The 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event final table featured some flawless strategic play and for the first time in a very long time (perhaps since Carlos Mortensen captured the title in 2001) the winner was one of the best players in the game.

But anybody could talk about that, and everybody has, but I’m here to offer up some hot takes on the 2014 WSOP Main Event telecast.

Ratings Are Still Solid

As WickedChopsPoker.com noted, the viewership for the World Series of Poker Main Event final table is still pulling in a strong amount of viewers (averaging over 1 million viewers), which is pretty impressive considering the telecast has been overhauled and is now an unedited live stream – something many feared would turn off the casual fan.

Even though the final table coverage now often lasts into the wee hours of the morning (after watching three hours of play on Monday night, I fell asleep at midnight and woke up at about 6:30 to watch them play down to the final three) the ratings are not all that far off from the edited down episodes during the Poker Boom.

I’m pretty certain ESPN will continue to produce the telecast (the reruns pull decent ratings which allows ESPN to fill precious hours with already produced programming, also known as cheap programming) and I’m pretty sure they will stick with the live stream because the…

Live Stream Is Definitely The Answer

While the ratings are solid it’s also important to realize that poker is never going to “take off.” People may have felt this was possible during the Boom, there was an obvious ceiling that was hit, and the Boom was merely the outlier.

Sure, ratings could increase from where they are now, or even perhaps eclipse the Boom, but I just don’t see poker ever pulling in ratings that would make it an attractive prime-time, major network, type commodity.

We should be fine with that though, and it appears ESPN is fine with it as well as they seem to have embraced the idea of the live stream.

Here’s why the live stream works in my opinion:

  1. It keeps your core viewers (poker enthusiasts) riveted;
  2. I t allows casual viewers to miss large parts of the broadcasts, similar to how people watch a golf tournament.

The edited down episodes seem to be played out. During the edited episodes people know something big is going to happen basically every hand, whereas with the live stream it’s a complete unknown.

So I’m a little surprised ESPN still produces 100,000 episodes leading up to the final table, because quite frankly…

The Buildup Is Pointless

The 14 episodes (I recounted and it wasn’t 100,000) that lead up to the final table are entirely unnecessary, and I’d love to see this trimmed to maybe two-four hour-long episodes that air leading up to the final table.

And while we’re at it…

Cancel the November Nine

The November Nine has run its course. It’s not helping the ratings, and as I mentioned above, do we really need 14 hours of the Curtis Rystadt’s of the world, and seeing full houses beat flushes?

Take a few days off in between the Main Event final table and bust your butt to put out two to four solid hours of edited coverage, and then show the Main Event final table. Make it a week long affair in July, when there is basically nothing but MLB to compete with on ESPN.

If the final table is decided on say Saturday, perhaps show two edited episodes on Monday, two more on Tuesday, and then show the final table on a live Stream like they do now on Wednesday and Thursday…

It would be a kickass week of poker.

This should also allow enough time for players to fly in their friends and family.

I’d love to see the WSOP go back to letting the tournament play out organically for a number of reasons, including one of my biggest pet peeves…

Patches

Am I the only one who finds the patches these players are wearing absolutely grotesque? Felix Stephensen‘s BetSafe hoodie and hat looked fine, they looked they belonged on his clothing, and I can live with that type of sponsorship. On the other hand, sticker patches suck!

Why have this four month hiatus for the November Nine if the players are still going to wear hastily slapped on patches? You had four months to get your sponsored player’s outfit together and you’re still sticking a patch on him, c’mon man! Stitch something onto a shirt.

And while we’re at it can we talk for a minute about…

Clothes

No offense, but some of the players at the final table looked like they had rummaged through a bag of clothes bound for goodwill. Comfort is one thing, but you also have to understand the need to dress for the occasion. We should have seen smartly dressed young men who were playing for millions of dollars, not young men who looked like the airline lost their bag and they had to grab something off the rack at WalMart.

Norman Chad and Antonio Esfandiari had a brief exchange on this topic and I am entirely in Norman Chad’s corner, and was happy he brought up the issue of the attire seen around a table where roughly $30 million in prize money was collectively up for grabs. Dress for the occasion.

Is a t-shirt THAT much more comfortable than a polo?

I get the comfort thing, I do, I really do, but if we’re not going to impose some type of dress code can we at least wear clothes that fit and don’t look like they were pulled out of a hamper? Not a single player was what I would term appropriately dressed for the occasion, although several were acceptably attired.

Here is my fashion scorecard:

  • Felix Stephensen: Needs work but I can live with it
  • Martin Jacobson: Acceptable
  • Jorryt Van Hoof: Acceptable
  • Billy Pappas: Needs work
  • Daniel Sindelar: Acceptable
  • Mark Newhouse: Terrible
  • Andoni Larrabe: Terrible
  • Bruno Politano: Needs work
  • Will Tonking: Acceptable

Someone who is against a dress code but himself was dressed for the occasion (because I’m sure ESPN has a dress code you must abide by whether it’s comfortable or not) was…

Antonio Esfandiari

I really don’t get the criticism of Antonio’s commentary.

He’s trying to make quick, informed commentary on nine different players. Not only does he have to come up with the correct play instantaneously (and brevity is important) but he also has to get inside the heads of nine different players to figure out what their plays mean, and is obviously not paying absolute attention to the table.

It’s not just about making the right play, Antonio also has to explain the person’s actual play, and do so in a way that makes sense to the viewers at home, all of whom are of various skill levels.

So, ease up on Antonio.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.