to 27.

We were all having to fire off posts at a rapid clip, especially early in the day as eliminations were happening very quickly. Whenever a table broke, the Rio maintenance crew would literally break it down just moments later, disassembling it and removing it from the Amazon room. I’ve seen this process a few times now, of course, but my colleague Josh -- on his first tour of duty at the WSOP -- kept marveling at how “surreal” it seemed as the tables were removed and the room emptied out.

Was kind of curious how they would take tables out, but not spread out the remaining ones as we went, meaning the total space in which they played was getting smaller and smaller. Meanwhile, the number of media covering the action was increasing, and so by the end of the third level of the night it was getting especially crowded inside the rail. The group shooting footage for ESPN (Poker PROductions) is also quite large, meaning the available space was becoming ever more limited.

Whenever I went inside the ropes, my strategy was to find an empty spot near a table where we didn’t have anyone situated, then wait for a possible hand to develop. That is, rather than roam about as I’d normally would, I stayed put while keeping a watchful eye out for the rushing over of cameramen.

All of which added up to a somewhat stressful atmosphere, although I think most folks handled it well enough. A couple of the players became impatient with the frequent delays caused by the setting up of cameras and so forth. And one -- the pink-haired Guillaume Delacourt -- outright refused at one point to show his hole cards to the portable camcorder, which led to a confrontation and threat regarding penalties. Here’s Eric Ramsey’s post from last night about that incident, which actually brings up Rule No. 24 of the WSOP’s Official Tournament Rules.

Bryan Devonshire and his eye-popping chip stackOf course, some players couldn’t have seemed more relaxed with all of the chaos circling about them. Bryan Devonshire was one of the calm ones, and everyone -- staff, media, and players alike -- marveled at his gravity-defying chip architecture that he would rapidly build shortly after being moved to a new table. (Click the pic for a better view.)

Once I got back to the home-away-from-home I was able to tune into ESPN2 and watch some of the coverage that was being shown on a delay. To evoke Josh’s word, that, to me, was a little “surreal,” having just been wandering around those tables a moment before.

Incidentally, I’ve been standing nearby several times when those segments with Kara Scott that you see interspersed into the programming are shot, and I’ve yet to see her require a second take. Nor does she read from a teleprompter. I really don’t know if those are being done “live” or what -- since the entire show is on a delay, I’m assuming they can redo them -- but it is kind of amazing to see her standing in the middle of the craziness and performing so well. Kind of like Devonshire and most of the players, I suppose.

Anyhow, I understand F-Train’s criticisms of the show being less than enthralling. (See his “WSOP Live on ESPN2 Doesn’t Deliver.”) I also like what Kim (of Infinite Edge) has to say about the decision to show just a couple of tables rather than try to give a better sense of what is going on elsewhere in the tournament. (See his post, “One Man’s Thoughts on How to Improve the WSOP.”) Especially with just seven or eight tables, it would be helpful for them once in a while at least to stop by each of the outer tables and give a heads-up on what is happening.

2011 WSOP Main Event on ESPN2Then again, as I already mentioned, the space is tight in there. And there are probably other logistical reasons that would make looking in too regularly (or too intrusively) on the other tables difficult to pull off. Of course, it won’t be long -- i.e., tomorrow -- until they’re down to three and then two tables, so the coverage will essentially be comprehensive from that point, I imagine.

One sort of irony -- while everyone else in the world gets to see what is happening (on a delay) in great detail on those feature tables, it isn’t so easy for the reporters to catch the action, particularly from the secondary feature table, where everything must be viewed from 20-plus feet away. I imagine the set-up will change on Day 8 (at least I hope it does).

Anyhow, if you’re curious, do check the ESPN2 schedule to see what hours they’ll be on. And I guess there’s some stuff on ESPN3, though again it seems that most folks with whom I talk about that online-only service aren’t able to see that.

Yet another issue of access.

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