2011 WSOP Final Table Countdown: The LIVE Feed

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Oct 31, 2011 Posted in Op-Ed, WSOP News | No Comments »

One of the biggest changes this year, or for that matter since the November Nine first began, will be the final table coverage going live on ESPN and ESPN 2. The live coverage will mark the first radical change in the World Series of Poker broadcast since ESPN added the hole-card camera back in 2003, and could be the proverbial next-step in the evolution of televised poker.

While many people point to the fact that poker is a “boring” game to watch and that alive feed will only exacerbate the problem, not to mention that the broadcasts are already marketed to a niche audience, and a long broadcast could shrink this market even further, I am of the other school of thought: My thinking is that if poker is “boring” for most people and the market is small why not give that market what they want, and not try to attract new viewers by watering down the show and turning it into fluff? If the chances of increasing the ratings are small than why not focus on the market you already have?

I know I would be far more likely to watch live feeds of major tournaments on TV, which is important to note since outside of randomly flipping through channels I rarely watch poker on TV –to me watching an edited hand, with cliffhanger music, and over the top commentary is “boring”.

I absolutely loved the live coverage on ESPN 3 of the 2011 WSOP Main Event. Even without hole-cards I find poker fascinating, far more fascinating than knowing precisely what a player has and what has been folded.

ESPN will be showing hole-cards on 15-minute delay for the final table, but my preference would be for them to show ZERO hole-cards until the hand is over –at which point they could quickly flash what each player held. Knowing the hole-cards from the outset is like playing along with Jeopardy at home, and having Alex Trebek tell you the correct answer before reading the question (actually that should be him giving you the question before the answer, since on Jeopardy they ask them in reverse).

The rating ESPN receives for the 2011 WSOP may be pivotal in the long-term solvency of live-feed poker tournaments: If the ratings tank the 2012 WSOP Final Table will likely go back to the old format, but if the ratings are good my guess is ESPN and other televised poker providers may take a look at how they could tinker with a live feed for a better result.

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