WSOP 2015: My Thoughts on ESPN’s Decision to Start WSOP Coverage at Day 4

wsopsignage2013Living in Europe and trying to keep track of the World Series of Poker Main Event is near impossible. 10 hour days starting at 9pm CET are just out of the question, especially considering I have been working on my end-of-year exams here in Germany. Therefore I, and I’m assuming a lot of other people, are patiently waiting for the World Series of Poker to be broadcast on ESPN. Although this year, I read something slightly disappointing about ESPN’s coverage.

When I first started getting into poker, my diet consisted mostly of Poker After Dark and WSOP re-runs, as well as Phil Hellmuth blow-up montages and Daniel Negreanu soul-reads. Televised poker is the thing that gets everyone dreaming. Dreaming of multiple WSOP bracelets; dreaming of scooping that million dollar pot; placing prop bets and playing Seven-Deuce with your friends. So why is the WSOP televised coverage starting at Day 4?

Poker commentators Chad Norman and Lon McEachern
Poker commentators Norman Chad and Lon McEachern

Although not a record breaking number of entrants, the Main Event this year managed to attract 6,420 players. How many are still playing at the start of Day 4? 661. Just over 10% of the field. Now I’m fully aware that it’s a matter of costs. Norman Chad even said as much in this recent interview with PokerNews, but come on! People dream of playing this tournament. As Chris Moneymaker said in our ‘Meet The Pro’ earlier this week, this event is like a bucket list item to many people. So why aren’t they incorporating them into the show?

The amateurs, the celebrities and the sport-stars were out in force during the three Day 1’s, more than I could even begin to list here. If ESPN wanted to really make poker appealing to its audience, why not show these well-known people playing in the Main Event.

Another thing which really annoyed me, was the fact that this year was meant to be all about 1,000 places being paid. This was in my opinion a really great idea from the WSOP. More people cash, therefore more people are happy, and therefore perhaps more of them will come back next year to play again. When did the Main Event reach the money? Day 3. The money bubble of the biggest poker tournament of the year isn’t going to be part of the TV show. That is just ludicrous.

As any regular viewer of the EPT livestreams will tell you, the money bubble is one of the more exciting parts of a tournament. This is where you get to see the ecstasy on people’s faces as they know they’ve locked up money. You see the occasional brutal bad beats: the cracked Aces, the rivered two-outer etc. So why isn’t ESPN incorporating this into the show?

94-year-old William Wachter competing in the 2015 Main Event
94-year-old William Wachter competing in the 2015 Main Event

Coming in so late to a tournament means you lack the ability to develop stories. Poker tournaments are all about stories. An example from this year would be that of William Wachter. At 94 years of age, the World War II veteran from Mahopac, NY is still in the Main Event at the start of Day 4. Another would be from Day 1c, where some fanboys must have gotten into the tournament seating computer, because a certain Phil Hellmuth was sat at the same table as Phil Ivey. Who wouldn’t have loved to see some Day 1c deepstack action between the two of them?

The bottom line for me is that I just want the television show to do the tournament justice. Coming in with six days play already gone, and nearly 6,000 players already busto is not the way to do it. I will of course be watching the show in September/October when it airs, and I will of course be humming along to the theme tune (“…best day of my l-i-i-fe…”), but I will certainly be bemoaning the lack of coverage from the earlier days.