Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sidestepping the Spoilers

Was listening to last week’s PokerNews podcast today -- not the most recent one, but the “November Nine Recap” one in which Donnie Peters and Rich Ryan broke down the World Series of Poker Main Event final table (Episode #343).

Besides discussing all the key moments from Joe McKeehen’s dominating win, the pair got into some other related topics as well including considering suggestions for improving the WSOP Main Event going forward and whether or not the November Nine experiment has run its course after eight years’ worth of delayed final tables.

Near the very end they played a voice mail from a listener referring back to Donnie’s live tweeting during the final table, and from there came a short discussion of the whole “spoilers” topic. Donnie was one of a few folks tweeting live from the Rio that night, which meant those watching the coverage on the ESPN networks (on a half-hour delay) needed to mute or unfollow those Tweeters if they didn’t want to know ahead of time what they were about to see.

I tried to mute everyone who like Donnie warned they’d be tweeting “spoilers” during the WSOP Main Event final table. It almost worked except for once when someone retweeted a knockout before it had shown up on the teevee (argh!).

I thought of that conversation again just now while watching the World Poker Tour’s live stream of the final table of the WPT Montreal event from the Playground Poker Club. There, too, one can enjoy “cards up” coverage on a half-hour delay. (Side note: The WPT stream shows all players’ hole cards, not just players voluntarily putting chips in the middle like they’ve been doing with the WSOP ME final table. The WSOP should be showing everyone’s cards, too, I think, for the sake of fairness.)

Anyhow, you run into a similar “spoiler” issue following live updates from the event on the WPT site alongside the live stream, as the hand reports are a half-hour ahead of what is being shown. They’re also tweeting live updates about the final table from @WPTLive, which means you can’t follow that and watch the stream without being told about things ahead of time as well. (E.g., that bold five-bet shove by Brian Altman with pocket fours pictured above was partially signaled a half-hour ahead of time via the Twitter feed.)

Just now on the WPT feed play was delayed for a couple of moments while Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and Lynn Gilmartin could be heard adding some commentary for the edited version of the final table that will be shown later -- a phenomenon I wrote about here once before following a WPT final table I helped cover. Kind of wild to think of the many different ways the WPT is covering their event all at once -- live, on a half-hour delay, then yet again in a different, edited way on longer delay.

Over on the European Poker Tour, the issue is handled pretty effectively via an embargo (of sorts) on reporting ahead of the delayed live stream. That can’t prevent non-media folks from tweeting out what’s happening, but the system works pretty well. It also kind of “unifies” the coverage with the live updates, the features on the PokerStars blog, the EPT Live stream, and all of the coverage appearing on other online outlets all operating in tandem rather than one “spoiling” things for any of the others.

I really enjoy watching live streams, and I also like being on social media to share the experience (such as when the WSOP Main Event final table is playing out). Indeed, as I observed last week when discussing the slowness of the WSOP ME FT, the pace of the game with its frequent pauses makes it well-suited to be combined with something like Twitter where spectators can share impressions as they watch. But “cards up” coverage can’t be provided without a delay, which necessarily introduces the possibility for “spoiler” situations.

I like the EPT’s attempt to solve the conundrum. Is there any other way to do so?

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