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Bye Bye November 9

February 1, 2012

But not really.

I have to admit, I was kind of excited about yesterday’s brief news snippet announcing that the November Nine was going away. Today, well, not so much, since the N9 is just being moved up one week to the end of October.

While I understand the concept behind the November Nine – Harrah’s/Caesars desire to make more money and attract more advertisers by turning the Main Event into the Made-For-TV Event – I have always thought it takes away from the tournament. As the Main Event has grown into the 3 – 4,000 player behemoth we know and sort of love today, the tournament has become a battle of attrition. Long hours at the table coupled with tough decisions and millions of dollars on the line make the Main a strenuous test of a player’s mental and physical endurance. And then, they get a three-month vacation.

Personally, I believe the Main should be played straight through or, at most, with a one-day break so players can have time to fly family and friends into town to root them on at the Penn & Teller Theater. By limiting the break before the final table, I think the WSOP would better preserve the spirit of the tournament and reward the player who can best handle the pressure. The three-month break is just too long, as far as I’m concerned.

Not only does three months give players time to fully recover, but it also provides way too much time for them to study their opponents and receive coaching that allows them to return to Vegas with a completely different game than their opponent’s saw before. Sure, you can argue that the break doesn’t favor any one player over another and that everybody has a chance to make strategic changes, but the thing is, why should any of them get that opportunity? If one opponent has picked up a tell on a competitor, why give the player who may be giving away free information a chance to identify and correct his “mistake?” Or, if not correct it, to turn the tell around to his advantage when play resumes in November?

I know the folks at Caesars and will tell me that the N9 is more than just a well-deserved break for the players. That the time off is a chance for them to interact with the press, to develop their back stories with the fans and media, and to potentially attract sponsors who may pay them additional money to wear their logos on TV. That’s all well and good in theory, but the truth is, none of that has really happened over the past four years, aside from Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi’s lucrative sponsorship from a Miami-area patio store.

In truth, the break is more about ESPN and their push to increase ratings for what is arguably the most important poker tournament in the world. The thing is, that’s probably not going to happen either. After last year’s nearly live stream of the final table, die-hard poker fans have shown they will watch the tournament unfold without any of the slick production values that have made WSOP broadcasts so popular in recent years. Sure, things don’t move as fast as on the edited show, but the drama of playing poker for millions of dollars is still enough to hold the serious viewer’s attention.

As for the casual viewer that ESPN and Caesars are trying to draw through the N9 concept – I think it’s safe to say they don’t really care. Poker viewership hasn’t changed significantly over the past few years, no matter what sort of “new” concepts producers try to bring to the table. The simple fact is, poker is a second-tier player in the television sports hierarchy, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Unfortunately, it seems, neither is Caesars and ESPN’s plans to try and milk even more money out of the WSOP by scheduling a made-for-TV event on a random weekend when no one but die-hard poker fans will care about the outcome.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 1, 2012 6:41 pm

    I have never actually watched a november 9 – I have missed every final table for the WSOP Main Event since it’s inception because of this.

    I get bored, i forget and ultimately I just don’t care any more.

    The tournament is fresh as it’s happening, when you tell me to wait 3 months to see the conclusion – well that’s a cliffhanger I’m just not interested in any more.

    As a result, I have watched less WSOP poker than previously and have gone on to watch other poker shows instead – show’s that don’t dick tease me and then tell me not to ejaculate for 3 months.

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