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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008 | The Works

$10K WSOP Main Event – Day 5 Perspectives – For Television

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A catch-22 is what it’s called. ESPN clashes with the poker media each year, and Harrah’s and the WSOP staff are caught in the middle. ESPN is necessary to the WSOP brand, but so are the poker media, and there is not room for both on the tournament floor. Madness on Day 5 and going forward was the result.

The tension between ESPN and the poker media began on Day 3 when the money bubble hit. With 675 players left when hand-for-hand action began, all non-official media (official being ESPN, Harrah’s, Bluff, and PokerNews) were ordered out of the tournament area. Anytime an all-in occurred during that time period, the ESPN camera crews needed room to rush to the tables with action to capture the out-of-the-money eliminations for upcoming broadcasts, and the official media paid for their rights to be there. The non-official media ban continued for the rest of Day 3.

Day 4 improved for all media somewhat, in that the tables were arranged with enough space between so that most media members were able to move around without trampling or being trampled when the camera crews moved. This is not to say that no one was bumped, bruised, or treated rudely by the ESPN crews, but there was more room for unsuspecting media to avoid any serious injuries.

However, Day 5 turned out to be another story. With only 474 players at nine per table, it was going to be difficult. The instructions to non-official media members consisted of a restriction. Between the rail where players’ friends and family could attempt to watch the action and the actual tournament area was a special roped-off section. The walkway was designated for non-official media to walk around the tournament area without interfering with ESPN cameras or official media, but gave a bit more access than the fans were given.

The problem with the special walkway was that the railbirds often disregarded the rules and invaded the media space. At times, security officers would attempt to salvage the media space and move the fans back, but most of the time, the intrusion was ignored. This left non-official media with little access to the action, a complete inability to see hands or cards, and very limited opportunities to photograph the action. Frustrations began to grow.

Harrah’s is in a precarious position with this particular situation because of its integral and oh-so-necessary relationship with ESPN. Without ample footage from the tournament and the key moments leading up to the final table recorded, the WSOP main event journey cannot be documented as well as it is. ESPN programming is critical to the continued success and growth of the WSOP.

On the other hand, Harrah’s realizes that the bulk of the poker media is also a key part of the public’s interest in the game and the WSOP, in particular. Poker fans and players often turn to non-official media for the behind-the-scenes stories, gossip, and alternative takes on the action that is strictly reported in a by-the-book fashion by the official media. Harrah’s knows that this aspect of the WSOP coverage is important as well. Nevertheless, it is ESPN that requires certain access, and the rest of the poker media will continue to cover it as best as possible. Most journalists will adjust, but ESPN will not.

That is the way of the poker business as an entertainment entity and a business that continues to bring new names and faces to the game. Arguments can be made on both sides of the issue as to which type of media coverage is more important, but in the end, all of the coverage combined is what keeps poker in a fairly constant state of growth.

As Day 6 arrives with only nine tables, media access will be even more restricted. Professionals in the field will adapt and adjust to the lack of access, while others will scale down coverage in accordance with the level of access provided. In the end, the important stories will emerge on the blogs and other print media, and ESPN will produce a television show that brings the footage of the WSOP main event into living rooms all over the world. The strong will survive the catch-22.

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