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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008

The Delayed WSOP Main Event Final Table – Good Or Bad For Poker?

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Recently, Harrah's and the World Series of Poker made an announcement of epic proportions. This announcement was detailed in this article. The major change that is being implemented is that play of the Main Event will stop once there are 9 players remaining. Play will not resume until nearly four months later in November with the event being broadcast just a couple days later on ESPN.

Jeffrey Pollack, commissioner of the WSOP explained the appeal behind this kind of decision when he stated “Poker fans will be anticipating who will win instead of just talking about who won, and after seven weeks of live play at the WSOP, there will now be an additional 16 weeks of promotion and relevance that I think will lift the entire game of poker and further mainstream the incredible personalities that make the WSOP so much fun and so interesting.”

Is this decision good for poker? There are numerous issues that will arise because of this four month delay. I want to discuss some of the negatives and positives created by the announcement.

Negatives


1) While it will still take endurance to make it through the massive Main Event field, this element will be removed from the final table as players will have four months to rest up.

2) The unknown factor. You could go into a final table not having any knowledge of your opponent's and have to figure them out. As any poker player knows, this is a huge part of the game. Now the players will have four months to study everything they can find on their opponents and devise specific strategies. This definitely favors the professional player as they can now pick apart their opponent's patterns and possible tells.

3) The possibility of a player not being able to make it to the final table due to unforeseen circumstances. Granted, in most instances people are going to be able to arrange their schedule around a WSOP final table and the possibility of millions of dollars, but what about if a person is accidentally killed or disabled? The opportunity of a lifetime they had was taken away from them. Yes, this is unlikely – but it is a possibility.


4) A player will now be able to seek out coaching. One of the beautiful things about the main event is the inexperience and the deer in the headlight look of some of the amateur players as they struggle to figure out what to do. Now with four months off and with the guarantee of a substantial payday, the rank newcomer can turn into a seasoned player. It takes just a little bit away from the game.

5) The potential for players to discuss very elaborate deals that could affect the integrity of the final table.

Positives

1) It's great for the poker “fan”. I know on a personal level that I've often faced the dilemma of wanting to follow the coverage of the final table on the Internet or wait for the ESPN coverage. That worry is now eliminated as you can avoid the poker sites for a day or two and watch the broadcast with the entire element of suspense still intact. Additionally, it will help the fan to get to know the participants a bit better before they actually play at the final table as their will be four months of coverage, interviews, and commentary regarding each of the new poker “superstars.”

2) Increased attention for poker's premiere event. The delay will give the event even more hype than it already has. Mainstream media outlets are more likely to become involved and it allows opportunities for players and poker affiliated organizations to seek out deals that will benefit the poker community.

3) It will allow the final table participants time to make informed decisions about sponsorship deals. A concern of mine last year was unscrupulous agents and poker sites taking advantage of innocent poker players who were thrilled just to be playing on the biggest stage in poker. The player will now have time to seek out competent advice and find a deal that is most favorable to their particular situation.

4) It is definitely good for ESPN. Their ratings will increase, which leads to increased revenues from advertisers. This in turn is good for poker because it will lead ESPN to seek out other ventures and ideas such as this one which will provide poker players with more opportunities. Unfortunately, the reality in poker is that over the last two years (especially since the enforcement of the UIGEA), the various numbers (attendance, ratings, etc.) have fallen. This is a way to bring poker back into the mainstream once again.


When I first thought of writing this article, I was 95% sure that I was against the changes. It seemed to attack the integrity and purity of poker's biggest event. The more I think about it though... the positives far outweigh the negatives. Harrah's and the WSOP are taking a risk here. They know it. For the sake of poker and its longevity, it's a risk worth taking.

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