Improvements to the World Series of Poker November Nine

Yes, I know the World Series of Poker Main Event is perfect, the November Nine has been a dream, and there is no need for improvement. Or not. Television ratings were down for the second year running. In fact, they were barely bigger than they were three years ago before they moved to the November Nine format. Also the odds on favorite Johnathan Duhamel won but he wasn't the guy the suits wanted to win.

The first year of the November Nine ratings took off and a lot of excitement was drummed up and the final table had the feel of an event. It looked like poker was going to carve a little spot into the crowded sports (okay sports/entertainment) television market place. Watching live poker is a bit like watching a pack of caterpillars change into a butterfly. It’s pretty much only interesting when the players have to expose the cards. That would be the moment, a cocoon opens up and out crawls the butterfly. Okay, I should have just said like watching grass grow or paint dry. Sorry. But point is it’s boring, and unlike the other two activities there are brief fleeting moments of excitement. Made all the more exciting if you did a little bwin mobile betting beforehand which I didn't.

The November Nine was an attempt to inject a live “feel” to the game and an event atmosphere to the finale. To a degree, they’ve succeeded at fulfilling those two goals. More and more people crowd into the theatre every year to watch the new champion get crowned and it feels like a Davis Cup Tennis match. The alarming aspect is the tv ratings have gone down.

Last year Phil Ivey made the final table, a guy that is a mainstream an icon as there is in poker save a handful of other players (maybe Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Chris Moneymaker, Johnny Chan, and Mike McD) and ratings were still down on the year before.

That indicates there was some novelty in the first year numbers. Of course spoilers are out there and less people tuned in probably because of them (despite ESPN shortchanging all the action after Ivey was eliminated to show more hands with him on the table). This year, there were two changes to the format.

The first was the broadcast was pushed back an hour. Not good for ratings. Think about all those little baseball fans that had to go to bed and missed the World Series, that’s why there should be still day games, okay, sorry wrong sports/entertainment event… but similar thought. This was done to give the producers an extra hour to better package the heads-up action. Yes, an extra hour to fit in those two hands they showed when Racener came in a mammoth underdog , bluffed at the wrong moment and then was finally put out his misery.

Considering he doubled up to afford to bluff once, which wasn’t shown, doesn’t seem like adding that extra hour and losing all those viewers was really necessary. The second change was they streamed a live feed of the final table on the internet. Probably a lot of poker diehards watched that and then did, or more likely did not, watch the telecast because they knew and saw what happened.

Though considering the craziness of some of the hands I would have been motivated to see it again, but maybe that’s just me. So yes, the numbers indicate a poor return on the World Series November Nine format. Also, the media has turned a bit of a blind eye to the game. Even ESPN which is notorious for airing a product but not advertising it, didn’t really sell the Main Event.

Why wasn’t the Grinder on Cold Pizza, Sportsnation, and all over the network. It’s because the suits didn’t care.

... to be continued...


keenan said…
What did you think about the big Cheong-Duhamel hand?!
Anonymous said…
I think if the WSOP were to increase their main event to a $50,000 buy-in, as they do with a couple of events per year, or, better yet, a $100,000 buy-in it would be great.

As much as I would regret not being able to play this ME without the good fortune of winning a "super super duper satellite," it would be good for poker for several reasons. First the "wow" factor would be reinstilled into the event. I personally think $10,000 is life changing money for me, but apparantly around 8,000 people per year do not.

Second, it's too difficult to market a bunch of strangers to the audience every year. Imagine if the cast of "Lost" or any other show were to change it's cast every year with random people off the street. No audience interest. Hell, Mizrachi was the "big name" at the event and he's about as charismatic as paste. Duhamel? What a yawn for the industry.

If the stake is raised, your established players, like it or not, will be familiar faces time and time again with a few new faces that the audience would root for against the establishment. Pretty much like how people root for anyone who plays against the Yankees. No one cares about the Brewers...or DUHamel. ZZZZzzzzzzzz. Like the idea or not, it would preserve, maybe increase ratings.

Anonymous said…
because Sports Nation (which sucks cause os cowherd) 1st and 10 (no Cold Pizza) celebrate athletes not card playing table jockeys.

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