RE: Big Changes to the WSOP Main Event Final Table

by , Apr 5, 2008 | 9:02 am

Have done a little semi-investigative drinking digging, and here are a few more quasi-confirmed “facts” regarding a major potential schedule change mid-main event:

  • No decision is final yet, but on the big pro-con list, the left side of the board has it all but locked up.
  • Television ratings are the driving force behind this idea.
  • It was essential, however, that the integrity of the game be protected and blind structures unaltered, no matter what ESPN says.
  • “Plausibly live” is the buzzphrase for what they’re trying to create. (Pokerati applauds the linguistic choice, btw, and would like to suggest “presumably non-rigged” as well.)
  • The final table will be played over two days — from the final 9 to 2, and then heads-up the next day. Very Sangy.
  • Timing will be carefully coordinated so most people will be watching to see who will win, not how one wins (the Olympics broadcast model)
  • All final tableists will be paid 9th place money in July and will have their return trips to Vegas comped.

46 Comments to “RE: Big Changes to the WSOP Main Event Final Table”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    What if headsup is 1 hand? Today’s EPT final table, which was 8-handed took less than 3 hours (and this including multiple breaks), with 3 handed to end took just 3 hands total.

    When will this be announced to the general public that there’ll be a 90 day delay between the final table and the live conclusion? You’d hope it’d be done before the WSOP actually starts next month.

  2. Ed

    still on the side of most retarded thing being done in the WSOP.

    2nd..those “special” peek cards they used.

  3. DanM


    ed? come-on … that’s so early ’07. I will bet you that not a single person in this decision-making process has an IQ below 100. And though you can make an argument about how a bunch of smart heads put together in a corporate way could lower the overall intelligence in the room, I will also bet you that there were no douchebags in play.

  4. DanM

    ***What if headsup is 1 hand?***

    Good question … I suppose they could just treat it like a rain-out and air reruns of World Series of Blackjack.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    When I asked that question on 2+2, Oliver said that they could do what they did when boxing was done live back in the day: analsyis, interviews, etc. I’m sure they could just do an extended SportsCenter or something like that.

  6. DanM

    got a link to the meaningful 2+2 thread?

  7. Kevin Mathers
    says: (moved from TV poker)

  8. Ed

    sorry dan…i should have mentioned how only a bunch of r-tards could come up with such a brainy idea.

  9. Short-Stacked Shamus

    If we’re talking old-fashioned stuff like integrity, competition, and, well, poker, my first, second, and third impressions are this is a truly horrific idea.

    If we’re talking new-world stuff like celebrity, hype, and crass commercialism, why this is the bee’s knees!

  10. Poker on TV

    Could you clarify what you mean by a few things Dan?
    – “Plausibly live:” is this the “live illusion” (I think that’s what the WPT calls it) where they show <20% of hands but pretend they’re showing every one? I hope we get better than that.
    – “The final table will be played over two days.” Both “plausibly live” or just the latter?
    – “Timing will be carefully coordinated so most people will be watching to see who will win, not how one wins (the Olympics broadcast model).” Huh?

    Also, bravo to “It was essential, however, that the integrity of the game be protected and blind structures unaltered, no matter what ESPN says.” I was worried about that.

  11. BJ Nemeth

    I still support this idea, and suspect a lot of the negativity is just a knee-jerk reaction to trying something different. It’s natural to fear change.

    We all know that televised poker sparked the big boom in our industry in 2003, and poker is still knocking on the door of becoming a real spectator “sport.” But if even your casual fans know the results ahead of time, the WSOP broadcast loses a lot of its luster. And there’s no way to hype the final table to potential fans without knowing who’s going to play.

    Commercial Announcer: “Watch the final table of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event, starring nine as-yet-unknown people who will probably still be unknown when it starts. Tune in LIVE, Sunday at 3:00 pm Eastern time, noon Pacific.”

    What Harrah’s and ESPN are trying to do is increase the population of poker fans. I, for one, think that there is a huge market of potential poker fans out there that hasn’t been reached yet. Previous “live” tournaments have been sit-n-goes with relatively low stakes for the players, or 12-hour marathons for hard-core fans on pay-per-view.

    To be honest, even though I have been reporting live from the WSOP the last few years, watching the players play to the final table, I think I will enjoy the final table more if I have time to learn more information on the players. It’ll give me something to root for more than “I recognize Lee Watkinson,” or “That woman in Raymond Rahme’s group is really hot.”

    Many people seem to be pondering the “what ifs” about the time delay. What if somebody gets sick, or dies, or gets in a car accident? These things are already factors, although admittedly much less of a factor — the players already leave the premises for a night or two, and anything can happen. Vinnie Vinh played sick (some kind of “sick,” at least), and Eskimo Clark passed out at a table. These issues are already potentially out there. I’m also not so cynical to think that people will be resorting to foul play (murder?) to increase their odds of a big payday. How come with all the millions bet on the Superbowl each year, we’ve never seen a star quarterback the victim of a “random act of violence.”

    I also don’t see how this compromises the integrity or the competition of the event. Who cares if a player receives instruction from a top pro in the interim? It already happens to a lesser extent, and it’s well within the rules as long as it’s not during play. Besides, if it’ll improve the quality of play during poker’s premiere event, I’m all for it.

    In fact, it might be an added element of interest if nine relatively unknown players have different professional poker coaches. Daniel Negreanu helps out one player, while Phil Hellmuth helps out another, and Barry Greenstein tutors a third. Those recognizable players would presumably show up for the event itself, and give more fans a rooting interest in the outcome.

    There are definitely downsides to this plan, but most are being overstated, and none of them are dealbreakers. The biggest upside is huge ratings for poker, which increases the potential for mainstream sponsorships. Poker would be a much healthier industry if they were attracting sponsors like Coca-Cola and Toyota rather than and

    Think back to the last three WSOP Main Events, and how eager you were to watch them on ESPN. Most people reading Pokerati already knew the outcome, and watching the action on ESPN was just to add visuals to the story you already knew, and pick up some information on the hole cards and see how crazy (or sane) certain players were. Yes, last year we had a live Pay-per-view of the final table, but only the hard-core fans would ever care to sit through a potentially 12-hour final table.

    Let ESPN record the final table, and quickly edit it down to several hours to be shown a day or two later. (I assume that’s what they mean by “plausibly live” rather than live.) If they could turn it around the same day, that would be awesome, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Actually, waiting an extra day or two for the heads-up match is also a great idea, even if it only lasts one hand. What it gives you is the ability to show the heads-up match live, or at least live with the same one-hour delay imposed on the sequestered events last year.

    Again, I think too many people are too focused on how things *used* to be, rather than how things could be or should be. Change is difficult, but it’s inevitable. Some players like Erik Seidel argued heavily against holecams, which are now commonly accepted as a key factor in the poker boom. A lot of people complained about multiple starting days in the 2004 WSOP, and it’s now considered standard for major tournaments with large fields.

    Baseball purists argued against the wild card and interleague play. Where are all those complaints now? (They mainly come from people who attach too much sentiment to memories of their own younger days.)

    Let Harrah’s and ESPN take a risk and try something dramatic. For those of you who are against this, what is the *worst* possible scenario? (Don’t talk to me about hit men and murdering your competitors, because I refuse to accept that as a plausible outcome.)

    The more I think about this, the more I think this is not a good idea — it’s a GREAT idea.

  12. Easycure

    I think it’s a good idea, but why wait 90 days? Why not just take a week off, so people don’t have to leave town if they don’t want to?

    Unless, you decide to have the Final Table in a special place for commercial reasons only, such as Trump’s Boardroom.

  13. BJ Nemeth

    The 90-day delay is to give ESPN enough time to edit and broadcast several weeks of Main Event coverage leading up to the final table. They clearly can’t show the entire 2-week event live, and who cares to watch Day 1 or Day 3 when they’ve already seen the final table?

    Remember, this move is primarily motivated by ratings. A live final table would also increase the ratings for earlier days of the main event. Even for those of us who were there live, it would give us a chance to refresh our memories, and see some of the pre-final table action that we didn’t see in person.

  14. Anonymous Asshole

    Capitalism has run amuck. That will be the world’s impression of this move everyone.

    Stock market Bubble

    Real Estate Bubble

    Executive Compensation that is BEYOND nuts in this country vs. Europe

    This will be perceived as a decision based on TV, ratings and potential $$$ for ESPN, not the world series and the integrity of the game.

    Give someone 90 days to get info. on other people’s game and you will have problems re: collusion, asymetric sharing of information (some people will have better networks than others), etc.

    Sorry but this is capitalism run amuck. Sounds to me like they are tired of the amateurs winning the big game and want to give the professionals time to get info. together so they can win “the big one”

    AA out

  15. Pauly

    It’s a horrible idea and only fueled by greed. The tournament should be played until the last person is left standing.

  16. Alicia

    I think trying new things to increase the number of new fish in the game is a great idea. Innovation always comes with pushback… usually from people that lack vision. I’ll be interested to see how this shakes out.

    BJ touched on the point that I’m most concerned about: how are they going to show a “live-ish” broadcast that won’t show all the newbies that poker is a game of what can be rounds and rounds of boring play with intermittant excitement. I don’t think that would attract people, but repel them. What brought a lot of people to this game was the perception that every hand was like the ones they saw on ESPN, filled with all-in pushes and crazy bluffs. That play paid off my car and I’m grateful to ESPN for somewhat misrepresenting the game. So I’m anxious to see how they can add all the drama and the excitement of other coverage to the format they are proposing.

    Rest assured, if things don’t go well, they’ll scrap that format for the 2009 WSOP and will probably try something else new… and good for them!

  17. California Jen

    My initial reaction was extremely negative. I’m one of the people BJ mentioned who doesn’t like change.

    After thinking about this subject for a few days, I see some of the positives but still sit on the negative side.

    Sure, I see that delaying the final table allows for more people to catch up with the rest of the series, ESPN to do a build-up and get crazy ad money, and players to prepare and get sponsorship money. But does anyone really think Coca-Cola – or any similar ad giant – is going to sponsor a poker final tablist? How many more people are actually going to watch the final table play out?

    People outside of poker who stumble upon the WSOP on ESPN are going to do so whether the final table is extra hyped or not. People who don’t follow poker are no more likely to watch it because of a big build-up with extra drama and advertising. And those of us in the poker media only need a few days to hype these players. If there was a 3-day delay, the poker media would go nuts with player interviews and digging up info on the players, but a month or more? That would simply lull most of the poker media into a semi-coma.

    It would dramatically affect the outcome of the final table. Players go into it with momentum or a lack thereof, with a good or a bad run of cards, with a lot of experience (as a pro) or very little (Yang)… All of these factors play into the final table, as they should. Giving so much time for the players to all “get training” takes away the story that brought them to the final table in the first place. The guy who plays in a home game and won a $30 satellite and now sits at the final table should NOT be getting training from Phil Hellmuth! The whole idea of the delayed table breaks momentum and gives some players an unfair advantage (unknown player being able to see tons of footage of known pro, but known pro having no clue about the unknown player).

    I’m not so much worried about a player dying and not making it to the final. But there are other things to consider. Say well-known pro has a spectacular WSOP, wins a bracelet and makes the final table of the main event. But in the few months that follow, well-known pro has a bad run of luck, is dumped by girlfriend, father dies, and already blew a majority of the winnings that he was paid. That guy could’ve won the WSOP main event if he had been allowed to play it out, but waiting so long changed everything. Fair?

    That’s great if ESPN will pay for the final table players to come back to Vegas for days of taping, but what if average joe player can’t get another week off work? What if the final table is scheduled for the time that his daughter is getting married? And it’s the beginning of April and we still have no idea if this thing is even going to happen, much less the dates of the final table, etc.

    Along those lines, what about the poker media? Many of us make very special arrangements to be in Vegas for the entirety of the WSOP, and a lot of the reporters don’t do traveling assignments during the remainder of the year. Now, everyone has to arrange for another trip to Vegas – accommodations, etc. – for two more days. What about the poor kids who come all the way from Europe and other far-off places? Airline tix are outrageous, and they’ll have to do the whole thing again to see the supposedly-much-hyped final table.

    And making a whole separate day for the heads-up portion is just asking for trouble. As someone said, what if it is one or two hands? That’s entirely possible and would make for the longest final show ever if 95% of it is hype and silly chatter.

    I see a little of the potential, but I just can’t see how this is going to be good for poker in the long run. I’m not on the bandwagon.

  18. BJ Nemeth

    Why is capitalism assumed to be a bad thing? Capitalism is just another way of saying “Give the people what they want.” If you look back at the growth of all the major sports, most of it was attributable to greed and capitalism.

    Where are all the complaints about the two-week break before the Superbowl? Why not play one week after the league championships? Doesn’t that extra week give teams extra time to scout their opponents, changing the dynamic of the final game? Doesn’t that extra time benefit the team that has a weaker bench, by resting the starters? Doesn’t that extra time benefit the team that has had more injuries? (Of course it does all these things, but it also gives the media hype machine an extra week to build ratings for the big game.)

    What about the complaints about travel days during baseball’s World Series? Shouldn’t baseball be a marathon, with all seven games played in a row? Teams shouldn’t be able to get through the playoffs with just three good starting pitchers because of the off days. The regular season requires 4 or 5 solid starting pitchers, so why not the playoffs?

    The WSOP Main Event started out as a single table sit-n-go (winner take all) that finished the same day it started. It has grown into a two-week marathon that pays 10% of the field, includes thousands of amateurs that got in at a 90% discount (or more), and uses spy cameras that reveal the secret strategies of top professional players.

    Most poker players agree that all of these changes have been a net positive for the game and the industry as a whole. I believe the same thing will be said about this a few years from now.

  19. BJ Nemeth

    Jen, you know I love you, but I couldn’t disagree with you more when you said:

    “People outside of poker who stumble upon the WSOP on ESPN are going to do so whether the final table is extra hyped or not. People who don’t follow poker are no more likely to watch it because of a big build-up with extra drama and advertising. And those of us in the poker media only need a few days to hype these players. If there was a 3-day delay, the poker media would go nuts with player interviews and digging up info on the players, but a month or more? That would simply lull most of the poker media into a semi-coma.”

    I’m certain it would attract far more fans to watch the final table on TV if it were “live,” and the results weren’t known ahead of time. And I’m willing to bet that most of the poker media will be super-excited by the time the final table rolls around, having had time to really get to know the players and seen the TV coverage of some of their earlier days.

    And when you talked about the poker media being in a semi-coma, surely you’re referring to the *current* situation, where we’re covering the final table after seven weeks of hell, right? If they delay the final table, we’ll actually be fresh and on top of our games. I know I will.

  20. Ed

    “The 90-day delay is to give ESPN enough time to edit and broadcast several weeks of Main Event coverage leading up to the final table.”

    One of the reasons it is a dumb idea. If I could be sure that none of my play would be seen by others if I made the final table then I have no problem with it. Somehow I doubt this would happen.

  21. California Jen

    Yo, BJ, wanna take this outside? 😉

    Two weeks before the SuperBowl and three months before the WSOP final table are not the same. Three months??? I’d be much more apt to look at a few days with optimism than 90 days. (And your baseball World Series analogy doesn’t work for me. I don’t see your point.)

    To your point that more fans would be attracted if it were live, that doesn’t work for most people because they think it’s live in the first place. People who don’t follow poker regularly think it IS live when it airs on ESPN.

    Sure, we’re all in a semi-coma after seven weeks of coverage. And giving us a few days – even a week or two – to think about it, research the players, and come with a new perspective would probably be positive. But I’ll say it again – 90 days? The media will talk about the players for a week after the table is set, then it won’t be mentioned again until a week before the final table is ready to play out. The poker media, on the whole, is easily distracted with the next tournament and other things going on. Take the Absolute Poker scandal. When it wasn’t breaking news, very few people cared, and journalists stopped reporting on it, despite the fact that crimes took place and people went unprosecuted. The poker media reports on what’s exciting this week, then moves on. You really think people will stay excited about one final table – possibly with no well-known pros – for three months?

    The only people benefiting from this will be ESPN, Harrah’s (possibly), and agents who will swarm the final players and coax them into PR deals.

  22. BJ Nemeth

    I’ll take it outside anytime you want, Jen. 🙂

    Yes, we should have our own point-counterpoint debate show. This and women-only tournaments.

  23. Kevin Mathers

    The one group that hasn’t commented on this are the one that’s the most important, the players themselves. Has this been discussed among the Competition Committee or other professionals? You’d think that if they approved of this, there’d be some sort of additional compensation for those that make the final table then getting a free trip back to Vegas. You’d hope that if this happens, it takes place sometime in the next 6 weeks or so instead of pulling some sort of surprise on the participants.

    BJ, if you do a search on Google for two week break super bowl you’ll find pro/con opinions on that extra week break. Also 1 day or 7 days is much different than 3 months. The only reason it’s a 90+ day delay is to get into the November “sweeps” period where ESPN is HOPING that it will improve the ratings.

  24. California Jen

    Speaking of the players, let’s take two hypothetical guys at the big-whoop-tee-doo-90-day-delayed final table.

    Player A: College kid, won the seat on PokerStars. This kid can now spend three months playing online, getting training, signing up on a training site, paying someone for private tutoring, and watching the ESPN tapes of Player B over and over and over and over. He takes a semester off school and devotes 100% of his time to improving his game.

    Player B: 40-something factory worker, won a satellite at the WSOP the day before the main event. This guy has to go immediately back to work after he returns from Vegas. He might be able to spend a few hours a week improving his game, but he has a wife and kids to spend time with. He can’t spend 1/100th of the time that Player A can on improving his game.


  25. Alicia

    Ok, this is getting silly… What if Germany gets out of line again and takes all of Europe hostage preventing all the Europeans from participating in the final table unless they take part in a Scotty Nguyen-style boat escape?!?!?!? Would that be fair?!?!?!?

    Come on people. We could “what if” this to death coming up with scenarios that, quite frankly, won’t happen. As Clayton Williams gubernatorial-crushing quote says (only slightly altered)… “When it’s inevitable, just lie back and enjoy it” (for those that don’t remember… he was likening crazy Texas weather to rape)

  26. California Jen

    I don’t think my example was far off from a likely scenario. AND it was merely an example of why the 3-month lag time is unfair to players.

    The thing is… this decision by Harrah’s isn’t inevitable. It hasn’t been announced, and the players (and the media) sure the hell have a voice.

  27. BJ Nemeth

    Kevin — I’m sure there are dissenting opinions on the 2-week delay before the Superbowl. But they are clearly a small minority at this point.

    Jen — My examples of the Superbowl and baseball’s World Series weren’t directed at you. They were directed at those who argue that a delay goes against the “purity” of the sport itself.

    Also, the factory worker would immediately receive $500,000 (9th place money) if the prize structure matched the 2007 numbers. That should be enough for a poor, struggling factory worker to take time off to focus his game, should he choose to do so.

    How the players use that time off will be part of what’s interesting. Everyone on 2+2 argues that the players will devote themselves full-time to practice and strategy, because that’s what *they* would do. Of course, they would, they are posters at 2+2. I highly doubt Gavin Smith would enter a training program to study the intricacies of his opponent’s tendencies, nor do I think someone like Jerry Yang would start practicing 8 hours a day online. Some players will “train” by practicing and studying their opponents, while others will just relax and enjoy the ride.

    Alicia’s argument is taken to the extreme, but she’s absolutely right. People are reeling off all sorts of random “What if” scenarios. And I haven’t heard a scenario yet that could happen during a 90-day delay, but not in the current 2-day delay.

    Okay, back to work for me. (I’m covering the WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic today.)

  28. Poker on TV

    I’m willing to bet that if this goes ahead ratings for the final table at least double. Prop bet anyone?

    How much money have the poker players among us made from the hole-card-cam-induced poker boom? There’s more money to be made if this succeeds.

    That said, anything they could do to reduce the 90 day period would be good. Perhaps don’t cover the earlyier tournament days at all? I’d prefer proper coverage of the early days,* but ESPN’s coverage has always been poor. I have some hope that coverage will improve this year due to comments Jeffrey Pollack has made though.

    * The PPT did a pretty good job with that: covering one table at a time well, as opposed to ESPN trying to show a bit of everything and doing nothing well.

  29. olivert

    I do NOT believe Harrah’s/WSOP has any choice at this point but to hold the heads-up match of the 2008 WSOP Main Event on “live” TV, at a date and time that is dictated by ESPN, Inc. sometime during October or November.

    Otherwise, Harrah’s/WSOP will the “rights fee considerations” from ESPN, Inc.

  30. olivert

    I do NOT believe Harrah’s/WSOP has any choice at this point but to hold the heads-up match of the 2008 WSOP Main Event on “live” TV, at a date and time that is dictated by ESPN, Inc. sometime during October or November.

    Otherwise, I don’t believe Harrah’s/WSOP will be able to convince ESPN, Inc. to keep offering “video rights fee considerations” for the WSOP in the future.

    Poker not only has a TV ratings erosion problem, but a demographics problem that is similar to the demographics problem faced by “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” when ABC pulled the show from prime time in 2001.

    Poker on one particular channel (GSN) has a serious demographics problem, with the median age of the viewers above 50. That is not good if you are trying to use poker to sell beer and caffeinated beverage to the 18-24, 18-34, and 18-49 age demographics.

  31. Laurie

    Here is a post from olivert on 2+2 in the Tournament circuit/wsop “major tours health check status” thread, talking about the ESPN/411 productions filming schedule. Just thought it would be relavant to this discussion…..
    I understand that ESPN is streamlining production for the upcoming 2008 WSOP in the following ways:

    1. The ESPN/441 Productions crew will tape the televised events in just 2 batches instead of 3 or 4 in the past. Batch 1 will be during the first week of the WSOP, and batch 2 will start 3 weeks later with the $50K HORSE, the $10K PLO, and the $10K Main Event. The 3-week break between the two batches will reduce the need for 441 to have TV arena technical crew personnel available in Las Vegas, freeing the crew members to pursue other projects on their own during the break.

    2. ESPN will NOT offer WSOP Main Event Final Table pay-per-view in 2008, according to multiple sources familiar with the status of that project.

  32. Marvin C

    Lert’s give it a chance. It has to increase the ratings since now we all know the winner and how they won of every tournament. We will watch or tape the first live final just to see the who and how, since we won’t be able to read it on Pokerati until it’s over.

    The real reason that ESPN has to wait 90 days is how involved in baseball they are. They have wall to wall baseball which has killed the ratings for real games. Why watch a four hour game when you can see all the highlights in two minutes and get the highlights from every game?

    Will there be deals made? Of course. We know that the pros make deals and colude and dump. Will they get training? Some will and some won’t. Did Johnny Chan make a difference to Jaime Gold or was it catching great cards at the right time?

    Only time will tell. Maybe ESPN will have a better voice in getting online gaming approved. Maybe it will all fail and we will only see the final table on tape. Who knows, but at least it’s worth a try. We have seen the decline in poker shows. And pay for viuew wouldn’t draw enough hits to pay expenses.

  33. olivert

    Having read the comments above, I get the sense that not everyone has fully realized that the entire poker as televised entertainment industry in the U.S. has reached a critical inflection point, with the health of the entire industry now resting in whatever decision Harrah’s/WSOP is about to make with regards to the televised presentation 2008 WSOP Main Event Final Table.

    What I am about the write next is dead serious: if Harrah’s were to maintain the status quo in 2008, then I honestly believe that ESPN will probably walk away after the 2008 WSOP due to continued TV ratings erosion (more specifically: the demographic shift of TV poker from young viewers during the boom years to viewers with a median age of well above 50) and the WSOP will not see another TV rights fee ever again as long as the WSOP is held on U.S. soil.

    Recall the history of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” on ABC, where the median age of the viewers shot up dramatically from the mid-40’s to 54 before ABC had no choice but to yank the show from prime time during the Autumn of 2001.

    If Harrah’s/WSOP were to do nothing now, then I wouldn’t be surprised if WSOP on ESPN will follow the path to irrelevance that “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” took at the beginning of the 21st century.

    Again, I believe Harrah’s/WSOP has no choice but to hold the heads-up battle of the 2008 WSOP Main Event on live TV during the Autumn at a time and date dictated by ESPN. This decision, though drastic as it may seem, may represent TV poker’s last chance in the U.S. market.

  34. Garry

    A 90-day delay seems to be a good way to kill any momentum that somebody built up getting to the final table.

  35. Pauly

    This comment three is useless without commentary from Oliver Tse.

    Oliver, wherever you are, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

  36. DanM

    ***This decision, though drastic as it may seem, may represent TV poker’s last chance in the U.S. market.***

    Oliver, while I agree with most of your assessment of current poker economic indicators, with all due respect I have to ask … are you losing it dude!?!

    Isn’t it possible that the WSOP brass is just mixing shit up in a progressive effort to stay on top? Proactive vs. reactive, yo! A little fizzun for the bizzun!

    You like to look at numbers — check out Harrah’s (HET) compared to the WPT (WPTE). They are not the same animal. The WPT may not have responded well to the changing, post-UIGEA/High Stakes Poker environment, but what’s to say the WSOP is not just taking advice from you:

    Oliver Tse ringtone:

    BTW, that was recorded in late ’06. Are you suggesting it no longer applies in ’08?

  37. DanM

    Another BTW … I think Who Wants to Be a Millionaire does pretty well in syndication. If poker didn’t have that potential, ESPN wouldn’t re-run old WSOP’s so often, I don’t think.

  38. olivert

    There are 3 TV poker products left in the U.S. that still receive “rights fees”:

    1. WPT, which chose to take the money from GSN with predictable results given GSN’s demographics and given WPT’s Monday night time slot opposite “WWE Raw”: the median age of the TV audience for WPT shot up to well above 50. No wonder Budweiser and Xyience Energy Drink terminated their WPT sponsorship deals. Sony Entertainment (which manages GSN) ousted GSN’s last CEO in July 2007 due to GSN’s declining ratings and AARP-eligible demographics.

    2. NBC Heads-Up, which is headed into a contract option year after the 2008 edition has aired. Ratings in 2007 were off about 15% compared to 2006.

    3. WSOP, which allegedly will have 2 years left in the TV rights fee agreement with ESPN after 2008, the same “alleged 2 years left” in the agreement between ESPN and the Trump Taj Mahal U.S. Poker Championship when ESPN chose to walk away from the Trump Taj after the 2006 U.S. Poker Championship aired.

    Bottom line: no TV network in the U.S., and especially not sports TV networks which target the ages 18-24, 18-34, and 18-49 demographics, will pay a rights fee for poker if the median age for televised poker were above 50.

    Harrah’s/WSOP has to do something, and something fast, in order to keep the median age of its TV viewership from being eligible for AARP membership.

  39. olivert

    > Another BTW … I think Who Wants to Be a Millionaire does pretty well in syndication. If poker didn’t have that potential, ESPN wouldn’t re-run old WSOP’s so often, I don’t think.

    If you want the WSOP to end up on GSN or on daytime or late night TV exclusively, then the status quo is acceptable.

    If you want the WSOP to stay on ESPN during prime time, than I do not believe the status quo is acceptable.

    Harrah’s/WSOP and ESPN both know what has happened with the WPT with its move to GSN: while WPTE will do well enough on GSN to collect a bonus in addition to the rights fee, WPT will have a very difficult time attracting sponsors because a majority of WPT’s TV viewership in the U.S. is now eligible for AARP membership.

  40. DanM

    ***keep the median age of its TV viewership from being eligible for AARP membership.***

    LOL, Oliver did you just make a joke!? No. 5 is alive!

  41. olivert

    Some of you guys may know that I had been travelling to WPT events in the past 2 months to do one-day logo deals for players who made WPT TV final tables starting with Tunica in January.

    I had a non-refundable plane ticket on a red-eye flight leaving the Pacific Time Zone on Monday at 10pm for the East Coast, which would have gotten me to Foxwoods in time for the TV bubble on Tuesday.

    I will NOT be getting on that flight on Monday night and I will NOT be at Foxwoods on Tuesday.

  42. DanM

    Um, OK, and why is that? Because there are no deals to be had?

  43. California Jen

    Details please, Oliver.

  44. Kevin Mathers

    Maybe this guy mentioned in Bryan Devonshire’s blog, found at
    will be there to represent:

    “I went to bed Thursday night expecting to wake up to a message knowing who was sponsoring me at the final table. I needed to get that taken care of before I went to make-up at 2pm. Maria called me at 11:15 and asked me about the deal, said she was on the phone with Vanessa Russo talking deals at the moment. I said see what you can find out and went to get a hold of Matt.

    Turns out he got stonewalled and couldn’t make anything happen. Crap.

    OK, I’ll try the guy that tried to chase me down the night before. He was way too aggressive and abrasive and it really turned me off. I didn’t want to do business with him, but was out of options.

    He says, “PokerStars decided they only wanted to take Jason.”

    Wow. Last night they said they’ll take me and Jason and to let them know in the morning. “

  45. olivert

    *** OK, I’ll try the guy that tried to chase me down the night before. He was way too aggressive and abrasive and it really turned me off. I didn’t want to do business with him, but was out of options.

    That “guy” was me.


    Go back to read the posts above carefully and you should be able to figure out why I won’t be at Foxwoods on Tuesday even though I had a non-refundable plane ticket.

  46. donkey

    Ok, these are the top five reasons why Harrah’s will be delaying the Final Table for 90 days.

    5. Hey, I can get interest for $50 mil for 90 days, woo hoo!
    4. This will give Scotty Nguyen plenty of time to get a perm. “Hey da prince of poker has to look good, right baby?”
    3. Gives everyone a chance to finish watching all the episodes of 2007 WSOP. Yes 2007!
    2. Harrah is building a custom made final table that includes: personalized MP3 and DVD built into each person’s slot, heart rate monitor, mind reading software, chip counter for each person that counts each chip up to the last dollar, and built in mini fridge for every player.

    And the number one reason why Harrah is delaying the Final Table for 90 days:

    1. This will give the finalists plenty of time to attend Daniel Negreaunu $15k Seminar and hopefully pick up a few pointers before coming back.