ESPN to Resume WSOP Broadcasts This Weekend
With the World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour having recently started their new seasons and the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific (WSOP APAC) just about ready to begin, the WSOP Main Event has become somewhat of a forgotten entity. One of the original ideas behind the final table’s move to November was to build up the hype, but that just does not happen nowadays. ESPN, though, is determined to insert the WSOP Main Event firmly back in our minds as its telecast of the entire tournament kicks off this weekend.
ESPN has not broadcast of the World Series of Poker since August 12th, the final episode of the million dollar buy-in Big One for One Drop Event. Main Event episodes start September 28th and will air every Sunday night through November 9th from 9:00pm until 11:00pm. It is an interesting scheduling decision for ESPN, as it will be putting the World Series of Poker directly up against NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which has taken over Monday Night Football’s (which airs on ESPN) spot as the premier prime-time game of the week. Poker and football target essentially the same core demographic, so the decision to pit poker against football is a bit curious.
The goal of the weekly broadcasts is to build up the narrative for the No-Limit Hold’em Championship and develop viewer interest through the final Sunday night episode, which will conclude with the tenth place elimination and determination of the official final table.
The very next day, November 10th, marks the start of the WSOP Main Event final table. ESPN2 will broadcast it nearly live, complete with hole cards, with a short delay beginning at 8:00pm ET. There is no scheduled end time for that first night of the final table, as play will continue until just two players remain. (Good luck to anyone hoping to watch non-poker on ESPN2 Monday night and Tuesday morning.) Those two players will return the next night at 9:00pm (well, technically a little before that because of the delay) to battle it out for the $10 million first prize and all the fame and glory that comes with being crowned World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.
As mentioned, ESPN’s telecast of the World Series of Poker began with the Big One for One Drop Event. There were three Big One for One Drop episodes – six if you consider each two hour block as split into two one-hour episodes – airing three consecutive Tuesday nights starting July 29th. There were two main highlights of those episodes. The first was one of the worst beats, particularly considering the stakes, in the history of televised poker. There were 19 players left and the tournament paid to just eight places; Connor Drinan and Cary Katz ended up all-in pre-flop, both holding pocket aces. By the time the river card was dealt, there were four hearts on the board, giving Katz an unlikely flush and booting Drinan out of the tournament.
The other highlight (or lowlight, as some people would consider it), was Daniel Colman’s reaction to winning $15.3 million. He had none. Colman did not want to be interviewed by ESPN afterward and did not want to pose for the traditional picture with the money. He finally did both, but did not smile in the picture and only wanted to talk about the One Drop charity in the interview (which, I suppose, is admirable). After reactions in the poker community were mixed, Colman came out and explained that he owes nothing to poker and, in fact, does not like poker. He considers it a harmful pastime and just participates for a paycheck.
ESPN’s broadcast schedule of the World Series of Poker has changed significantly through the years. Back in 2003 and 2004, the years public interest in poker really started to grow, ESPN showed many preliminary events, introducing viewers to wide array of poker varieties. In 2007, ESPN aired footage from ten preliminary events. That number was cut to seven in 2008 and then all the way down to just three in 2009. Only two preliminary events were aired in 2010; one more was added in 2011. In 2012, that figure was once again down to two and those two events weren’t even typically side events: the Big One for One Drop and the WSOP National Championship, both No-Limit Hold’em tournaments. The Big One was not held in 2013, so prior to the Main Event, ESPN broadcast the WSOP APAC Main Event and the WSOP National Championship.
2014 ESPN World Series of Poker Main Event Broadcast Schedule
September 28th – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
October 5th – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
October 12th – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
October 19th – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
October 26th – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
November 2nd – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
November 9th – 9:00pm-11:00pm ET – Main Event
November 10th – 9:00pm ET – Main Event Final Table
November 11th – 9:00pm ET – Main Event Final Table