The 2008 World Series of Poker on ESPN was a hit - a huge hit. Ratings for the two-hour final table episode on November 11th were up almost 50 percent from the previous year’s final table, with about 2.4 million people watching the November Nine and eventual victory of Peter Eastgate. Now, ESPN is ready to bring the excitement of the World Series of Poker Europe to the United States in the hopes of garnering some of that same excitement for the European extension of the WSOP.
The second running of the WSOPE will be the first one to air in the United States, and ESPN has turned the main event coverage into eight hours of television programming and commentary provided by WSOP regulars Lon McEachern and Norman Chad. It will begin on Sunday, February 1st with four one-hour episodes beginning at 6:00pm ET. But for the ability to watch only two episodes at a time, ESPN2 will be airing two one-hour shows on the following Sundays for four weeks - February 1st, 8th, 15th, and March 1st. ESPN2 broadcasts start at 10:00pm ET.
Available to US viewing audiences will be the WSOPE main event highlights and final table filmed at the Casino at the Empire, located in downtown London. The tournament took place after Jesper Hougaard took Event 1 (€1,500 NLHE), Sherkhan Farnood won Event 2 (€2,500 HORSE), and Theo Jorgensen declared victory in Event 3 (€5,000 PLO). Event 4, which was the €10,000 World Championship No-Limit Hold’em main event, then began on September 27, 2008 as a five-day event. The action that led to a star-studded final table that included John Juanda, Daniel Negreanu, and Ivan Demidov was chronicled here.
In the end, it was Juanda who defeated Stanislav Alekhin after a marathon final table that lasted nearly 20 hours and almost 500 hands. And the tough battle led to Juanda claiming the top prize of £868,800 and the WSOPE champion title. What of that long heads-up match will be televised remains to be seen, but many fans hope it will be more thorough than the 2008 WSOP main event in November that consisted of only a select few hands between Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov.
Weighing in from ESPN was its senior director of programming and acquisitions, Doug White, as he said, “The intimate look and feel of this tournament is different from other WSOP events we produced in the United States.” Of what he referred was the small card club setting with two levels and tables in various odd corners of the casino.
ESPN also mentioned in the press release that they used something called the mobile hole card camera for the first time, which allowed the hole cards at outer tables to be seen, rather than the main or feature table alone. Throughout the coverage, viewers will be able to see the hole cards of numerous players who many have played interesting hands but didn’t make the final table action.
ESPN senior sports producer Jamie Horowitz said, “We believe the mobile hole card camera will provide fans a great understanding of the overall story behind the tournament, and how the players advanced to the final table.”
Fans in the United States will be able to see the first ever coverage of that WSOP Europe beginning on February 1st and will likely see a very different look than the WSOP episodes to which they’ve become accustomed.