Tuesday, November 03, 2015

2015 WSOP Main Event: The Finale, Finally

The last of ESPN’s pre-November Nine episodes from the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event have now aired, and now everyone’s attention turns to the final table -- finally! -- which will begin this coming Sunday.

I ended up watching all 16 of the episodes which altogether added up to 19-and-a-half hours’ worth of shows on the ESPN networks. That counts commercials, of course, which I skipped through like most. I didn’t watch a single one of these shows live, choosing the NFL instead (usually) as just about every one of the premieres went up against football.

The coverage started with the beginning of Day 4 (after the money bubble had already burst on Day 3) and carried through the end of Day 7, taking viewers from 661 players down to nine. I enjoyed most of the shows, especially from Day 7. Daniel Negreanu’s deep run definitely helped -- he was a huge part of all of the episodes right up until the last half-hour of the last one.

It’s been at least a couple of years, perhaps three or four, since I actually sat down and watched every episode of ESPN’s WSOP Main Event coverage like this. Again, I can’t say they have done too much to alter the formula, which is probably on the whole a good thing even if one would like to think there are better ways of doing this sort of thing.

Seven years later, the final table delay still irks me. Negreanu’s desperate hanging on with the short stack before finally getting knocked out in 11th -- on a river card, too -- would have been utterly electric to watch live (or on a slight delay). But seeing it three-and-a-half months later was nowhere close to as exciting. (Even a far cry from the “Twitter rail” from that night in July.)

That other World Series wrapping up earlier this week got me thinking about how I experienced baseball as a kid. The first World Series I can remember watching was in 1977 when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in six games and Reggie Jackson hit five home runs -- three in the final game. What a thrilling series that was between two incredible teams full of characters and stars. And many of the games and plays remain etched in my memory, even decades later.

Meanwhile I was a Cincinnati Reds fan as a kid, and so I only indirectly was able to enjoy the Big Red Machine’s two wins in ’75 and ’76 after the fact via highlights, reading books and magazine articles, and so on. While I obviously can recall the image of Carlton Fisk urging his game-winner in Game 6 in ’75 to stay fair, I don’t remember much of anything else from those two series given the indirect way I originally “experienced” them.

It’s this latter way that we now experience nearly all of the World Series of Poker Main Event, save the final table. It’s a highlight show, and with such a huge distance between it happening and our getting to see anything it tends to pack the same, generally weak punch of seeing a few plays the morning after on SportsCenter. If that.

That said, I’ll confess watching all the shows definitely has me ready for Sunday night. I might even have to turn off the football for once.

By the way, if you want to play along with my series of "what-would-you-do?"-type strategy articles over on PokerNews stemming from the ESPN coverage (with poll questions about decision points), here are all of them:

  • Watching Phil Hellmuth or ‘The Master at Work’
  • Daniel Negreanu Turns the Nuts -- Call or Reraise?
  • How Would You Respond to Negreanu’s Check-Raises?
  • Flopping Huge Versus Fedor -- Play Fast or Slow?
  • Pick Your Spots and Play Along with Max Steinberg
  • Negreanu and November Niners Playing Trouble Hands
  • Nearing the November Nine, What Would You Do?
  • Leader Joe McKeehen Pressures, How Do You Respond?
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