Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No Need for Introductions

Listened in on the brief conference call today conducted by ESPN concerning next week’s WSOP Main Event final table. The call featured ESPN VP of Original Programming and Production Jamie Horowitz, commentators Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, and producer Dan Gotti of Poker PROductions fielding questions from what turned out to be just a small handful of reporters.

The call only lasted a little over 20 minutes, and really there wasn’t much in the way of news to come from it aside from a confirmation of the fact that the programs next week will again feature all Main Event final table hands shown on just a 15-minute delay. The procedure for showing hole cards will be the same as employed last year, with cards only shown after the hands conclude and only those players still involved at hand’s end having their cards revealed.

On Monday, November 4, the show will begin at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, which means cards are going in the air at 4:45 p.m. local time. They’ll play down from nine players to three and stop, then the last three players will return on Tuesday, November 5 with play resuming at 5:45 p.m. local time and the show getting underway at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. Antonio Esfandiari will be providing analysis to assist McEachern and Chad, and Phil Hellmuth will be involved again, too, it sounds like.

That was about it, news-wise. There was some fun at the end of the call as reference was made to Chad’s WSOP final table from a year ago -- an event I had a chance to help cover -- as well as McEachern’s WSOP Circuit final table this week (he finished fourth in a WSOP-C prelim at Harveys Lake Tahoe).

“We’ve been trying to school the audience for years that it’s a game of skill,” complained Chad, joking that McEachern making a WSOP-C final table offered serious counter-evidence to that argument.

Earlier McEachern did make an interesting point about the effect of having a delayed final table and the whole “November Nine” format, something I’d been aware of but hadn’t thought too much about before.

He was responding to a question about players perhaps lacking personality and thus not being especially entertaining to watch. McEachern didn’t directly address that judgment, but did say that “a bonus” that has come from the delayed final table format is that it does, in fact, create conditions for the nine players to get to know one another during the intervening months, which can lead to more openness and interaction at the tables.

“The November Nine concept allows the players to spend a lot more time together,” said McEachern, noting how several who made it to the WSOP Europe in France were seen dining out or sight-seeing with each other. “So they get to know each other better, and I think that will help, as it were, ‘break the ice’ as we get to the final table.”

The shared experience of making the WSOP Main Event final table likely encourages a kind of bond, which in turn increases the chances that these guys are connecting during the nearly four-month delay. And while that may or may not translate into more table talk or entertaining-to-watch poker, I get what McEachern is saying.

For those of us for whom the poker will provide enough to keep us engaged, we aren’t worried so much about the players entertaining us in other ways. After all, if it goes nearly 400 hands like last year, it’s only reasonable to anticipate some down time.

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