The World Series of Poker is currently on a 4 month break. The 6865 entrants have been whittled down to the November 9. Much of the action was shown LIVE on ESPN2. This is a variation on ESPN’s recent coverage, when the pocket cam revolutionized coverage and subsequently the game, which has been a series of tape delayed programs.
This year’s audience is not privy to each players’ hole cards, but more importantly to the coverage, the announcers (Lon McEachern and a collection of analysts) are not privy to the hole cards. In many instances early in the coverage the announcers did not know the action at the table covered or the status of the tournament. During Saturday’s coverage, they even prematurely announced that Daniel Negreanu had been eliminated.
The rawness of the telecast added a new flavor for me. Instead of knowing each player’s hole cards and their odds to win, I have found myself captivated and trying to “read” the players as if I was at the table. Why is Ben Lamb smirking and why hasn’t Phil Collins (not the singer) cracked a smile with the crowd screeching “In the Air Tonight?”
In 2003, ESPN’s hole camera brought viewers to the table as if they were Sammy Farha staring into Chris Moneymaker’s wrap around shades while gnawing on an unlit cigarette. But the audience in 2011 is more versed in the nuances of the game eight years after the poker boom. WSOP fans needed something more than the same coverage from the past seven years; ESPN took a risk and on first glance it looks like a win. I wonder what the ratings will look like?