Caesars Interactive Entertainment, owner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), announced this weekend that it has tweaked the schedule for the upcoming November Nine slightly in order to improve its television coverage.
The original schedule for the Main Event, which is still displayed on the WSOP’s official structure sheet, was for the final table to run from November 5th through November 7th. Now, everything has been moved back one day, with the final table starting on Sunday, November 6th at 11:30am PDT. Then, instead of taking a day off and bringing back the two finalists, they will take a day off and resume the final table at 5:00pm with the final three players.
All of this is being done so that ESPN can better cover the event. The entire final table will be broadcast virtually live, with just a 15-minute delay. The action will be shown, complete with hole cards and commentary, on both ESPN and ESPN2, as well as online at ESPN3.com. This is very similar to how ESPN covered the rest of the Main Event, the main difference being that the previous days of the tournament were shown with a 30-minute delay. The coverage generally received very positive reviews from the poker community, with people enjoying the commentary of Lon McEachern, David Tuckman, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Esfandiari, and Olivier Busquet. It is unknown at this time who will be announcing the final table, but it would not be surprising if it was this same group, or at least a subset of it, along with special guest commentators.
Main Event coverage continues tonight on ESPN from 9:00pm to 11:00pm EST, as the sports network shows part three of Day 7 with the final 32 players compete for their spots in the November Nine. New episodes will air the next two Tuesday nights, as well.
Aside from the Main Event, ESPN only aired three other events this summer: the special “Rematches” heads-up battles, the $25,000 No-Limit Hold’em Heads-Up event, and the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship. This is actually an increase from 2010, in which only two preliminary events were shown: the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship and the non-bracelet Tournament of Champions. The downward trend in preliminary event broadcasts began in 2008 when ESPN cut them to seven from ten. In 2009, the number of preliminary events was slashed to three, with only one of them even being a bracelet event.
The World Series of Poker on ESPN is one of the few poker television shows still on the air in the United States, along with the World Poker Tour, which is carried by GSN. Since Black Friday, the two major poker television sponsors, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, have not had enough money to fund poker programming (Full Tilt has disappeared entirely), spelling the demise of several shows. NBC just announced that the National Heads-Up Poker Championship would not be played in 2012; NBC’s Poker After Dark (sponsored by Full Tilt) and Fox’s Big Game (sponsored by PokerStars) have also been cancelled.