Random Thoughts: WSOP Edition
It's great that ESPN is airing live broadcasts of the WSOP, but there are a few problems with the format. Poker tournaments are incredibly boring. For every one minute of excitement that you see on edited TV, there are 59 minutes of pure, insufferable boredom. ESPN's edited broadcasts of the WSOP have been terrific for years. These new live broadcasts have been total snoozers. First, they're not always showing hole cards, so a lot of the time you don't even really know what's going on. Second, players tanking for six minutes does not make for good TV. It's a huge burden on the commentators to try to keep viewers interested while some guy sits there contemplating for several minutes. The WSOP live broadcasts is a great idea in theory, but ESPN should admit that it's just not very good TV. A nice compromise would be nearly-live broadcasts, perhaps of the action from the day before, to give producers several hours to edit their content into something more entertaining. It would also give them a chance to edit out profanities; yesterday's action featured a player dropping un-edited "f-bombs" which is a turn off for a lot of viewers and bad for poker.
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During bubble play in all WSOP events, the tournament clock continues running despite hand-for-hand play. On last week's Main Event bubble, nearly the entirety of the 2500/5000 level elapsed while players awaited the bubble to burst. It's unfair to all players to allow a level to come and go in which they only play 10 hands due to some players tanking for several minutes with their tournament life on the line. The tournament clock should be paused during hand-for-hand play and five minutes should be removed for every hand that is played.
A widely distributed over/under line for the number of players in the 2011 Main Event was 5,250. The over turned out to be a stone cold lock as 6,865 players registered. In a vacuum, we like the under on next year's field size a lot. There are a few reasons for this. First, there's a lot of optimism in the poker world that Full Tilt (and even UB!) money will one day be returned. That may not happen. It could be that poker world is living in delusion about whether or not the $150+ million trapped on Full Tilt actually exists in their pockets. Secondly, taking the under on next year's field size is a decent way to indirectly fade poker's chances of becoming legalized in the U.S. in the next year. There are a lot of people out there walking around cocksure that poker will be legal soon. It's probably not a bad idea to fade that optimism. Keep in mind, poker could be legalized in August-October 2012 right before the election, just like how the UIGEA was passed. If that's the case, the effects wouldn't be seen until WSOP 2013.
Finally, the line on next year's field size will probably be constructed based on this year's field size. An over/under of 6,800 could be expected, so you really don't need much of a drop-off in participation at all in order to win the bet. In the next year, I think we'll see a lot of poker players move on with their lives and admit that their shot-taking in the poker world doesn't make sense anymore due to legal issues and tougher competition. For that reason, it's entirely reasonable to expect a small (5-10%) drop in field size which is all you probably need to win this bet. There are so many factors in play, so a lot could change in the next 12 months, but a more reasonable over/under for next year is 6,000 players in our opinion.
It's been said a million times before, but Caesars Entertainment could do a much better job accommodating players at the WSOP. They, and ESPN, make a killing on the WSOP. Players get the short end of the stick, especially now that there's no sponsorship money being passed around for wearing patches on featured tables. All you get for playing in the WSOP Main Event is a $10 food voucher. How about drastically reduced hotel rates at all Caesars properties for all players who register? Or a couple of $20 food vouchers for every day you're still in the tournament? Or less vig taken out of the prize pool? Unfortunately these are requests that will go unfulfilled; Caesars knows that they can objectify players for financial gain and that they'll play anyway.
It's nice that the Bubble Boy gets a free entry into the next year WSOP (paid out by Harrah's), but how about expanding that so that bubble play doesn't take so long?. One idea is to make it so that an unknown amount of people will be the Bubble Boy(s). After everyone finishes up, a die is rolled (or a card is drawn) and the number that comes up is the number of Bubble players that get their entry paid for.
While the November Nine was an interesting concept at first, how much added attention does it really get for ESPN? If the field is comprised of a bunch of no-names (like last year), it's pretty easy for the general population to simply tune it out. At least having the tournament run like a normal tournament gives the final table some momentum from previous WSOP events. Another idea is to simply delay it a week or two to let everyone catch their breath and build some suspense. Delaying three months just seems a bit of overkill at this point.