The 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event is in the books and Qui Nguyen is our newest World Champion of Poker. I’m not here to praise or criticize his play as there are plenty out there that will do that.
Rather, I want to take a look at the November Nine as a whole with a focus on the event itself rather than the quality of poker. Did fans enjoy the November Nine? Were there things that can be changed for next year? Is it time to abandon the concept altogether. Keep reading for some of my thoughts.
Pace of Play Was Much Better
The good news this year is that the overall pace of play by those at the final table was much quicker than we’ve seen for a few years. This was a point highlighted multiple times by the live reporting crew on ESPN.
Slow play has been a major issue over the last few years and even the controversies surrounding William Kassouf was based in part due to his slow play during the Main Event. The quicker pace of play made the final table much more bearable to watch (short of heads-up of course.)
Maybe Just Televise the Final 5
From what I have read, it seems that only the true diehard poker fans really enjoyed the first night of action. That’s not saying that we didn’t watch, but a solid number of fans found the initial night’s action somewhat dull.
Personally, I jumped ship and watched the Walking Dead during the 2nd hour of coverage. I still got back in time to see Fernando Pons bust out in 9th. With the number of final tables that play 7 or even 5-handed, it is interesting that the WSOP Main Event still employs a nine-handed final.
I’m not saying that we do away with the nine-handed final table, but maybe we just don’t televise the first night of play. Maybe just offer it streaming online and broadcast for the final five.
Better still, maybe do an hour long edited version of the first half of the final table before we start televising the final five. That way, the first four to bust still get TV time but we’re spared from hours of watching the short stacks trying to stave off what is normally the inevitable.
Maybe we can cut it down to the November 7? Only three times since the inception of the November Nine has someone in the top three came from the 8 or 9 spot and only one winner (Martin Jacobson started 8th in 2014.) Maybe play down to the final 7 in July and then have them return in November and play it out.
Sorry Antonio – It’s Time to Go
I personally have been a fan of the setup that the WSOP has used for the last few years for the November Nine. Lon McEachern and Norman Chad along with Antonio Esfandiari has been a solid commentary team.
However, it seems that fans are ready for some type of change in the broadcasting booth. Frankly, I am beginning to agree. Maybe I am getting tired of some of the jokes or maybe I am ready for a different pro perspective.
There were some calls during the coverage for young blood in the booth. Jason Somerville was a name that was thrown around a couple of times but another that I fell would be a better fit is Nick Schulman.
If you watched the Super High Roller Bowl coverage this past summer, you heard the broadcast duo Ali Nejad and Schulman call the action. I don’t see ESPN getting rid of Lon or Norm, so the best we can hope for is Schulman. But that would be a huge upgrade that I think fans will welcome.
Also, maybe we replace Daniel Negreanu with Jason Somerville. I personally still like Hellmuth in the on-break segments with Kara Scott, but some young blood there might also work.
Throw Some Segments in to Break Up the Monotony
While there may be something to be said for showing EVERY hand of a final table, I think that ESPN should consider doing something to break up some of the monotony during the final table.
Maybe incorporate some additional player pieces during action or maybe have some in stand interviews while play in commencing. In the event we get a big hand developing during one of these segments, we can break back to coverage right away.
It is time to do something to spice things up a little bit during the coverage, especially during periods that drag on what seems eternal such as heads-up play. I’d rather listen to Hellmuth give a Master’s class in White Magic than watch the slow death that was Gordon Vayo.
Some Tweaks Can Make Future Broadcasts Less Brutal
While there were times that this November Nine provided some of the most exciting poker we’ve seen in a while, some of the brutal moments may have erased some of that excitement. The all-night heads-up matchup resulted in the Main Event ending a 6:45 a.m. (broadcast time) on the East Coast.
How many poker fans can afford to stay up that late? I was up because I’m always up all night but also because it’s part of my job. However, if you are looking to boost ratings for poker programming, this is not something you really want.
While we can’t control the length of heads-up play without tinkering with structures, there are some things that can be done to try and avoid these all-nighters in the future. Will the WSOP do this without abandoning the November Nine concept? Or is it time to finally put this concept to bed?
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