Monday, July 19, 2010

WSOP "November Nine:" Aces Casino Votes "Nein," and Here's Why (It's My Short Attention Span!)


The World Series Of Poker: The ULTIMATE poker tournament, owned by Harrah's Entertainment Group, and an event held annually at the Rio Suite Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. To most of us, this is poker "nirvana," especially for those of us in the orange county casino party business. It's a fantastic game, one that we feature prominently in our presentation book portfolios. Bottom line: We LOVE poker, in all forms.

Well, maybe not ALL forms.

Make no mistake about it, we DO love the game, and can't wait to join our card-playing brethren out in the desert, and take our annual shot at the Rio when the WSOP kicks into gear. BUT.... there's something about the WSOP that has been bugging us for about two years now, and it's time to hop on the soap box and pontificate.

It has to do with the WSOP "Main Event," the $10K buy-in tournament that is considered by most as the "World Championship" of the sport. (Yes, I know, the question of 'is poker a sport' needs to be addressed. I'll get to that, sometime later, I promise.) Back in the 1970's, when the World Series Of Poker was in it's infancy, the tournament only took two days to complete, probably because the total number of entries in the tourney 35 years ago usually topped out at around 50.

My, how times have changed.

In 2006, there were a grand total of 8,773 players competing for what turned out to be a $12 million dollar first prize. This year, during what some in Washington might call a 'recession,' there were still 7,319 entrants into the WSOP Main Event at ten thousands bucks a pop. Take it from this orange county casino night blogger: Without a doubt, poker's "World Series" is here to stay, and the Main Event, circus-like as it may be at times, IS for poker's "world title."

And, quite frankly, THIS is where I have a problem. I DO love the Main Event of the WSOP. I just don't like it's current FORMAT.

Let's take a quick peek at the other "world championship events" for some historical background, shall we?

NBA -- The NBA Playoffs began on April 17, 2010, and ended two months later, on June 17, 2010. Start to finish, two months. Two LOOONG months. Ask anyone that tracks the NBA post-season, and they'll tell you that it drags on forever.

NHL -- The NHL playoffs went April 11 / June 10. Two months, and it seems that THESE playoffs drag on longer than the NBA.

NFL -- Basically six weeks of playoffs here, including the Super Bowl. Not too shabby, time-wise. The NFL is also the king of sports marketing, so if THEY say five weeks will get it done, that works for me.

MLB -- Even less than the NFL. Surprisingly, the MLB post-season lasts just about one month (October 7 / November 4, last year). (The season lasts SIX months, though. Maybe THAT'S why we're tired of baseball in November each year.

Hmmmm.... OK .... If my info is correct (and it always IS), the 4 major sports need from 1-to-2 months to determine their champion, and when it comes to marketing the post-season, there's no better commercial for the action taking place than the games themselves, games that are on almost every day.

Now, let's move to the World Series Of Poker. Now, we first take into account that the WSOP consists of not one, but more than 50 separate individual "bracelet" tournaments that started in earnest on May 28th, 2010, and "ended" yesterday, July the 18th, in the Rio's Amazon Room.

Or DID it?

So, the WSOP takes about what, seven weeks from start to finish? But alas, my orange county casino party friends, the WSOP season ISN'T over. There's just one small problem, and that's what the WSOP calls "The November Nine," the last nine players left at the WSOP Main Event Final Table.

And WHY do they call this group "The November Nine?" Easy. Because the WSOP, in their infinite wisdom, is STOPPING the 2010 Main Event on Sunday, July 18th, and making the last nine competitors wait for an astounding 105 DAYS until the tourney is resumed on November 1, 2010.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE DAYS.

Heck, anyone that plays games around MY house knows that if we started a game on day 1, and waited 105 days until we FINISHED it, most of the players wouldn't even remember how to PLAY the game, let alone play it well. Granted, these last nine players have quite a monetary incentive to remember how to play poker (First place in the WSOP Main Event will get you over $8M), but that's beside the point.

WHY in HADES does Harrah's and the WSOP make these players wait for over a HUNDRED DAYS, before getting to the biz of declaring a champion? Does Harrah's know something about marketing a major playoff series that the four MAJOR sports DON'T? I doubt it. This event used to be held at Binion's casino downtown up thru 2003, which, for the record, didn't even HAVE a poker room, when the WSOP began back in 1970. (More about the Binion's history will be blogged here at a later date, I promise you.)

ESPN does a fine job of televising the WSOP events, albeit it a telecast schedule that has gotten smaller and smaller since 2008. Bottom line, Harrah's doesn't do one bloody thing to promote the final table of the WSOP main event. They just delay it unmercifully. In my humble opinion, this does NOTHING for the 'sport.' All this does is take any momentum away from the players that were totally dialed in during the last hours of the tourney, and make them all sit around and get stale.

I HATE this. Hey, sue me, but I don't want to sit around and wait to see all the already-recorded coverage hours of the 2010 WSOP Main Event. I wanna see them NOW.

If the world would ever decide to anoint me as "Poker Czar," there's a couple of things that I would immediately change about the WSOP --

1. Cover more of the other 50+ events that are held earlier in the WSOP. I loved watching coverage of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event (5 types of poker played and rotated every two hours), as well as all of the individual $10K events that are held. Bring all of those back, cover them on a tape-delayed basis, but SHOW them to us after about 7-10 days pass.

2. Cover the 2010 Main Event as usual, but don't hold on to all of the footage that you've already SHOT, ESPN! SHOW IT TO US! It doesn't take months to post-produce the footage. Get to it.

3. OK, I realize that the last day of competition in the 2010 main event took 17 hours to complete, to get down to 9 players from 27. No prob. Give the November Nine a WEEK off to recuperate, not 15 WEEKS! Heck, ANYTHING can happen in 15 weeks. Lord help us if a player is injured in some accident, or worse, and the player(s) can't come back to finish the competition. Give 'em one week, then bring back the "July Nine" to find out who wins it all.

I mean, come ON -- All of the poker aficionados that follow the sport with any diligence whatsoever and have access to a computer or a telephone KNEW who the November Nine were in '09. There's no reason to delay this, WSOP. Do us all a favor, and make this the last year of this stupid elongated poker vacation. It's unnecessary, and it's just wrong.

OK, I've said my piece. Thoughts?

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