Now that everyone has gotten to watch the World Series of Poker Main Event final table several hundred times on ESPN, I thought I would post some reflections on the success or failure of this new method of waiting 4 months to hold the final table. As many people have commented, waiting this long totally changed the dynamics of the table, because it gave the players months to get endorsements, sell percentages of themselves, hire personal coaches, etc. From a TV standpoint however, the public has spoken and they like it. Viewership was up almost 50%.

From a standpoint of the poker content of the show itself, it was disappointing to say the least. Of course, it was a small miracle that they were able to produce a two hour show like this with only 24 hours between the conclusion of the final table and the air time. But the hands themselves were, for the most part, not at all interesting from a poker point of view.

In a nutshell, this is the problem ESPN faces: with all the player profiling, footage of the player’s moms sitting in the audience, and of course commercials, they can only show about 10 hands an hour. They actually showed 23 this year, out of almost 300 hands that occurred at the final table. Of those 23, eight were the elimination hands for the 8 losers — which aren’t always very interesting hands, but they have to show them. So we’re down to 15 hands left, and most viewers want to see other big all-ins too (which again, aren’t always interesting “poker-wise”, they are just AA vs KK pre-flop, etc.)

The saddest thing is that I’ve heard the 4-hour long heads-up match between Eastgate and Demidov was fantastic, and yet ESPN only showed two hands, one of them being the final hand of the tournament.

So what are we left with? Well, not much, but I’ve decided to review the most instructive hand shown in the TV coverage. It was one of the first hands of the night, between Ivan Demidov (who went on to take second) and Dennis Phillips (the initial chip leader who nearly self-destructed in the first few rounds). That will be the subject of my next post…