Wednesday, February 01, 2012

No November Nine, But Delay Remains for WSOP Main Event

2008 November NineF-Train was the first I remember mentioning last summer how the November Nine -- that four-year long experiment tried by the World Series of Poker to delay the Main Event final table nearly four months from the start of the tournament -- might not be returning again after 2011.

He noticed early on how the move to “almost live” coverage of the Main Event kind of ran against one of the original reasons for the delay, namely, as a means to build interest in the tournament for a close-to-simultaneous presentation of the ME’s conclusion in November.

Indeed, when the prepackaged shows dedicated to telling the story of the Main Event saw a precipitous drop in ratings during August, September, and October from previous years, some pointed to the “almost live” shows back in July as having perhaps negatively affected the size of the audience for the later, edited shows.

2009 November NineThere were certainly other reasons, too, for the drop in numbers, but by the time we got around to November and it was announced that every single hand of the final table was going to be shown in the same “almost live” format, it really did seem as though the whole November Nine concept had perhaps run its course.

In fact, our buddy Kevmath kicked off the conference call we had a few days before the November Nine with that very question, alluding to WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky’s comment in a PokerListings interview that having both the delay and the sort-of-live coverage “doesn’t quite work.”

There were no WSOP folks on that call, and so only Doug White, Senior Director of Programming and Acquisitions for ESPN, was able really to address the issue. White suggested the delay still had a place insofar as it helped contribute further to “the pomp and circumstance that you get around the final table in November.” Even so, by then many observers were starting to believe we were about to see the last November Nine.

2010 November NineThose suspicions appeared to have been confirmed yesterday when the WSOP cheekily hinted over Twitter that the November Nine would not be part of this year’s schedule.

Initial reactions to the apparent end of the November Nine experiment were mixed, with many seeming to say that while they opposed it at first they eventually came to like the format and were sorry to see it go.

I remember way back at the start of May 2008 when the idea was first announced -- at a relatively late date, if you recall -- I was strongly opposed to the idea as affecting too greatly the overall integrity of the most important tournament in poker. Fired off a few posts suggesting as much, including one titled “Nine Players in Search of a Final Table” and another with the angry-seeming header “The WSOP Main Event: Birth, Build-Up, Boom... Bastardized?

2011 November NineWhile I have eventually come to enjoy certain aspects of the unique (if artificial-seeming) narrative arc created by the delay, I still haven’t entirely accepted the idea of building a whole, strange four-month long “season” out of a two-week long tournament.

As it turned out, when the WSOP finally turned over its hand today we discovered that tweet from yesterday was in essence just some misleading table talk -- in fact they will be keeping the delay in 2012. Indeed, the November Nine is (technically) no more. But that is only because the sucker has been moved earlier to the end of October so as to avoid coinciding with this year’s presidential election.

For details, check out the official 2012 schedule released by the WSOP today. I have to admit I’m a little disappointed to see F-Train’s early suggestion -- subsequently echoed by many -- not coming true and the delay remaining part of the WSOP Main Event schedule.

Four years is a long time in poker, though. More than enough to create the impression of a “tradition.” And so to alter that now would probably seem almost as incongruous as it did when the idea was first introduced.

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