Wednesday, October 07, 2009

One Month Left to Hype 2009 November Nine

2009 November Nine (courtesy FlipChip)One month from today the final table for this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event will at last resume after a 115-day hiatus. On Saturday, November 7th, the nine players still with chips will reassemble around a table in the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino to play out the sucker. At last.

When the first hand of the final table is finally dealt, Maryland logger and amateur player Darvin Moon will enjoy a large chip lead with 58,930,000 -- that is, a little more than 30% of the chips in play. Moon’s nearest foe, Eric Buchman, will start with 34,800,000, followed by Steven Begleiter (29,885,000), Jeff Shulman (19,580,000), Joe Cada (13,215,000), Kevin Schaffel (12,390,000), Phil Ivey (9,765,000), Antoine Saout (9,500,000), and James Akenhead (6,800,000).

Last fall around this time there was a lot of talk about an apparent lack of hype surrounding the delayed WSOP Main Event final table. While there were interviews and articles about the players appearing within the poker media, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of publicity happening elsewhere, and by the time the final table arrived in November, a lot were wondering what exactly was accomplished promotion-wise during the intervening four months.

One reason we were watching for such extra attention was the fact that when the idea for the delay was first announced in May 2008 we were told to look for such. “The added time prior to the final table will help get poker mainstream media attention,” suggested Daniel Negreanu, a member of the Players Advisory Committee that had approved of the delay. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack also noted that the delay created what he called “an unprecedented opportunity to capture the world's attention,” characterizing the interim as a period of “16 weeks of promotion and relevance” for the November Nine.

There were a few moments here and there during which the nine finalists were covered in places they might not have otherwise, such as when Brooklyn native Ylon Schwartz was profiled in the The New York Times. And we heard something after the final table had completed about invites to major talk shows like “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Ellen” having been turned down by players. But by the time the 2008 WSOP Main Event final table began, most were noting how little the “mainstream” seemed to have picked up on the story.

Another much-referenced argument in favor of the delay concerned the added opportunities it provided the nine players to solicit endorsement deals, including from non-poker entities. No one knows precisely how much last year’s November Nine benefited from the extra time, but most agree they all made more cabbage than they would have otherwise. After the final table had concluded, Barry Greenstein (another member of the Players Advisory Committee) said on Gary Wise’s podcast Wise Hand Poker that players had received three times as much as they would have otherwise.

So what has the “mainstream” been saying about this year’s November Nine? Well, again, outside of our little poker world, mostly a lot of nothing. Thus far, anyway.

Darvin Moon at the 2009 WSOP (photo courtesy FlipChip)Darvin Moon did get some press last week when a feature on the chip leader appeared in The Washington Post. It’s an interesting profile. Moon apparently had never even flown a commercial jet prior to his summer trip to Vegas. He earnestly claims he believes all eight of the other players at the final table are better than he is. And he’s not interested in seeking more publicity or even working on his game, eyeing a three-week deer hunting trip here in October instead. (Both pics on this post courtesy the great FlipChip, btw.)

As far as the other eight players go, I can’t say I’ve really noticed much “mainstream” attention of them, though each has been on the radar within the poker world in various ways over the last three months -- perhaps more so than was the case with last year’s November Nine.

Eric Buchman (in second) got a little bit of attention over on Two Plus Two during the last couple of days when someone -- an acquaintance of Buchman’s, apparently -- started a thread as Buchman himself complaining about how Full Tilt Poker was giving the player some difficulty with regard to the two one-day endorsement deals he’d signed with them at the end of play in July. The real Buchman then came on to clear things up a bit, though the story brought attention to the fact of Buchman’s switch from Full Tilt on Days 7 and 8 to PokerStars for the final table. Here’s the new thread (the old, spurious one was deleted), and here’s a Poker News Daily article from late July in which Buchman mentions his endorsement deals (and the distractions they cause).

Steven Begleiter (in third) turned up a bit on last night’s WSOP coverage on ESPN. The 47-year-old from New York seems like a nice fellow, and I’m not just saying that because he’s the only member of the November Nine who follows me on Twitter (haha). See for yourself in this interview with “Begs” on episode 10 of ESPN’s “Inside Deal.”

We’ve been seeing a lot of Jeff Shulman (in fourth) on ESPN over the last couple of weeks, and continue to talk about his criticisms of Harrah’s and potential “villain” role at the final table. And, of course, the victory by Barry Shulman, Jeff’s father, at the Main Event at the World Series of Poker Europe last week adds yet another interesting plot development to Jeff’s WSOP ME run. I mentioned last week that Gary Wise conducted a lengthy interview with Shulman and wrote it up over on the ESPN Poker Club. In the interview the publisher, president, and COO of Card Player discusses the Main Event, Harrah’s, and his having taken on Phil Hellmuth as a coach.

Like several of the November Nine, Joe Cada (in fifth) has been interviewed over on Phil Gordon’s podcast (another ESPN production), The Poker Edge. The 21-year-old came off as surprisingly together in the interview, even when pressed about his sponsorship deals (which he didn’t really want to discuss, it seemed). “Are the November Nine going to be logoed up more significantly than they have been in the past?” asked Gordon, adding that while last year’s players were seen to represent online poker sites and some charities, “we haven’t seen any real mainstream brands.” Cada said no, he had not.

Kevin Schaffel (in sixth) was among the chip leaders at the EPT London Main Event before busting out in 19th place. The final table of that event, featuring last year’s WSOP Main Event winner Peter Eastgate, has just begun. Follow the coverage on PokerNews here and/or watch the action on the terrific EPT Live webcast here.

Rounding out the November Nine, Phil Ivey (in seventh) has enjoyed his usual prominence in the poker world over the last few months, although in terms of “mainstream media” I suppose we can only point to his brief cameo on the first episode of NBC’s “Face the Ace.” And the table’s short stacks, Antoine Saout (in eighth) and James Akenhead (in ninth) both got a bit of attention by making the final table of the WSOP Europe Main Event, where Saout finished seventh and Akenhead ninth.

As I say, I do feel like I’m a bit more aware of these guys that I was of last year’s November Nine at this time last year. And I am a little more interested in seeing how it all plays out than was the case last time around, too.

Still looking for that “mainstream media attention,” though. Perhaps we will ultimately see one or more of these guys pop up on the talk shows or elsewhere. Don’t necessarily expect to see Darvin Moon on Jay Leno’s new prime time show, though. Something tells me he might have left the cell phone at home so as to concentrate more fully on the deer.

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Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

I don't know why so many people expect a full four months of hype. It simply doesn't make sense, and I pointed this out in my article at PokerNews that first discussed the "November Nine" delay shortly after it was announced:

Here's the relevant passage:

"While the delay gives ESPN and the rest of the media time to learn about the players, there will *not* be 117 days of hype. Expect an initial wave of publicity when the 'November Nine' reach the final table, particularly within the poker community. The attention of the mainstream media, however, won't really gain momentum until the final table draws near. The week between ESPN's final-table preview show and the actual broadcast will likely be the most intense."

The mainstream media doesn't care about something like this two weeks before it airs, much less two months before it airs. Timeliness is the key factor, and from the mainstream media's perspective, this isn't a story until the week of the final table.

That's just the way things are. Actors don't appear on late-night talk shows while their movies are in production; they promote them the week or two before it is released and the week or two after it first reaches the theaters. If a woman had made the WSOP final table, would Ellen (with a popular daytime talk show) be eager to book that player in September or October? Why not schedule her for early November, when the story is much more relevant?

The "story" being given to the mainstream public (and the mainstream media) is that the Main Event is still underway, unfolding one day at a time on ESPN each Tuesday night. According to that story, the field hasn't reached the final nine yet, so it's premature to expect mainstream curiosity about players that have barely been introduced yet. A lot of poker fans who don't visit poker websites don't even know that Ivey made the final table yet.

(Yes, these people exist; I sometimes attend a home game in Atlanta where they only know Ivey made the final table because *I* told them. They watch poker on TV, but have never heard of PokerNews or PokerRoad, for example.)

The entire timeline for the delay is based on the ESPN coverage -- we have to let the pre-final table story play out before we can expect people to talk about the possible ending.

10/07/2009 9:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't know if you've seen the latest Full Tilt ads with Ivey, but it would really be nice if there were other ads like it.

10/07/2009 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Josh said...

One difference is that these guys are getting more coverage on ESPN. Granted it's not on the main page but at least they are on the Inside Deal and the Poker Edge. Last year they had some Poker Edge things and that's it.

FWIW I like the Inside Deal. I think it's pretty well done. Even the corny openings.

10/07/2009 10:35 AM  
Blogger Haley said...

From one who's also partaken of it, Darvin looks like he might be as much beerhunter as deerhunter. I think I'll have to root for him.

10/07/2009 11:44 AM  
Blogger Benjo said...

Saout got quite a lot of mainstream media attention in his home country, including big newspapers and at least one major national TV channel.

10/08/2009 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Lara said...

Posted on Tao, but thought I would repost:
Steve Begleiter will on Fox News, NBC, and MSNBC, also NY Mag is doing a huge feature on him. We have more in the works. The NY Times is doing a feature story on Phil and Shulman. I'm not sure about the other final table members.

Lara Miller

10/08/2009 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Lara said...

I wanted to post a few more thoughts on the PR for Nov Niners and poker players in general. Basically, unless their is a compelling back-story, mainstream media doesn't care. The exceptions are Brunson, Hellmuth, and Negreanu. A majority of the final table members, lack a compelling story completely. I was honored to take on Steve Begleiter for PR, because he has an extremely interesting story to the mainstream press. I haven't a clue on how I would pitch Shulman or even Ivey, there just isn't a ton of things outside of poker for media to concentrate on. But, it is the job of their individual publicists (if they have one) to come up with something. The agents in poker, for the most part, aren't publicists and don't know how to pitch their clients to mainstream. By the way, the Seth Palansky and his team at Harrah's do an amazing job bringing opportunities to these guys, even if they are smaller spots. As far as Darvin Moon goes, I say carry on brother!

10/08/2009 8:58 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks for all of the interesting takes & follow-up, all. Much appreciated.

For those who didn't hear it, check out this week's episode of The Poker Beat (the 10/8/09 show) for more discussion & insight regarding the marketing of the November Nine.

10/08/2009 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Big D said...

Now it's impossible to get coverage as so much mainstream stuff is happening.
Also as you've mentioned, many of the guys don't want the attention that press brings with it. Why make yourself a target at the final table. Better to fly under the radar.

I think it's better if the final table was brought forward by a month or two.

10/11/2009 10:46 AM  

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